Guinea Pigs vs. Gerbils | Which One Is Better to Have as a Pet?

A lot of people want pets that require almost no time for grooming. Dogs need to be walked outside, and cats are very needy. However, rodents generally need a lot of time, especially to clean their cages. On the other hand, if you’ve decided that a rodent fits your schedule and lifestyle, this article is for you.

Guinea pigs vs. gerbils, which one is better to have as a pet? It is all about what the owner prefers. Many people might prefer gerbils because they are a lot cheaper. However, some people may prefer guinea pigs because of their longer lifespan.

This article compares guinea pigs with gerbils in order to help you decide which one is best for your preferences and needs. Please continue reading so you can decide for yourself. Have fun reading!

Guinea Pigs vs. Gerbils | A Detailed Comparison

Guinea Pigs vs. Gerbils - A Detailed Comparison

Life Span

Guinea pigs are expected to live between 5 and 7 years. On the other hand, gerbils have a very small lifespan, between 2 and a half and 3 and a half years. The age of 4 for a gerbil is rare because gerbils don’t usually make it to this age. 

This is a very sad thing because the majority of people prefer to have a pet that has a decent lifespan. We humans, get attached very quickly to our pets and 4 years cannot be compared to 7 years. Most of us would get a guinea pig mostly because of the lifespan. 

However, there are a few people that don’t want a pet that lives too long. Perhaps you’d like to learn how to handle responsibilities, or perhaps you’d like to gain some practice caring for a small pet before taking on a more demanding one.

Time of Activity

Most of the species of gerbils are active during the day, so they are diurnal mammals. However, some species of gerbils are crepuscular, just like guinea pigs. This means they are most active at dusk and dawn. 

On this issue, none of them is better just because none of them is nocturnal. Nocturnal rodents like rats can be very irritating, but diurnal and crepuscular pets aren’t a problem for most people. 

However, these two crepuscular pets can be a problem if you are someone who works in night shifts or in various shifts. With this in mind, maybe you need to consider having a rat as a pet rodent. But despite that, there should be no issue regarding this field. 


Guinea pigs are known to be very empathetic and friendly pets. They get depressed if they don’t have a friend around. Also, they squeak when you come home and generally when they are happy. Guinea pigs love being held, but some of them are a lot shier and need a little more time to adjust with their owner. 

Gerbils, on the other hand, are known to be jumpy and very fast. This is why a lot of people could swear that it is impossible to hold a gerbil in your arms. However, it all depends on the personality of gerbils. Other people think that gerbils are one of the most loving creatures on Earth and that they are so easy to handle.

Time (Social Life)

Both guinea pigs and gerbils live in groups in the wild. It is well-known that you should buy a pair of guinea pigs because they can get very depressed if they don’t have a mate. 

Gerbils recognize their family by scent. This is why a split tank is needed for gerbils that come from different families. Gerbils can attack, and even kill another gerbil that has an unfamiliar scent. 

The conclusion is that whether you decide to get a gerbil or a guinea pig, it is actually so much better to get two of them.


Guinea pig cages need to be cleaned frequently. One of the reasons for this is that they can become extremely smelly, to the point where you cannot sit in the same room with them.

Spot cleaning is very important. It prevents build-up and reduces odor by a lot. Their cage should be cleaned once a week and their diet should be balanced. 

However, gerbils are not that smelly. Their kidneys adapted to reducing the production of waste and conserving fluids. This happens because they are desert animals, so they need to conserve everything.

Additionally, they produce less urine than a normal rodent. So, the cage does not need to be cleaned as often as guinea pigs. Also, the poop is not a problem either because it is small and hard. It is not smelly and it’s easy to remove anyway.

A gerbil’s tank needs to be cleaned once or twice a month depending on the number of gerbils living in the tank, the volume of the tank, and some other factors. 

If a gerbil is smelly, the smell could be caused by fear or by a disease. If your gerbil has a strange odor, get him to the vet for regular consultation. 

Guinea Pigs vs. Gerbils | One-Time Expenses

Guinea Pigs vs. Gerbils - One-Time Expenses

The Pet Itself

Generally, gerbils are sold for $5 to $10, while guinea pigs have prices between $10 and $35 depending on the species you want to buy. However, both gerbils and guinea pigs are social animals so it’s for the best if you buy them in pairs. 


Gerbils need a taller aquarium, certainly not a wire cage as guinea pigs. A large aquarium might cost between $50 and $100, but you can find second-hand aquariums for about $30 to $40. 

On the other hand, a cage for guinea pigs is between $35 and $80. But you should buy a very large cage, so the price is closer to $80. There are a lot of offers in pet stores such as a small cage, food supply for a month, a water bottle, a food bowl, and bedding for just $45. 

On the other hand, water bottles are generally between $4 to $10 and a food container varies from $8 to $15. 


Toys for gerbils are between $2 and $20, while the exercise balls for guinea pigs are around $15. Lucky for us, both gerbils and guinea pigs love cardboards and toilet paper rolls. Toys are not really necessary if you can give them cardboard and tunnels. 


This is an optional purchase for guinea pigs. Some people buy harnesses for guinea pigs to walk them outdoors. These harnesses cost between$ 5 and $7.

Guinea Pigs vs. Gerbils | Monthly Expenses and Other Expenses

Guinea Pigs vs. Gerbils - Monthly Expenses and Other Expenses


Both gerbils and guinea pigs need balanced diets. However, gerbils need $3 to $6 for a monthly supply of food, while guinea pigs need twice as much, $6 or $12 a month is not that bad, but in the long run, guinea pigs are very expensive. 


Do not forget to regularly visit a vet. It is enough to pay a visit to a veterinarian twice a year. A regular consultation for a gerbil is $40, while a guinea pig is $45.


Guinea pigs are so much more expensive. However, if you plan on getting a pet, you should not see it as a burden. Price should be more important for people who cannot afford guinea pigs but can afford gerbils.

But, if you are among the people that afford both, don’t get a gerbil just because it’s cheaper. Think about everything. If you are a pet lover, you will probably get very attached, and perhaps you would like a pet with a longer lifespan. 

List of Sources

Animal Life Spans

Social Experience, Behavior, and Stress in Guinea Pigs

Caring for Your Pet Guinea Pig

Guinea Pig Housing

Guinea Pig Care