Hamster tubes can be a lot of fun for your small friend. They offer great exploration areas but also a place to hide. But can you use the same cage and toys for hamsters and gerbils?
This might surprise you, but the answer is yes and no. Gerbils and hamsters have many genetic things in common. First and foremost, both of them are rodents. They are both sold in pet stores, and they both fit in your palm. They even eat similar-looking food. This is pretty much where their similarities end.
Gerbils and Hamsters – Comparison
Both species are rodents and they look similarly, and if you do not have too much knowledge on the subject, all this information might seem very strange.
Hamsters and gerbils can live in each other’s setups but only for a short time. Gerbils are usually worse off in pretty much all cases. Both species have different requirements. You can compare the two with chalk and cheese.
When it comes to the living environment, hamsters are solitary-living and slow-moving fur balls that prefer a neat and tidy cage. Their large body and short legs are made for tunnel walking, not for speed. If they could stay in the same place for 2 years, it would be perfect for them.
They usually sleep all day in their cage on a shallow layer of wood shavings. When the mood takes them, they often move all the shavings over to a corner of the tank.
Since they require only enough bedding to absorb waste, there is no need for a very deep plastic base. Otherwise, you would not be able to see your pet at all times.
Hamsters also like to move around the tubes horizontally and vertically. Although they have sharp teeth, they seldom use them for chewing anything other than food and some chewing toys. Also, they do not like to eat food where they find it, but rather move it all in their cheek pouches to an area where they can store it.
Unlike hamsters, gerbils are usually group-living, fast-moving, and sleek machines who prefer the messiest-looking environment a human could ever see. However, to them everything is completely organized.
Their bodies are slim, and they have big back legs made for running and digging. They would hate having to stay in the same place for even three minutes. Just try to get a clear picture of your gerbil, and you’ll see!
All day and all night, gerbils sleep a short period, then wake up for another short period, sleep again, and so on. Usually, they build their nest in wooden huts underneath a generous amount of bedding. They also like to rearrange all of their bedding and eat through any toys overnight. Every 24 hours, your gerbil’s cage will look different.
They require a lot of bedding, enough to bury at least half of their cage contents and to make tunnels. Therefore, the base of the cage needs to be deep enough to accommodate all that bedding. Gerbils dig and move things around, kicking the contents of their cage back and forth, literally all the time.
Unlike hamster cages, when it comes to gerbils, it is best to have all the sides made from glass or solid plastic. Otherwise, they will not be able to dig around without kicking the bedding all over your dressers and cupboards. You will not be able to see your pets at all times, as they will be underground in their beautiful creation.
Gerbils absolutely love moving around underground or in tunnels – here, they can feel the safest. They mainly move horizontally, as they do not have the body design for moving vertically in tubes.
Gerbils and Tubes
These rodents require a setup that does not include plastic parts with edges. Moreover, with gerbils, you have to replace pretty much everything in their cages regularly, as they like to destroy things.
Gerbils like to climb on anything and also like to explore. Wooden houses, wooden ladders, see-saws, and other wooden accessories work great for them.
You can also use plastic climbing tubes, like those for hamsters. However, you need to be extremely careful with these accessories. Gerbils can splinter off bits of plastic and swallow them.
Plastic accessories and tubes are recommended for these rodents only under careful supervision. In other words, using hamster tubes for gerbils is a great risk. Hamsters do not tend to chew on these accessories, but gerbils will.
Another reason why hamster plastic tubes are not so recommended for gerbils is that if they interconnect various types of tanks and chambers, there is a risk that they will choose territories and start fighting with their cage mates.
If you want to provide a tube for your small companion, you can try using PVC pipe sections from the plumbing department of any hardware store. PVC is a material that tends to be stronger and more resistant to chewing than plastic tubes made for other rodents.
Dyed bamboo tubes are relatively new on the market, and they are said to be more durable and tougher as well. Ceramic tubes are another alternative, as they have the advantage of being almost indestructible.
Of course, there are specifically designed tubes for gerbils you can search for in pet stores or online. Just make sure they are not designed for other rodents, as it may cause your little gerbil serious issues.
Keeping Your Gerbils Safe
First of all, any toys for your gerbils must be safe. These cute rodents have the habit of sticking their heads anywhere to explore. Therefore, you should be very careful that your pets do not have spaces in which they could get their heads stuck, especially those toys with holes in them. Also, you should make sure that your rodent pets are not able to splinter off pieces of plastic and other materials and swallow them.
Moreover, we strongly recommend you remove any plastic toys once the gerbils start to chew on them. You should also check they are not eating cardboard, but only shredding it. Also, remove any parts or strings from toys that could trap the gerbil’s tail, toes, or legs.
The most recommended toys and accessories for gerbils are those made from wood. Of course, you need to make sure that the wood is untreated and safe to use for rodents.
Since these rodents are so active, it is important to offer them with means to exercise. Gerbils do not use wheels so often as the hamsters do, but they will use them sometimes. If you decide to get one, make sure it is the right size. Mouse wheels, for example, are too small.
Also, avoid getting metal bar wheels as the gerbils’ legs can get caught and brake. Their tails can also get caught in the mechanism. Wheels with metal screen are a great alternative.
Balls are an excellent choice for gerbils as they will play with it, kick it around, and run like crazy. You can find various types of balls for gerbils in pet stores. Then, you can sit and watch the fun begin.