Chinchilla vs. Gerbil: Comparing 2 Small Cute Rodents

Would you like to own small fluffy pets? Pets that would be adorable but can be kept in cages? Pets that can be good company but can also be okay on their own? Well, there may be many options but we have often seen people mulling over chinchillas and gerbils, trying to decide which could suit them better. And researching chinchilla vs gerbil can get a bit overwhelming too!

So in this article, we have listed down some major pointers for both animals and compared them with some basic points. We have also tried to elaborate on why one might be a better pet than the other!

What Are Chinchillas?


Okay, so Chinchillas are small, extremely furry mammalian creatures. Although they are one of the most vulnerable prey species in the big bad world out there, chinchillas are slightly larger than even ground squirrels. They are native to the South American mountains and forests. 

What Are Gerbils?


Gerbils are also a mammalian species, they belong to the subfamily of the rodent family called Muridae. They are much smaller than Chinchillas. In the past, they were known as desert rats. These are not native to a particular place but they adapt very well to arid and desert-like regions.

A Comparative Study Of Chinchilla vs Gerbil Based On Certain Characteristics 

Variables ChinchillaGerbil
Appearance 9-10 inches long with a 3-6 inch tail. Chubby due to their thick, fluffy fur. Chinchillas have large ears.5-6 inches long, with a 4-inch tail. Slim and short-haired with small ears.
Friendliness Sociable and confident. They enjoy playing and interacting with their owners.With proper socialization, chinchillas are friendly but can be nervous.
Most gerbils tolerate handling well.

Some chinchillas accept handling, but many don’t. Chinchillas have fragile ribcages and are easily injured.
Cost$5-20 each. Must be kept in pairs. They require a lot of substrates and one tablespoon of food per gerbil daily.$80-300 each. Must be kept in pairs. Some substrate, unlimited hay, and 1-2 tablespoon of pellets daily.
Gerbils don’t smell, provided that you clean the cage regularly.
Chinchillas aren’t smelly pets.
Omnivorous. Gerbil food mix supplemented with occasional fresh and dried fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and insects.
Herbivorous. Quality chinchilla pellets and unlimited hay supplemented with occasional dried fruits and veggies. Prone to sensitive stomachs.
Cage Requirements The minimum cage size for two gerbils is 20 gallons. The tank must be deep, with room for 6-8 inches of bedding.The minimum cage size for two chinchillas is 89 gallons with lots of floor space. 1-2 inches of bedding.
Level of CareRoom temperature cage and daily food. Spot-clean cage regularly; full clean every 3-4 weeks.Lots of airflows to prevent overheating. Daily food, unlimited hay, and filtered water. Clean cage weekly.
Life Expectancy Live for 2-5 years with good care.Live for 15 to 20 years with the right care.


When you are keeping pets the most important thing you need to bear in mind is their dietary habits. For complete care of your chinchillas or gerbils, you need to give them their required food items.

While in the case of Gerbils, they are fond of eating seeds of different types of grasses, underground bulbs of many plants, and various types of leaves and herbs. Basically, they require a balanced diet, which should be rich in all the minerals and nutrients which they need. Gerbils also prefer a wide variety of treats that include fruits like apples, oranges, etc and vegetables like cucumber, pumpkin, carrotfennel, etc. It is also known that pumpkin seeds are a favorite of these.

Chinchillas on the other hand have a comparatively sensitive diet. By that, I mean that chinchillas prefer fiber-rich food like roughage including hay, grasses, and leaves. This is their staple diet and without enough Fibre in their system, there are chances they might upset their digestive system. While Gerbils do prefer various treats Chinchillas do not, rather they cannot digest as many carbs as treats. Food items high in fat like nuts etc are extremely dangerous for them.

Both of the pets require ample amounts of water to stay dehydrated. While gerbils may be given a bottle with a metal sipper, chinchillas will require a flat bowl-like object to hold water for the pets.

Sleeping Habits

While Gerbils like most rodents are nocturnal creatures they can be up during the daytime also. Most of the time you find them awake and running about during the night. So if you want a gerbil pet to ensure that your gerbil cage is not somewhere near your bedroom or there. Because of their constant activities and the noises they make, they can keep you up all night.

On the other hand, chinchillas are crepuscular creatures. That means they are most active during dawn and dusk. And like squirrels, they too spend most of their time either jumping around or sleeping. At night they mostly sleep. 


On average Gerbils can live up to 3 or 4 years of age. They can start breeding at 3 months of age.

In the wild, the average lifespan of a chinchilla is 10-15 years. Now, these creatures are prey species, most of their deaths occur due to being preyed upon. In captivity, chinchillas may live up to even 20 years!


Gerbils are diggers. They love to gnaw at things and dig. So keeping these in mind you have to design the cages. So your gerbil cage should have thick bedding that allows your gerbil to dig in peace, without running out of ground.

Chinchillas are happy-go-lucky creatures who are known to run around and jump around. So their cages should be equipped with several ledges and a hammock too if possible. This keeps your pets busy and entertained for longer.

Chinchilla vs Gerbil: Which Pet is a Better Option For You?

Well, you see pets are usually there to keep company. They are often a relief from the daily humdrum of life. Pet owners tend to get attached to pets and when it’s time for these animals to pass away, it gets very difficult. 

Keeping that in mind if we look at the Pet gerbil, their lifespan is quite short. So if you are attached to one then yes, you are in for a rude shock in the next 5-7 years. While chinchillas if properly taken care of can live a lot longer.

Also, because gerbils are sociable creatures often you might be required to purchase more than one. So you need to keep that in mind too.

Final Words

In conclusion, chinchillas and gerbils are both great choices for a pet.

Chinchillas have more unique personalities than gerbils and require less maintenance, but they may be too active for some people. Gerbils on the other hand offer plenty of interactive fun time with their owners but need to be taken care of more frequently since they’re so small.

Ultimately it’s up to you as an owner to decide which type of furry friend is best suited for your lifestyle and home environment – either way, you can’t go wrong!