How Big Is a Gerbil? What Should Be the Size of Gerbil’s Habitat?

how big is a gerbil

Gerbils come in a wide variety of species. Depending on their breed and sex, they vary in size. The gerbils that we buy from pet shops are medium-sized.

A fully grown gerbil is typically 4 inches long, excluding the tail, and weighs 2-4 oz. Female gerbils are usually smaller than males.

Mongolian gerbils, commonly used as pets, can grow to a maximum length of 5.3 inches (excluding the tail). Gerbils in good health can weigh up to 4.5 oz. Among the gerbils, the Great Gerbil is the largest, whose body can grow to be 8 inches long.

So, different species of gerbils have different heights and weights. In this article, let’s explore gerbils, their sizes, breeding, habitats, and other important facts about gerbils.

What Is a Gerbil?

Gerbils belong to the Rodentia order’s subfamily Gerbillinae. There are over 100 gerbil species of Asian desert rodents, Indian and African, including jirds and rats. All of them are adapted to dry environments. 

Among the gerbils, the Mongolian species is a hardy and gentle animal that has gained popularity as a pet. So, when you see a pet gerbil, chances are that it is a Mongolian species.

There are differences among gerbils’ other characteristics, but they all have long hind feet adapted for leaping and relatively large eyes and years. Their body type varies from heavy and compact to slim and gracile.

5 Amazing Facts About Gerbils

  1. There are over a hundred varieties of gerbils, but the Mongolian gerbil is the one that is most commonly kept as a pet.
  2. The fat-tailed gerbils have a shorter tail than others which has a club-like shape. Their tail is almost hairless. They use their tail to retain fat and water for difficult times. 
  3. The great gerbil can grow to 16 inches in length and is the largest gerbil species. You can find it in central Asia. Additionally, it’s a plague reservoir species.
  4. Most gerbils are diurnal and work during the day. The exceptions include the nocturnal gerbils Setzer’s hairy-footed, Cheesman’s, and Boehm’s. 
  5. The hairy-footed gerbil of Setzer is found in the Namib Desert in Africa, while Cheesman’s gerbil is found in the Middle East. Boehm’s gerbil is found in a number of African nations.

How Big Do Gerbils Get?

Gerbils typically weigh between 2 to 4 ounces when they are adults. They can reach 4 inches on average, and their tail is nearly as long as their entire body.

If you measure gerbils from the tip of their nose to the end of their tail, you will see they are around 7 inches long.

However, Different Breeds Have Different Sizes.

Yes, your gerbil size also depends on the breed it belongs to.  Let’s see the sizes of some of the most common gerbils.

Mongolian Gerbil

This gerbil species grows up to 5.3 inches long in adulthood, excluding the tail. Mongolian gerbils have a lovely temperament and are quite pleasant to people, which is why they are trendy and commonly used as pets.

Indian Gerbil

It lives in Southern Asia. Although this gerbil only reaches a maximum length of 2 inches, it is an aggressive species that bite humans. 

Libyan Gerbil

A large one can measure up to 3-6 inches on average. You can commonly find it in North Africa and some central and Western Asia regions. Libyan gerbils also tend to be more aggressive than other breeds.

Egyptian Gerbil

This gerbil species, which is native to the arid regions of Northern Africa, can grow up to 3 inches long.

Przewalski’s Gerbil

a unique variety of gerbil found only in China. It measures almost perfectly like a rat and has a very adorable hairy appearance. It is also one of the largest gerbil species, measuring an average of 8 inches, or about twice the size of the typical gerbil. The Przewalski’s gerbil differs from other gerbils in having a short tail, which is an intriguing feature.

Snowshoe Gerbil

Compared to other gerbils, this gerbil breed is relatively small, only reaching a maximum length of 3 inches. It is native to Africa, especially Namibia and Angola.

What Do Gerbils Look Like?

A gerbil is a small rodent with a thick furry coat, huge, dark eyes, and often a tail as long as its body. Most gerbils have fur on their tails, unlike many mice and rats.

Their fur can be both soft and harsh and is often neutral in color to help them blend in with their environment because carnivores love to eat them. Regardless of the color of the top coat, the underparts are often white or buff.

closeup view of a gerbil
Image credit: Jearu, Shutterstock

Their tails are often at least half the length of the body. The fat-tailed gerbil is an exception; in a healthy animal, its tail is round, fat, and almost hairless. Most species have long, thin back feet designed to aid the animal in jumping. They have long claws as well, which help in digging. And some have small ears while others have longer ears.

