The Differences Between Gerbils, Hamsters & Mice

When you think about getting a tiny animal for yourself, three of the main critters you might consider are gerbils, hamsters and mice.

The Differences Between Gerbils, Hamsters & Mice

When you think about getting a tiny animal for yourself, three of the main critters you might consider are gerbils, hamsters and mice. This is because they are super easy to manage and it is a delight to watch them throughout the day. Especially if one of them is living in your bedroom or somewhere else that they are easily seen and more people in your household can interact with.As you do your research, you will see that there are subtle differences between the three rodents, such as how they look, their behaviors and how long they will live. You might also find that you prefer one over the other due to your personalities matching better.It is easy to see that all three of these mammals are similar, but it might shock you to find out that there are a ton of differences that a lot of people simply do not know about. Getting to know the bigger picture makes you understand more on how each species, although small, plays an even bigger role into our very large world.

The Size of Their Bodies

With there being roughly 1,500 species of rodents in the world, you can guarantee they come in all shapes and sizes! But since we are only talking about 3 different types here today, let's narrow it down by classification, shall we?

  • Hamsters: Due to there being 24 species of hamsters in this world, they come in a wide variety of sizes, ranging from 2-13 inches long. You will find that the most common pet hamster, which is the Syrian hamster, is averaging at around 6 inches long. On average, these fine creatures weigh approximately 3.5-7 ounces each.
  • Gerbils: When gerbils are fully grown, they are roughly 4 inches long, not including its tail. If you include the tail size, there will easily be another 4 inches added, meaning the rodent is about 8 inches in length. Not only that, but these animals weigh anywhere between 2 to 4 ounces each, with the male being bigger in size.
  • Mice: A mouse is anywhere between 5.5-7 inches long. Mice weigh anywhere between 0.68-2 ounces. Needless to say, they are a lot smaller than the other two critters listed above.

All 3 Critters Have Behavioral Differences

Just how we as humans are unique in our own ways, all three animals have something specific that makes them distinctive. What kind of quirks do each one of them have, you may ask? One might even match your personality more than the other!

  • Hamsters: Although these critters have a huge love for humans and are very friendly and react well with being handled, they don’t do so well with their own kind, especially if two of them are male. If this is the case, you will find that violence tends to happen and they will attempt to kill one another. Hamsters are typically nocturnal and are most active at night, so it may not be the best of ideas to keep them in your room if you want some good shut eye.
  • Gerbils: When it comes to seeing other people they do not know, they automatically think “stranger danger” and start thumping their feet. To their owner, however, they are more affectionate. Gerbils are playful, curious, friendly and inquisitive, so it will hardly be a dull moment with them. Unlike most other pets, these animals are much easier to take care of and are more active during the day rather than night.
  • Mice: Timid as they are, mice are very quiet and compliant animals who do not draw much attention to themselves. In fact, they like to make a lot of burrowing places in their environment. These rodents are always looking for an adventure and love learning new things. However, due to their adventurous mindset, they need a lot of attention from their owners. 

Their Lifespans Differ From One Another

When learning about animals, it is cool to see all of their different personalities and what you can expect for them to do. However, one must wonder as to how long they will be able to keep their animals, because more often than not, our goal is to allow them to live their best lives as long as they can. It is important to keep in mind that the better we take care of them, the longer our little furr babies will have to live.

  • Hamsters: Their average lifespan is typically 2 years, although they have been known to live longer than that.
  • Gerbils: A pet gerbil lives anywhere between roughly 2-4 years, but can also live longer. Many of these animals get illnesses and diseases, such as respiratory infections, neglect or heart failure, causing their lifespan to shorten.  

Mice, Gerbils and Hamsters All Have Different Looks

  • Hamsters: Their typical look deals with a tail that is shorter than their body length and is more of a heavy build with thick and silky fur. Hamsters legs are short and possess furry and small ears with wide feet. Depending on what species they are, they come in many colors with black, white, grey, brown, red, yellow or even a mixture of some. 
  • Gerbils: The build of these fine animals can vary from stout-like to slender. They have fairly large ears and eyes and long rear feet. The most common gerbil color is golden, but you can also find them with grey, white, blue or lilac. 
  • Mice: Instead of fur being on their tale, it is actually thin and hairless. Not only that, but the tale itself can be either a lot smaller or as long as their body is. The mices’ body has a slender, dull or thin muzzle with small claws and has distinguished ears. Very little hair grows on them and they have narrow feet yet small and sharp claws.

Where Does Each One Originate From?

Every rodent is unique in their own way because of where they originated from. You might find it interesting that none of the animals I have mentioned actually came from the United States yet we have so many of them in our country! This would mean that they would have either been imported or snuck on a ship to the Americas themselves, which happened more often than not back in the day.

  • Hamsters originally were discovered in Syria, although there were many other countries the rodents resided in, such as Romania, Greece, Belgium and northern China. In the wild, they like to live in warm and dry areas, like in the sand dunes, edges of the desert and steppes. 
  • Gerbil's origins are in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. They also like dry places and are found in sandy plains. Gerbils are known to be called the “desert rat”.
  • One would think that because there are so many mice all around the globe, that they would have just been around there from the get go, but actually are native to India. They can pretty much live in any habitat with ease and make a burrow from underground to keep themselves away from predators. 


Whether you are wanting a mouse, gerbil or hamster, just remember that they will be a pleasure to have for you and your family to enjoy. Having an animal that you can say, “I took care of and raised them myself” is very special. You will always have that memory of them. The small critters personalities makes it all the worthwhile too.