How Much Do Gerbils Cost?

Written by: Staff

The gerbil is a small mammal commonly known as a “desert rat.”  While gerbils are in the rodent family, they are not the same as mice or rats.  They have a fluffier tail and are much friendlier.  Gerbils can be great first pets for children.  They are very active and fun, and they allow people to handle them and play with them.  As long as you are not too rough, a gerbil will not normally bite you.

Gerbil - Spotted Argents by benmckune, on Flickr
Gerbil – Spotted Argents” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by  benmckune

How much does a gerbil cost?

A gerbil will usually cost between $5 and $15.  Purchasing your gerbil from a pet store will be cheaper than purchasing it directly from a breeder.

If you haven’t owned a gerbil before, plan on budgeting at least $100 for the supplies necessary.

For example, a gerbil can be purchased at a local brick and mortar store such as PetSmart for $11.99.

According to the American Gerbil Society, “If you’re getting gerbils you must get at least two. Lone gerbils have been proven to live shorter, less healthy lives, and are often overweight and not too happy. They also tend to be harder to tame and less friendly overall.”  Therefore, the price of having a gerbil as a pet will double to $10-$20. notes you should be prepared to spend about $7 to $10.  However, if you were to adopt one, it could be much cheaper.

Gerbil overview

Simple care instructions, such as handling and feeding instructions, should be included with your gerbils.  If it is not, you can find much information such as “The Top Ten Gerbil Dos and Don’ts” and Pet Info Packets.

The average gerbil lives for about three years.

The colors can range from a white to a black, with a variety of brown spots.  Most will have deep black or red eyes.

More than 100 species of gerbils live in the wild and live throughout the African and Asian deserts.  However, only the Mongolian and Pale gerbils are commonly kept as pets.

What are the extra costs?

Gerbils need to be housed in a gerbil cage.  These cages are usually made of metal or plastic and can even have playground-like tubes through which the gerbils can crawl and play.  Gerbil cages can be found online for $40-$60.

The bottom of the cage needs to be lined with bedding that should be changed about once every week or two.  This bedding costs about $9 per bag, and each bag should last about two months.

The food your gerbils will eat will cost between $10 to $20 per bag, depending on the size.  Generally, the larger the bag the less you pay per unit, so it is to your advantage to buy in bulk.  A $20 bag of gerbil food should last you about two months.  Food and bedding for your gerbil can be found at any local pet store such as Petco.  Gerbils will eat a variety of seeds, fruits and vegetables.

There are toys you can purchase for your gerbils.  These toys include a ball cruiser for out-of-cage exercise, additional tubes and even slides to attach to the cage, and small chew toys.  These toys can range from $3 to $20.

Be sure to consider purchasing a gerbil wheel.  These rodents tend to exercise a few times a day.  If they don’t have the necessary means to exercise, they may not be too happy.

Tips to know:

Always consider a companion for your gerbil.  Gerbils tend to be happier with more than one mate in their cage.  Keep in mind that it’s ideal to keep the same sex in the cage to avoid reproduction.

Ensure that the cage is big enough to accommodate the gerbils that are in the cage.  Do they have room to roam around?  Do they seem claustrophobic?  Be sure to trust your gut on this one.

Avoid pulling the tail of the gerbil as this can cause damage.

The Humane Society recommends a gerbil for those older than eight years old, an age when children can gently handle them.  If the child is younger than eight, be sure to teach the child how they can properly handle on.  Gerbils tend to be sensitive to loud sounds and sudden movement.

Gerbils aren’t legal in California or Hawaii because the climate is similar to a gerbils habitat, and because of this, the state has expressed concerns if they were to be released, they could potentially establish a colony, destroying crops in the process.

Gerbil vs. hamster

This is a common question that gets asked often.  While a hamster is quite similar to a gerbil, there are some distinct differences as noted below:

Gerbils are slightly smaller. A gerbil can grow up to six inches, while a hamster can grow up to seven.

A gerbil’s tail will usually be close to four inches long with the hair on the end, while a hamster has a short stubbier tail that is less than 1.5 inches.

The nose of a gerbil is pointed and longer than that of a hamster.

Hamsters tend to be more laid back when compared to a gerbil’s energy.

Gerbils will rarely bite and love to be held; on the other hand, a hamster can bite quite often, especially if being held for a long time.

Gerbils are most active during both day and night, while hamsters are nocturnal, meaning they usually sleep during the day.

Hamsters will tend to hoard their food in their cheeks and gerbils won’t.

How can I save money?

Check with local adoption centers or even local pet stores as many may have some up for adoption.  Most of the time, these gerbils may be given away for no cost, or for a small donation. Since these gerbils can mate pretty easy, it’s not too hard to find a local shelter.  Check with local Humane Societies or Petfinder to see if they have anything up for adoption as well.

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