What is Gerbils’ Lifespan?

Like sizes, weight, and some other characteristics, gerbils’ life expectancy also depends on what breed their breed type. Generally, gerbils can live up to 3 to 5 years.

A wild gerbil typically lives for 2 to 3 years, and pet gerbils have an average life expectancy of 3 to 4 years. Unfortunately, many wild gerbils pass away within a few months of birth due to predators, infections, shortage of food and water, and other difficulties.

However, a well-cared-for pet gerbil, especially fat-tailed gerbils, can live for eight years. 

Scientists have conducted many pieces of research to determine the lifespan of gerbils living in captivity. 

According to a study,  female gerbils had a mean life expectancy of 139 weeks, whereas male gerbils had mean longevity of 110 weeks. The oldest female gerbil in the study was aged 209 weeks, and the male gerbil was aged 208 weeks.

How Are Gerbils as a Pet?

Gerbils are kid-friendly pets. For anyone who can care properly, gerbils make great pets for them. They offer endless hours of fun and entertainment. 

Gerbils are clean, delicate, and easy to care for. You just need to provide them with a gerbilarium with the right temperature,  food, fresh and clean water, enough bedding to burrow into, a playmate to stave off loneliness, a wheel to let them exercise, and toys to keep them busy. That’s all to have a happy pet.

How Big Should a Gerbil Cage Be?

You should get a large gerbilarium that the gerbil can grow into, even if you are just buying a baby a gerbil. It is more cost-effective than paying less for a smaller cage and replacing it soon after.

To prevent your gerbils from becoming lonely, you must keep at least two of them together in a minimum cage size of 20 gallons because each gerbil must have at least 10 gallons of space.

You can buy this gallon size for both males and females because they are not significantly different in size enough to require different-sized habitats.

A pair of gerbils require a minimum floor space of 15 x 30 inches. However, vertical space is more important than floor space. You should provide your gerbils with a gerbilarium at least deep enough to accommodate 6-7 inches of substrate.

Additional Tips for Gerbils Habitat

  • You should consider buying an all-wire cage. 
  • Avoid placing their cage in areas with strong sunlight or draft. 
  • For bedding, you can use aspen shavings or shredded newspapers.
  • You should clean out the waste material every day. 
  • Give your pets a wheel for exercise and other suitable toys.

What to Feed a Pet Gerbil?

For a healthy gerbil diet, you should provide:

  • Along with grains, fruits, vegetables, and Timothy or other grass hay, you should provide limited quantities of high-quality gerbil lab blocks and nutritionally balanced pellet food for gerbils.
  • Clean, fresh water in a sipper bottle or a shallow bowl. You must change the water daily. Avoid providing them water in too deep bowls. 
  • Avoid feeding foods high in fat, sugar, and salt and also chocolate, caffeine, or alcohol as they are harmful and can make them sick or even kill them.

Always remember the following things while feeding your gerbil:

  • Always provide them with fresh food and water.
  • Maintain 10% of your gerbil’s daily calories while offering him treats.
  • Don’t give gerbils fruits and vegetables that have been eaten within 12 hours.

Breeding Gerbils

If you want to breed gerbils, only pick healthy, appealing individuals for the breeding pair. Gerbils are fully grown and sexually mature by the time they are 13 weeks old. A pregnant gerbil typically has a gestation period of 25 to 26 days. Most litters have between four and five babies. Pups are weaned at around five weeks, or at around the time if the mother stayed with the father during nursing and delivered another filter. Every month, gerbils are capable of having a little. 

Do Gerbils Bite?

From a playful nibble to a stinging scratch to a vicious bite, gerbils can do it all. However, gerbils don’t bite to be mean.

  • As gerbils are good readers of emotion, if your gerbil perceives that you are angry and scared, it may grow agitated and bite you. So, even if your gerbil bites you once, react calmly to prevent another bite.
  • They bite when they are scared. When you shout or flinch, your gerbil may become more frightened and bite you again.
  • If you pick up a gerbil without warning, it may become startled and scratch or bite you.
  • You can get bitten by your gerbils until they get familiar with you.
  • Some gerbils bite when they are sick. If you cannot identify an apparent reason for the behavior of your gerbil, take it to the veterinarian for an examination to find out whether there is an underlying cause.

Wrap Up

From size, weight, and characteristics to the lifespan of gerbils, everything depends on their sex and breed.  However, on average gerbils can weigh between 2 to 4 ounces when they are adults. They can reach 7 to 8 inches on average including their tails.

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