Hamsters and gerbils are among the most popular small pets. This is not surprising as these small creatures make very good pets and can be quite lovable. They are easy to look after, relatively inexpensive, and are usually easy to hand-tame. They can be found in many different varieties, do not take up much space and don’t require much work to keep.
And of course both hamsters and gerbils are very cute and a lot of fun! They are as fun to watch as they are to hold. As previously mentioned, most will get very tame and show a good deal of affection for their owners, especially when given a lot of attention. They have a sweet, friendly and curious disposition. For all these reasons, they are not only great for a growing number of families and pet lovers, they are also perfect beginner pets for children and in school classrooms. Now let us take a closer look at hamsters and gerbils.
Hamsters get their name from the German word “hamstern” which means to hoard. This is a reference to a their food gathering habits. Hamsters are capable of building a food stash the size of 100 bags of sugar! Hamsters are members of the rodent family, and although most hamsters today are related to wild golden hamsters from the Middle East – in particular Syria, some hamsters originate from China and Russia too! In the wild they live solitary lives in deep burrows in the desert. Their lifespan is about 2 to 3 years.
As mentioned above, you can choose from a variety of hamsters with fascinating origins. These include the Siberian hamster, the Djungarian hamster, the Roborovskys hamster, the Chinese hamster, and the common golden or Syrian hamster. Djungarian, Siberian, and Roborovsky hamsters are all thought to be originally from the steppes of Russia.
Hamsters may be lifted up by grabbing gently around the mid-section, or by lifting up by the loose skin at the back of the neck and then supporting the feet with your other hands so that they do not kick or scratch. A new hamster may be very nervous and fearful and may bite. Before picking up your new pet, offer it a treat and pet it gently to make sure that it is not too afraid of you. Most hamsters, especially Syrian hamsters, prefer to live alone. Some of the other hamsters may not mind living in pairs or more. If you really want to buy two or more hamsters, it would help to buy them from the same litter and make sure they are the same gender.
Gerbils are native to the desert regions of Mongolia and northeastern China and live in burrows in the wild, where they often live in groups. Gerbils were first discovered by Pere David who also discovered the giant panda in China. Like hamsters, gerbils come in a variety of colors and subspecies. The “Mongolian Desert Gerbil” is a common variety, though this is only one of more than 100 different gerbil species that are found living in Asia and also Africa, where Asian gerbils have migrated over time. Gerbils can exist peacefully with others, and make friendly and social pets. However, it is best to introduce gerbils together when they are very young.
Because they are originally a desert animal, gerbils drink less water and urinate less, making them very clean animals that are practically odor-free! The desert areas are also known for their very hot summers and very cold winters. For these reason gerbils are very hardy and good at surviving temperature variations. Most gerbils have a dense coat and a cute tail with a bushy tip. Gerbils usually live an average of three to four years.
Gerbils should be picked up with both hands and by holding onto the base of the tail. Grasping a gerbil by the end of the tail my result in damage or breakage, also resulting in great pain for the gerbil and most likely biting. Like a new hamster, a new gerbil may be very nervous and fearful, so you may first want to offer it a treat and pet it gently to make sure that it is not too afraid of you. Gerbils are very good jumpers so keep them close to the floor when picking them up until they get very tame, and for this same reason they will also probably need a lid on their cages and/or have a taller cage than other small animals would need.