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Should I Get a Gerbil Or A Rat?

Gerbils and rats are both rodents, and both are very popular pets. There are many differences between the two, though, so it's worth looking at the list of key similarities and differences below, if you're trying to decide which one to go for.

gerbil needs
Gerbils and rats are popular pets with several key differences


  • Both gerbils and rats are very social animals, and need to be kept in pairs or groups. Without the company of their own kind, they will become lonely and depressed.

  • Both species form strong bonds in their pairs, and with their owners too. Some owners report that rats form particularly strong bonds with specific people, though, even in the same league as an affectionate dog or cat.

  • Gerbils and rats - sometimes referred to as 'Fancy rats' in the pet trade - come in a wide variety of color and coat pattern variations.


  • Rats are significantly bigger than gerbils, reaching up to eight inches long, and with a long tail to match. This means they need larger enclosures in which to thrive.

  • Rats kept in captivity tend to live for around two years, but can sometimes live up to five. Gerbils, depending on the species, have a lifespan of between two and eight years. These figures depend on the species of rat or gerbil you keep, and the general health and wellbeing of your pet.
  • Rats love to climbs, unlike gerbils. Gerbils' speciality is tunnelling, and they're not great climbers. Rats therefore need a tall cage that enables them to climb around, and gerbils need one with a deep tray section to provide plenty of bedding to burrow in.

  • Rats are very social and friendly creatures, and love coming out of their cage for play and exercise. They need to do this more frequently than gerbils, so require more hands-on time from their owners.

  • Rats are the most intelligent of the pet rodents, so it has to be said that you get a lot more personality and affection with a tame rat than with any other small mammal.

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Thomas, 20 January 2024

I'm not sure rats are smarter than gerbils. But rats will certainly do more with the effort that you put in to try to train them. I brought over 100,000 rats maybe 50,000 mice hundred and hundred and hundreds of pictures hundreds of hamsters soft African furry my I had hairless mice true hairless rats not the ones that are out today I invented the half and half rat which is now called a cap I started that 1973. I had 300 to 400 pages of rats alone at one time when I was a young man back in the very very early 70s. So I have lots of experience. Rats are great pets but they're on the medium range for peeing so you have to do a certain amount of cleaning. Gerbils are a desert animal so their body absorbs almost all of that moisture that they drink they also drink for less water so the cage does not get a stinky they do not have a musty smell

Sheba, 3 August 2023

I love my gerbils!

Christine, 27 November 2018

The omelet cage is absolutely perfect but we have 2 rats and a bunny. How come nobody makes this type of enclosure for them? I enjoy our pets but the bedding and poo is soooooo messy. I love the idea of the plastic/glass enclosure with separate exercising area. Can you PLEASE make something for me.