EFA: Etsy For Animals Etsy For Animals: Adopting a Small Pet- part one: gerbils & hamsters

Etsy for Animals (EFA) aka Artists Helping Animals,

is a team of independent artists, craftspeople,

vintage sellers and craft suppliers on Etsy.com

who are dedicated to providing charitable relief to animals

by donating a portion of the profits from their shops

to an animal charity of their choosing,

and/or to EFA's featured Charity of the Month.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Adopting a Small Pet- part one: gerbils & hamsters

Pt I: Gerbils & Hamsters
written by Veronica of ScrappyRat

So, you’re considering adopting a small pet to make your home a little bit happier and a lot bit cuter, but you aren’t sure which species will be the best addition to your furry family. Hamster? Gerbil? Rat? They’ve all got sweet little whiskers and curious dispositions, but they also have considerable differences when it comes to their basic needs, personality types, and dietary preferences.

The most important thing you can do before adopting a new pet is researching their species to ensure that you’re setting yourself up for a successful match. A lot of people are quite surprised when they learn that these three species aren’t interchangeable. Other than all three being rodents, they actually have a lot less in common than you’d think.



Many people think of hamsters as a children’s pet, but they are wonderful companions for adults as well. They’re very easy to get along with and they are usually just waking up when you get home from work, so you don’t have to worry that they’ll be too lonely during the day.

The Syrians in particular, are usually quite cuddly once they get to know you. It’s important t that you work with their instincts, not against them. The #1 reason people get bitten by hamsters is because they don't understand the way hamsters live in the wild, or the way they communicate with us. In the wild, being woken up abruptly would only happen when someone was about to eat them, thus they have a natural reflex to bite if they are picked up or touched while asleep. They have a rather unfair reputation for biting because of this when typically they are quite communicative and once you know their basic body language, they’re quite easy to get along with.

Oddly, hamsters roll on their backs when they're preparing to defend themselves. This may look, to us, as if they are telling the predator, "Hey! Here are my juicy parts!" but it's their defense pose. The other indication that they want you to back off is the "I'm a biiiig bear" look, which is exactly what it sounds like. It tends to be *very* funny to us since they do this, not seeming to know that they are tiny and adorable, and anything but scary looking to a human. Nonetheless, it’s important to respond by backing off, even if you’re giggling while doing so.

If these rules are followed, hamsters are pretty laid back little guys who love sitting on your lap, riding in toy trucks, exploring a table or bed (just supervise closely since they tend to forget that they cannot fly), etc. They’re quite tolerant overall, and have a lot of fun just interacting with their human.



Gerbils are the most misunderstood of the small pets. They really need companionship, so a single gerbil may experience stress from being alone. Gerbils have a lot of fun with others of their own species and when they’re particularly happy, they will even sing to each other--it sounds like baby birds chirping!

Gerbils generally aren't as into humans as they are into other gerbils and doing what they do: burrow! They do best with a minimum of 3" of substrate in their cage so they can make tunnels to hide and sleep in. A ceramic sand bath filled with chinchilla sand helps gerbils keep their coats clean and non-greasy.

A group of two or 3 will do well in a roomy cage, like a 20-long aquarium with a secure lid. They’re great jumpers so make sure the lid is on tight. Gerbils like having lots of things to destroy, like mailing tubes, applewood branches, boxes from organic food or pasta boxes w/ no plastic windows will keep these little architects busy.

Tune in Wednesday for Part 2: Rats !


  1. So very informative ! THANKS Veronica :)

  2. I am going to share this on Twitter, I know we have several small animals there who would love the EFA blog!

  3. How fun!! I've had them all. I do tend toward the guinea pig...more to love, but have enjoyed the little ones too.

  4. What a great post! I don't think I've every worked with gerbils... So this was very enlightening to me!

  5. We have a gerbil - he's so fun to watch. He does love chewing on mailing tubes.

  6. Great tips! I work as a small mammal adoption counselor at my local shelter. Totally agree with your analysis of why hamsters are so often misunderstood.


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