Find out more about keeping gerbils as pets.
Species of Gerbil

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Golden Agouti Mongolian Gerbil
Golden Agouti Mongolian Gerbil

Black Mongolian Gerbil
Black Mongolian Gerbil

Burmese Mongolian Gerbil
Burmese Mongolian Gerbil

Light Red Fox Mongolian Gerbil
Light Red Fox Mongolian Gerbil

Schimmel Mongolian Gerbils
Schimmel Mongolian Gerbils

Fat-Tailed Gerbils
Fat-Tailed Gerbils
Photographer: Peter Maas
Species of Gerbil

There are many different species of gerbils, but only two are kept as pets. Detailed below are those popular species.

Mongolian Gerbil

Scientific Name: Meriones unguiculatus
Length: 12 - 14 cms (4.7 - 5.5 inches)
Tail: 8 - 10 cms (3.1 - 3.9 inches)
Life Span: 3 - 5 Years

Mongolian Gerbils are often referred to as Desert Rats or Mongolian Jirds, although the Mongolian Jird is actually a separate species but the two are often confused. They are native to the semi-deserts and steppes of Mongolia and they are the most popular species of gerbil to be kept as a pet.

They were first brought to the USA by Dr. Victor Schwentker for use in research in 1954, after which they were introduced to the pet industry. They were brought to the UK in 1964 and they now feature in pet shops throughout Europe and the USA.

Due to selective breeding, there are over twenty different coat colours and patterns found on gerbils available as pets, but in the wild only golden agouti gerbils exist. Some of these colours include black, lilac, dove, sapphire, pink-eyed white, burmese, slate, ivory cream, grey agouti, nutmeg, silver nutmeg, siamese, polar fox, dark-eyed honey, red-eyed honey, saffron, and schimmel.

They are very social animals so they thrive when kept together in pairs or small groups. An ideal pairing would be two males or two females from the same litter, although those from different litters can accept each other if carefully introduced at an early age. When a gerbil reaches maturity it is very difficult to get them to accept a new companion, so it is vital to introduce them early.

Gerbils make ideal pets as they are non-aggressive, inquisitive and they rarely bite. They are confident animals so they usually accept being handled and they love to explore new environments.

Fat-Tailed Gerbil
Scientific Name: Pachyuromys duprasi
Length: 10 cms (3.9 inches)
Tail: 5 cms (2 inches)
Life Span: 5 - 7 Years

Fat-Tailed Gerbils are the most docile species in the gerbil family and they are new to the pet market. They are often known as the Duprasi Gerbil, Fat-Tailed Jird, Fat-Tailed Rat or Beer Mat Gerbil and they are native to the deserts of northern Africa. They were first discovered by the French zoologist, Fernand Lataste, in 1880 in Laghouat, Algeria.

They have a thick, soft, fluffy coat that is yellowish/grey in colour with a white underside. Their body is rounded but has a flattened appearance and they have a short, fat, club-shaped tail. They store fat and water in their tail so a healthy Fat-Tailed Gerbil should have a nicely rounded tail.

Fat-Tailed Gerbils are social animals so they can be kept in pairs or small groups, but they are also happy to live alone. They make ideal pets as they are non-aggressive, they rarely bite and they usually accept being handled.

As they are new to the pet market, Fat-Tailed Gerbils are not available or rare in some countries, but in the netherlands they are quite common.

Other Interesting Facts

It is illegal to purchase, import or keep a gerbil as a pet in the U.S state of California.

The subfamily Gerbillinae , once known as "Desert Rats" includes approximately 110 species of African, Indian and Asian rodents.

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