Gerbils and chinchillas have one important thing in common.
They both make great pets.
But there are key differences between the gerbil vs chinchilla.
And those differences mean one will be much better suited to you than the other.
Which one depends on what you are looking for in a pet.
Each animal has its advantages and it is just a matter of seeing whose advantages better match your wants and needs.
Keep reading for a detailed comparison of the chinchilla and the gerbil. This will help you figure out which one is the better pet for you.
- 1 Gerbil Vs Chinchilla
- 1.1 The Gerbil
- 1.2 The Chinchilla
- 1.3 Differences Between A Gerbil And A Chinchilla
- 1.4 Similarities Between Chinchillas And Gerbils
- 1.5 Advantages Of Gerbils As Pets
- 1.6 Advantages Of Chinchillas As Pets
- 2 Can Chinchillas Eat Gerbil Food?
- 3 Chinchilla Or Gerbil: Final Thoughts
Gerbil Vs Chinchilla
We will begin our comparison of the chinchilla vs gerbil by looking at each rodent individually, before comparing them directly. We will discuss the advantages of each as a pet, to help you decide which one is better suited to becoming a member of your family.
Gerbils are small, furry rodents like mice or rats. They are often mistaken for hamsters, mice, or rats, although there are a number of differences between them. A gerbil is bigger than a mouse, smaller than a rat, and about the same size as a small hamster.
Gerbils measure about 4½ inches long with a tail of similar length. Adult female gerbils weigh about 2½ ounces, while males weigh slightly more.
The most common gerbil color is agouti. You can also get them in white, gray, lilac, and blue colors.
One distinguishing feature of gerbils is their scent gland, which is a 1½ inch vertical slit running up their bellies. They use this to mark territories and also recognize each other.
The Mongolian Gerbil is the most common species of gerbil kept as pets in the USA. Their name indicates that the species originated in Mongolia. That is not true, if you go by modern maps. Mongolian gerbils originated in Northern China. Of course, this part of China once belonged to Mongolia.
In the wild, gerbils live in small family clans that comprise an adult male, an adult female, and 3 to 4 litters. Their natural habitats mainly have dry, arid climates. They dig burrows to protect themselves from predators.
Wild gerbils live for 2 to 3 years, while captive ones can live for 3 to 4 years.
Chinchillas measure about 9 to 14 inches in length and weigh between 500 and 800 grams. Male chinchillas are smaller and lighter than female chinchillas.
As mentioned before, these cute animals are known for their thick, soft fur. The fur’s thickness can be attributed to the fact that each hair follicle develops more than 60 hairs. Chinchillas come in various colors like cream, ebony, gray, brown, lilac, chocolate, pink-white, violet, etc.
Chinchillas are native to the South American Andes mountains. Chinchillas live in burrows and usually prefer living in large herds of over 100 chinchillas. They are equipped with strong legs for climbing, jumping, and navigating rocky terrain. Chinchillas prefer eating grass, hay, tree bark, roots, etc.
Wild chinchillas live for 8 to 10 years, while captive ones are known to live for 14 to 20 years.
Differences Between A Gerbil And A Chinchilla
There are a number of differences between chinchillas and gerbils. The following are the most important ones.
Gerbils are smaller and lighter than chinchillas. Chinchillas, being larger, need a bigger cage, if you plan to keep them as pets. A pair of chinchillas will need a cage that is at least 3 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet. They also need a lot of vertical space.
A pair of gerbils will need a cage of at least 20 gallons with a thick layer of substrate or bedding (at least 5 inches deep). This is necessary for them to dig.
Chinchillas live longer than gerbils. Gerbils are short-lived and even in captivity, they may not live for more than 4 years. Chinchillas live for over 14 years and some are known to even surpass 20 years when well taken care of.
Sociability And Temperament
Gerbils are friendly, social animals. They love interacting with humans. Chinchillas are generally aloof, although they can be trained to accept human handling. Even with training, many chinchillas do not like being handled too much.
Pet gerbils need a diet of insects, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and gerbil pellets. Chinchillas thrive on a diet of fresh hay and chinchilla pellets.
