Rodents come in a variety of sizes, from the pygmy jerboa to the capybara. When you're considering a household pet, your options are a bit more limited. Two of the most popular rodents are hamsters and gerbils. Although hamsters come in a range of sizes, gerbils are a more consistent 4 to 5 inches long and 2 to 4 ounces. The size of a pocket pet is very important when determining habitat size and the needs of your family.
Hamster and Gerbil Sizes
The Syrian hamster, often known as the teddy bear hamster, is the most popular variety. It grows up to 6 inches in length. Chinese and Russian hamsters, known as dwarf hamsters, are 3 to 4 inches full-grown. The smallest breed of hamster available for purchase is the Roborovskii hamster, with a length of only 2 inches.
Gerbils are larger than most breeds of hamster, but they're smaller than the Syrian hamster.
Size is important, especially if you have small children. Children can hold on to gerbils and Syrian hamsters more easily than they can hold onto dwarf and robo hamsters.
Gerbils do well in tanks. Because they're smaller than Syrian hamsters, gerbils require slightly less room, but pairing must be taken into consideration.
Housing for Gerbils
A 10-gallon tank is required for one or two gerbils. If you're pairing more than two gerbils, a larger tank is needed. For example, four gerbils need a 20-gallon tank.
Like hamsters, gerbils need to be able to exercise. Choose an exercise wheel that's free of holes, to protect the gerbil's tail. The habitat should be lined with an absorbent bedding, such as wood pulp or aspen wood shavings.
Gerbils prefer to hide while they sleep. Add a burrow, along with hay for nesting material. Lastly, include a food dish and water bottle for a complete gerbil setup.
Care of Gerbils
Gerbils sleep during both the day and night in small spurts, which makes them a better pet for small children. Gerbils love companionship, which is why it's recommended to house at least two same-sex gerbils together.
Care is fairly simple. Remove the old food and water daily, and thoroughly clean the vessels before refilling them. Also remove any soiled bedding.
Once a week, do a thorough cleaning of the cage. Dump out the old bedding and clean the tank sides and bottom thoroughly with a mixture of one part vinegar and one part hot water. Allow the tank to air out before filling with fresh bedding. Wipe down any toys, burrows and wheels with the mixture before adding those back to the tank as well, making sure to give them time to air out.
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Amy Brantley has been a writer since 2006, contributing to numerous online publications. She specializes in business, finance, food, decorating and pets.