Gerbils and hamsters are two of the most popular rodent pets in the US. They're both small, cute, fuzzy, and adored; especially by children. While similar in appearance, one may be better fit for your family than the other. If you're looking to add one of these little companions to your household here are some quick comparisons to determine which one might be better suited for you.
First, hamsters are generally more fuzzy than gerbils. It could be argued that their stubby tail and longer fur is more desired than a gerbil's longer tail and shorter fur. However, this is just a cosmetic comparison, and as a previous gerbil owner, I maintain that gerbils are still positively adorable.
Now the important thing to look at is their personality and behavior patterns. Hamsters are mostly nocturnal, which means they tend to sleep more during the day and be up at night. Gerbils, on the other hand, are diurnal, which means they go between napping and being awake during the night and day. Gerbils also tend to be more energetic than hamsters, who wobble around slower. Due to gerbils exercising often to work off their energy, it could be taken negatively as they will be more noisy.
Gerbils are also more social because they bite less and like to live in pairs. Hamsters startle easier so they tend to bite more. They are are also loners and will more likely attack other hamster play mates.
Both critters live around 2-3 years on average and should be handled with gentle care. They are fragile, but if visited daily they will get used to being picked up.
Overall, hamsters are more ideal for owners that only want one pet that is more quiet during the day and funny to watch move around. Gerbils are more ideal for owners that want several of these critters, don't mind a little more noise during the day, and want more daytime interaction with their pet.