Mice, Gerbils and Hamsters.

Mice, Gerbils and Hamsters can make great pets, both for children and adults. They’re also generally fairly easy to care for, are gentle, inquisitive and love human companionship.

The first question that people ask me is “What is the difference between a mouse, a gerbil and a hamster?”

Mice, Gerbils and Hamsters are all rodents, and are all in the same family, Muridae, but are different species. So you could say they’re close relatives, but they’re definitely not the same. Gerbils and mice are quite similar in size, but they look a little different. Hamsters, especially Syrian Hamsters, can be quite a lot larger. Each species also has some different care requirements.


Mice, gerbils and hamsters should be kept in an enclosure. There are a number of specially designed rodent houses, and as a general rule the house should be as large and interesting as possible, with various rodent-safe toys and hides, and an exercise wheel. Rodents definitely love to play, so adding in a few cardboard tubes or small boxes can give hours of fun.

The enclosure must be escape proof – rodents can squeeze through pretty small holes, and it should be protected from head and cold, but well ventilated. The enclosure should also be kept in a quiet area, away from too much activity or any other animal like a cat or a dog who may scare the rodents.

They’ll also need some bedding material, such as Oxbox Pure Comfort Bedding, which should be cleaned regularly to maintain health and hygiene.

Mice and gerbils are also very sociable, and enjoy being kept with others of their own species, but do note that they breed quickly, so unless you want baby mice be sure to get only one sex, or it is possible to neuter the males. Syrian hamsters prefer to be kept alone, and for all three species they only like being kept with their own type.


Rodents should be handled gently, calmly and carefully. They’re only small, and they can move quickly, and some of the most common injuries I see in rodents are from being accidentally dropped by a child (or an adult) during play. Rodents should be handled regularly and from a young age, both to keep them tame and to give them socialisation and interaction. Do note that rodents can bite, especially if they’re not used to being handled or are scared, so start off slowly. Lastly, a rodent should never be picked up by their tail – this will hurt and can cause injury.


Rodents are omnivores, meaning they’ll eat pretty much anything that is nutritious. I’d usually recommend a mixture of fresh fruit and vegetables (including apples, bananas, broccoli, carrots, bok choy and choy sum), as well as a small amount of commercial rodent food such as Oxbow Hamster and Gerbil Food. Note that rodent pellets are quite high in calories, and should only be given in small amounts. Water should always be available. I recommend a bottle-drinker that attaches to the cage, it’s more hygienic. I also like to give a small block of wood for them to chew on. Rodents teeth will continuously grow, and need to chew to maintain dental health.

Medical Issues.

The most common issues I see in pet rodents are either due to a dirty environment (such as litter not being changed), or a poor diet. A lack of good care can result in skin problems, digestive upsets or respiratory infections, and if you do suspect your mouse, gerbil or hamster is unwell I’d recommend taking them to see your vet. As they get older, rodents are unfortunately quite prone to tumours, which in some cases can be removed surgically.

Rodents don’t require regular vaccinations.