Marlborough Bird & Animal Hospital

21 South Main Street
Marlborough, CT 06447


Gerbils and Hamsters

Gerbils are friendly little rodents originating from Mongolia. They are avid diggers and burrowers. Adults placed in a cage together for the first time will usually fight often until death. Though, groups can live together if placed together before puberty. Females tend to be more aggressive than do the males. Gerbils are territorial and mark their territory with a yellow/brown secretion from a gland on their belly, as well as with their urine and feces. Foot drumming is their form of communicating, alerting, and excitement action. Adult males weigh 65-131 grams with females weighing 55-85 grams. Their lifespan is 3-5 years with females outliving males. Weaning typically takes place between 21-28 days.
Hamsters are small nocturnal rodents originating from Asia. There are three species commonly kept as pets: Golden (Syrian, Standard, Teddy bear), Chinese Dwarf, and European hamsters. Hamsters are excellent escape artists needing secure cages. Females tend to attack other females and males tend to attack other males when housed together. Avoid disturbing the female with newborn babies, she may stuff the babies in her cheek pouches resulting in suffocation of the young. Adult males weigh 85-130 grams while females weigh 95-150 grams. They tend to be short lived, living only 18-24 months with reports up to 36 months. Weaning usually takes place at 20-25 days of age.
Caging for gerbils and hamsters should be escape proof. The cage may consist of a 10-20 gallon aquarium or be made of wire mesh with plastic or metal solid flooring. The cage must be cleaned regularly to remove the soiled litter. A dust free absorbent material is best for use as litter—avoid cedar and scented wood shavings. A large exercise wheel, nest or burrow area, and feeding area is needed in the cage. The ideal temperature is between 65-75° F with 40-60% humidity. A light cycle of 12 hrs. on:12 hrs. off is preferred.
Commercial rodent pellets/blocks with a protein level of at least 16-22% should be offered free choice. Supplementation or treats are not necessary on a good pelleted diet. Common seed based diets are inadequate to meet a pet’s nutritional requirements. As with all pets, fresh clean water should always be available.