Gerbils are cheaper and most are priced between $5 and $20. Chinchillas are relatively rare and breeders charge $80 to $500 per chinchilla. Some rare coat colors may cost even more.
Similarities Between Chinchillas And Gerbils
The two species also have several things in common. The following are the most important similarities between gerbils and chinchillas.
Chinchillas and gerbils are both rodents with a similar appearance. They are both furry and have tails. They also have whiskers, or vibrissae.
One of the main reasons chinchillas and gerbils both make great pets is because they are hygienic and clean animals. They clean and groom themselves and do not need water baths. Healthy chinchillas and gerbils are odorless and won’t stink up your home.
Need Dust Baths
Another similarity between chinchillas and gerbils is that they both need special baths. Gerbils need sand baths to remove the excess oil and dirt from their fur. Chinchillas need dust baths with special volcanic ash dust to keep their fur free from oil, parasites, moisture, and dirt. This means gerbils should not use chinchilla dust to bathe, and vice versa.
Intelligent And Trainable
Both animals are social, intelligent, and curious. You can teach them tricks, like pushing a ball or toy, navigating a maze, and more.
Need To Live In Groups
Both animals thrive in the company of their own kind. In the wild, gerbils live in family units, while chinchillas live in herds of hundreds. Therefore, it is recommended to keep them in pairs or trios.
Advantages Of Gerbils As Pets
Both animals can make great pets, but due to their differences, one is likely better suited to you than the other. Here are the advantages of gerbils as pets.
Low Cost To Buy
Gerbils cost a lot less than chinchillas. Their ready availability and large litter sizes make them inexpensive.
Chinchillas are relatively rare and there are very few breeders breeding them. Their litters are also small and breeding them is a delicate process. This makes them expensive. Certain chinchilla coat colors like violet, lilac, etc. also cost more.
Gerbils are fairly easy to maintain. As long as you provide your pet(s) with a large cage with tons of bedding, fresh food, and clean conditions, they will be happy. The cost of maintaining gerbils is quite low due to their shorter lifespan.
Chinchilla food may be cheap, but veterinary care can be expensive: almost $200 per year. Since these pets live longer, annual vet visits can easily add up to thousands of dollars over their lifetime.
Gerbils are friendly, social, affectionate, and curious pets. They like spending time with humans. They also have distinct personalities and are interesting to watch. Many chinchillas do not like being handled too much and may even get stressed, if they do get handles too much.
Advantages Of Chinchillas As Pets
Next, we will look at the main reasons to get a chinchilla as a pet. If these advantages appeal to you more than those of the gerbil, the chinchilla is the pet for you.
Chinchillas live almost 10 to 15 years longer than gerbils, so that is one of their biggest advantages as pets. Assuming you are willing to make that long of a commitment, of course. If not, the gerbil is probably better suited to you.
Chinchillas are clean animals. They do not smell, nor do they attract fleas. Gerbils are known to acquire fleas and mites. Some gerbils even carry communicable diseases like hantavirus, salmonella, leptospirosis, etc.
Chinchillas have incredibly soft fur. They are known to have the thickest fur among land mammals. The hair is also silky and dense, making it soft and velvety to the touch.
Unique And Exotic
Chinchillas make unique, exotic pets. They are rare and that makes them great conversation starters. They also have attractive looks thanks to their soft fur, plump and rounded bodies, bushy tails, and large eyes.
Can Chinchillas Eat Gerbil Food?
No, chinchillas can not eat gerbil food. The two species have different nutritional needs. Chinchillas will not get the nutrients they need from gerbil food. If you feed it once or twice, your pet will be fine, but you should only feed your chinchilla Timothy hay and specially formulated chinchilla pellets in the long run.
Chinchilla Or Gerbil: Final Thoughts
Now that you know all the major advantages of the gerbil vs chinchilla, and vice versa, you should have a clear idea of which one of these two rodents will make the better pet for you.
For most, the cost difference and the difference in lifespan are the two most important deciding factors. If you have a restricted budget or you simply can’t commit to a pet for 15 or more years, then the gerbil is the better choice. If you want a pet that will be with you a long time, then it is the chinchilla for you.