Can Small Rodents Like Hamsters and Gerbils Be Kept Together Safely?

When it comes to pet choices, small rodents like hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, mice, and rats have gained significant popularity. Their small size, coupled with their playful and sociable demeanour, makes them ideal pets, especially for those living in small apartments or those who simply cannot care for larger animals like dogs and cats. However, a commonly asked question is whether different species of rodents can cohabitate. Can hamsters and gerbils, for instance, be kept together safely? This article aims to deliver a comprehensive answer, helping you to better understand these animals and their unique care needs.

Understanding Each Species

Before we delve into the heart of the matter, it’s important to understand each species’ characteristics. Hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, and guinea pigs all belong to the rodent family, but they have distinct behaviours and requirements.

Hamsters

Hamsters are nocturnal animals, meaning they are most active during the night. They are solitary creatures and are known to be territorial, especially the Syrian hamster species. In the wild, these animals live alone, and forcing them to share a cage with other hamsters or different species can lead to fights, injuries, and even fatalities.

Gerbils

Gerbils, on the other hand, are social animals and enjoy companionship. In the wild, they live in groups or colonies. However, this does not mean they will readily accept another species as a cage mate. Gerbils are very active, and their energetic nature may not be well-received by other rodent species, leading to potential conflict.

The Rodents’ Enclosure

The enclosure or cage in which you keep your rodents plays a significant role in their welfare. The question of whether different species can live together in the same cage is closely tied to the cage’s size, design, and features.

Hamster and Gerbil Enclosures

Hamsters require ample space to exercise and play, as do gerbils. A cage that is too small can cause stress, leading to aggressive behaviour. Gerbils, due to their social nature, do well in large enclosures that allow for interaction. However, the enclosure’s design needs to cater to each species’ needs. For instance, gerbils love to dig and burrow, and the cage should provide for this natural behaviour.

Bedding

The bedding you choose for the cage can also impact how well different species get along. Some rodents, like hamsters, prefer soft, fluffy bedding where they can burrow and hide. Gerbils, on the other hand, need a deeper layer of bedding as they like to dig. Opt for a bedding that is absorbent, odour-free, and comfortable for your pets.

Food and Dietary Needs

Just like humans, different rodent species have different dietary requirements. This is another crucial aspect to consider when thinking about cohabitation.

Hamster and Gerbil Diet

Hamsters are omnivores, meaning they eat both plant and animal-based foods. On the other hand, gerbils are primarily granivorous, which means they prefer a diet of grains and seeds. While there is some overlap in their diets, individual nutritional needs may differ, making it challenging to feed them adequately in a shared cage.

Social Interaction and Bonding

Lastly, the social dynamics between different rodent species can be complex and unpredictable. While some animals may tolerate each other, others may not get along.

Hamsters and Gerbils

As mentioned earlier, hamsters are solitary and territorial animals, whereas gerbils thrive in social settings. Forcing these animals to live together can cause stress, anxiety, and aggression, potentially leading to serious harm. It’s essential to prioritize their wellbeing over our desire for interspecies friendship.

In light of these facts, it’s clear that while hamsters and gerbils are both wonderful pets, they have different needs and preferences. Therefore, it’s generally not advisable to house them together for their safety and happiness. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t have both as pets. Remember, each small rodent species has its unique charm and brings joy in its own way.

Guinea Pigs and Other Small Mammals

When considering small mammals as pets, guinea pigs are often a popular choice. Similar to gerbils, guinea pigs are also social animals and enjoy companionship. However, their social dynamics and housing needs differ significantly from both hamsters and gerbils.

Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs are often seen as the friendliest of small mammal pets. They thrive when housed with other guinea pigs, as they are highly social creatures. However, their sociable nature doesn’t extend to all other animals species. They may not get along with different species such as hamsters or gerbils.

Guinea pigs also have different dietary requirements compared to hamsters and gerbils. They need a diet rich in Vitamin C, along with hay, vegetables, and a small amount of commercial pellets. Their dietary needs can cause issues when it comes to feeding time in a shared enclosure.

Moreover, guinea pigs require much larger enclosures compared to hamsters or gerbils. They need plenty of space to exercise and explore. The cages should also contain hideouts and have the provision for adding exercise wheels and toys.

How to Keep Pet Rodents Safely

While it is generally not recommended to house different species of small rodents together, this does not mean you cannot keep multiple pet rodents. The key is to understand their individual needs and provide for them accordingly.

Separate Enclosures

To avoid any conflict or stress among these small pets, it’s best to keep them in separate enclosures. Each cage should be specifically designed to cater to the needs of the individual species. For instance, a hamster’s cage would need to have a safe and comfortable place for them to hide and sleep during the day, while a gerbil’s enclosure should allow for ample digging and burrowing.

Monitoring Interaction

While these animals should not be housed together, it is possible for them to interact under supervision. However, it’s essential to monitor these interactions closely to prevent any harmful behaviour such as a rat bite or aggressive chasing.

Proper Care and Attention

Regardless of the species, all small mammals require regular care and attention. This includes providing a suitable diet, ensuring their cage is clean and comfortable, and spending quality time interacting with them.

Conclusion

In conclusion, while small rodents like hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs can make wonderful pets, they have different needs and behaviours that must be taken into account. It is typically not safe or beneficial to house these animals together given their unique dietary needs, habitat requirements, and social dynamics. Nevertheless, with proper care and understanding, these adorable small pets can bring much joy and companionship. Remember, each pet rodent, whether it’s a hamster, gerbil, or guinea pig, has its unique charm and personality. Ultimately, providing a healthy and comfortable living environment tailored to their specific needs will ensure the happiness of these small mammals.