Because of their size, these tiny natives of the Middle East, Africa, India, and Asia are misperceived as being "low maintenance"
animal companions. Employees are rarely trained to meet the animals' needs or
properly sex them, so unknowing customers may take on more than they bargained
for. Although gerbils and hamsters both come from the rodent family and
essentially eat the same foods, their social needs are entirely different.
How to Spot Neglect
During the day, expect to see healthy hamsters sleeping;
healthy gerbils may or may not be running around. A listless gerbil could be
ill or depressed, especially if alone. A head tilt or lack of balance; scabs on
ears, face or feet; sneezing; runny nose; watery eyes; and diarrhea are all
signs of a sick animal who needs immediate attention and who could have "wet
tail," which is the slang term for a particular life-threatening disease
caused by a dirty cage or stress.
Noted for their large cheek pouches and short stubby tails,
hamsters were found in Syria
in 1839 and have been held captive as pets or test subjects since the 1940s. In
their natural habitat, they prefer to be alone and are nocturnal so bonding
with humans can be a challenge since they do not like to be awakened during the
day. But evenings and early mornings are a good time to try to make friends. A
2-foot-square wire-mesh cage with a solid base would be the minimum size for a
home for one hamster, but keeping more than one hamster in a space that size
will likely lead to a deadly fight. Those colorful plastic cages may be enticing,
but they are difficult to clean, and hamsters may chew their way out.
You'll need a water bottle, nonwood-based bedding such as
straw or shredded white paper, chew toys, and an exercise wheel. Wooden ladders
and toilet paper rolls also make great toys. A hamster's diet should consist of
a variety of greens, fruits and seeds, some of which are available in packages
formulated for hamsters or birds. Their teeth never stop growing, so it is
imperative that these animals be provided with hard, digestible items such as
dog biscuits and clean tree branches. Hamsters live to be between 2 and 4 years
There are about 90 species of gerbils, but the ones sold in
stores are most likely to be Mongolian gerbils, found in their natural habitat
in the 1860s and first captive-bred in the 1930s. These cousins of the hamster
do not like to be alone and live in families of up to 20 members in their
natural habitat. If kept in a solitary environment, a captive gerbil will
become depressed. If you're planning to adopt gerbils, two males or two females
from the same family will bond together. Like hamsters, gerbils are mostly
nocturnal but take a series of naps during the day, so it is not uncommon to
see them active in daylight hours. Their dietary and housing needs are the same
as hamsters—although you should buy a solid exercise wheel for gerbils since
their long tails can become entangled in wire wheels. Neither hamsters nor
gerbils should be allowed to become too cold or they will go into hibernation.
Gerbils live for about five years.
Like any rodent, hamsters and gerbils can carry rabies and
other diseases and, if released into the wild, pose a threat to established
does not even allow the animals to be kept as companions. If you have questions
about the regulations in your area, contact your local Department of
Yes, hamsters and gerbils are really cute. But they require
proper housing, food, temperature, and exercise and prefer to be alone or with
their own kind. They can bite and carry diseases. They do not make good "starter
pets" for young children. If, after carefully considering these factors,
you are sure that you want to bring these delicate creatures into your home,
avoid pet shops and adopt from a shelter or rescue agency.
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.