Gerbil vs Mouse: Which is the Best Pet?

  • Author: Meighen McIntyre
  • Time to read: 4 min.

Choosing the right pet is hard, and it becomes a harder choice when you aren’t sure what the difference is between animals. Gerbils and mice, for example, seem like they’d be the same sort of pet.

Here we’ll help you decide which is the best pet, a gerbil or a mouse?

It’s not an answer you’re going to want to hear, but it depends. It depends on your family, it depends on your household, and it even depends on the state you live in. The short answer is gerbils are better for young children who aren’t ready to hold small animals but require a bigger space. Mice are great for kids who really want to own a pet but aren’t responsible enough to take care of a cat or a dog.  

Do You Have Kids

Young children don’t have the hand skills to understand when they are grabbing something too hard, or not holding on tight enough.

If your toddler is handed a gerbil or a mouse, they might get squished by the tiny toddler strength or dropped on the floor, and both these options can be fatal for a rodent. 

If you have children under 5 years old, you should get a couple of gerbils. Gerbils are much more of a “look-at” pet. It helps that they are very active during the day, so your kids can watch them run on the wheel, scurry and dig in their bedding, and even watch their adorable baths.

child holding a gerbil

At this age they can even help with feeding, filling water bottles, and helping to clean the bedding with supervision. 

If your children are over 5 years old, a pair of female mice are a great starter pet! Mice are incredibly friendly, and with constant and careful handling it is very unlikely you or your kids will be bitten. 

Mice are also easy to train. With treats and patience, you can train them to stand on their back legs, come when their name is called, and jump through hoops! How cool would it be to train your mice with your kids?

Commitment

As a pet owner, you should also understand what you’re committing to with a mouse or a gerbil. 

A mouse’s lifespan is 1-3 years. If you’re unsure if a rodent is a good choice for you, and you want to test the waters, a mouse is a great first pet. 

While both gerbil and mouse enclosures need to be cleaned often, a mouse’s enclosure will need to be cleaned more often. Daily spot cleanings and weekly full cleanings are best to keep the smell at a minimum and keep your mouse clean. 

Gerbils on the other hand produce less waste since they’ve evolved to keep themselves hydrated in the desert heat. Their enclosures will still need to be spot cleaned daily, but going two weeks for a full clean is acceptable. 

A gerbils lifespan is 3-4 years, so you can enjoy watching them for several years. Young kids will love watching them burrow, and run, and jump, and if they still like rodents when they’re around the age of 5, it’s an easy transition to mice. 

How Much Space Do You Have

We aren’t here to judge the size of your house, but your pets might. 

Gerbils are very active pets, and they need a lot of room to exercise. Their enclosures should be at least 3 feet long to give them space to run around.

This also makes sure there is enough room in their enclosures for a wheel that’s large enough. Believe it or not, a gerbil needs at least a 12-inch wheel, or they can develop serious lower back and tail issues! 

If you don’t have space for a large enough enclosure, a mouse will be happy with a smaller home. 

Is it Illegal to Own Them

Yes, you read that right, it could be illegal to own one of these little critters. 

If you live in California or Hawaii, it is illegal for you to own a gerbil. It might seem weird to have a law against owning one specif type of rodent, but this law is in place to protect the plants and animals in the area. 

California and Hawaii most closely resemble the natural climate gerbils are used to in the desert. The fear is that once a gerbil is lost in these states, they will start colonies and completely take over entire ecosystems. 

If you live in these states, a mouse is definitely the better pet for you! 

Final Thoughts

Choosing a better pet isn’t as easy as picking one species over another. Picking the best pet for your lifestyle is most important.

If you have kids over the age of 5, less space, and live in California or Hawaii, a mouse is a better option. They are a hands-on pet that your family can enjoy. 

If you have young infants or toddlers and have the space, a gerbil is a great option. Gerbils are very active during the day, and often will sleep at night so their noise won’t wake you up.