Gerbils, Hamsters, and Guinea Pigs

A Menagerie of Pets, but just ONE vet. Rockland

“Over the years, my kids have collected a menagerie of pets… and left me to care for them!  Fortunately, Dr. Lambrich has been there the whole time to help me figure out how to keep them happy and healthy.  I like this vet because I can always call them up and ask a question.  They are always helpful and never nickel and dime you.  I can’t recommend them more highly!”

Amber D.

These adorable creatures delight young children and are a great pet for the family.  Here are some basic care tips and how Rockland can help you keep your little guy safe.


Caring for Gerbils


Gerbils require a cage, access to fresh water, and food that includes block foods (designed to wear down the gerbils teeth) and vegetables like cucumber, carrot, pumpkin and fennel.  You can also offer fruits like pear, melon, apple and orange).  Never give your Gerbil grapes or rhubarb, these are poisonous to them. Their living space should also include a place to hide and to keep them safe from outside animals.  It should be located in a draft free area. Provide them with a bedding of recycled newspaper or non aromatic wood shavings.  Clean their cage weekly. Gerbils do best with other gerbils, but keep in mind that some may fight or even kill one another.

These water bottle keep water fresh and clean. Still the water inside should be changed every other day or so and the bottle cleaned thoroughly once a week. To clean the bottle fill with water, add a few drops of bleach, shake vigorously and let sit for 10 minutes. Make sure you THOROUGHLY rinse out the bottle after washing and refill with clean, cold water.


Handling Gerbils


Never pick up a gerbil by its tail. Be mindful that gerbils are delicate and can be easily injured so always handle them carefully and gently.  Remember to wash your hands after handling.

Hamsters, guinea pigs and gerbils all benefit from alfalfa hay. Follow the package directions for feeding quantities.




There are two kinds of hamsters, the dwarf and the Syrian variety.  Their housing requirements are a lot like those for a gerbil. They require a means to exercise (a hamster wheel), a quiet, safe, dark place to sleep, and clean bedding made of non-aromatic wood shavings or recycled paper.


Caring For Hamsters


Hamsters, sometimes known as desert rats, still require a fresh supply of water and a continuous supply of food (they are grazers by nature).  Good diets for hamsters include a pelleted diet (75%) mixed with fresh vegetables (15%), fruits (5%) and treats like raisins and hay (5%).


Guinea Pigs


Of the three animals in this group, Guinea pigs are probably the most sensitive.  Highly social, they need interaction with you on a regular basis and they benefit from living with another guinea pig.  Cage size should be large enough to accommodate two since these are social animals and will benefit from a fellow guinea pig as a companion.

Select a food SPECIFIC to your pocket pet like this brand made for guinea pigs. Though they fall under the umbrella ‘pocket pet’, each has their own unique nutritional requirements.


Veterinary Care for Gerbils, Hamsters, and Guinea Pigs


Like all exotics, the best thing you can do for your little guy or gal is to provide them with clean bedding, clean water (watering bottles such as the one shown below are best), a pelleted diet and a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.  When handling your pet, look at his or her eyes, nose, mouth, ears, feet and coat.  If your pet is ill, it is likely that you’ll see signs of the illness in these areas.  Don’t hesitate to call us.  Catching disease in small pocket pets at its earliest stage is essential to success and long term health.

Non-aromatic wood shavings make a great bedding material for most pets. They absorb moisture and are not irritating to the pet’s feet.


Are Hamsters, Gerbils and Guinea Pigs Related?


Yes, distantly they are, but gerbils are much more closely related to mice and rats than hamsters and Guinea pigs are.   Each animal has nutritional needs that differ slightly from the other. Of the three, Guinea pigs tend to be the most fragile, though all are at the mercy of how carefully we handle them.






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