If you’re thinking about adopting a gerbil, you might have been surprised to find out that there are two very different types of gerbils often kept as pets: Mongolian gerbils, which are the most common, and fat-tailed gerbils, which are less common.
But how different are Mongolian gerbils and fat-tailed gerbils from one another? Here’s everything you need to know about Mongolian gerbils vs. fat-tailed gerbils and whether or not fat-tailed gerbils make good pets.
What Are Fat-Tailed Gerbils?
Fat-tailed gerbils, or Pachyuromys duprasi, are small rodents that are about 4 inches long with slightly flattened bodies and thick, soft fur.
Most notably, fat-tailed gerbils are known to have a short, club-shaped, hairless tail that some people may find offputting at first. After all, it differs a great deal from a Mongolian gerbil’s long, furry tail or even the short stubby tail of a hamster.
Fat-tailed gerbils are also known as duprasi gerbils or “doops.” You may see them referred to as the fat-tailed jird, fat-tailed rat, and beer mat gerbil, too.
Duprasi gerbils are members of the gerbil family, but they look similar to a mouse or hamster. Some people even consider them the link between gerbils and hamsters. Duprasi gerbils are also smaller than Mongolian gerbils.
Fat-tailed gerbils haven’t been kept as pets for as long as Mongolian gerbils, and they can still be very difficult to find, even if you search exotic pet stores.
Fat-tailed gerbil origins
Unlike Mongolian gerbils, which are, of course, native to Mongolia and surrounding regions, duprasi gerbils are native to Africa.
Fat-tailed gerbils were originally discovered in Algeria, but they live throughout the northern Sahara Desert.
Why is a fat-tailed gerbil’s tail fat?
You might be wondering why a duprasi gerbil’s tail is so short and chubby. The answer traces back to their origins in the dry African desert.
Fat-tailed gerbils’ tails are actually a clever evolutionary trick for keeping the desert rodents nourished and hydrated.
The fat-tailed gerbil’s tail stores fat and water, very similar to the way a camel’s humps work. You can often tell when a duprasi gerbil is unwell by the size of its tail. If its tail appears to have flattened or shrunk, the gerbil might be lacking hydration or vital nutrients.
Another interesting fact about duprasi gerbils’ tails is that the male’s tail is typically larger than the female’s.
Mongolian Gerbils vs. Fat-Tailed Gerbils
Mongolian gerbils and duprasi gerbils may be part of the same family, but there are many differences between the two species.
Of course, the most obvious difference between a Mongolian gerbil and a fat-tailed gerbil is their appearance. Here are some of the differences you’ll notice at first glance:
Mongolian gerbils have long, slightly furry tails that are thin and wispy. Fat-tailed gerbil tails are significantly shorter and shaped like a club. They also have very little fur on their tails.
Mongolian gerbils are furry, but a duprasi gerbil’s coat is denser and fluffier.
Additionally, fat-tailed gerbils are currently only available with their natural coat colorings: dusty beige or light grey specked with black, with a white underbelly.
Mongolian gerbils, on the other hand, can be found with a broad range of coat color variations that have been bred from rare genetic mutations.
Mongolian gerbils and fat-tailed gerbils differ in size. Mongolian gerbils are larger than fat-tailed gerbils, and they stand taller due to their longer legs.
A fat-tailed gerbil is fluffier and rounder than a Mongolian gerbil, which is long and lean.
Another difference between Mongolian gerbils and fat-tailed gerbils is the temperament of the two species.
Mongolian gerbils are always on the go and super active, while fat-tailed gerbils are more laid back and even lazy.
Additionally, duprasi gerbils are often easier to tame and handle. They can grow to like being held and handled by their owners, whereas Mongolian gerbils rarely sit still while being held.
Fat-tailed gerbils also have different housing requirements than Mongolian gerbils.
First of all, Mongolian gerbils have to live in pairs or small groups. Otherwise, they can become depressed and unwell.
On the other hand, fat-tailed gerbils do well on their own and can quickly get into altercations with a cage mate. It’s recommended to house a duprasi gerbil on its own, rather than with another gerbil.
Mongolian gerbils require a large amount of vertical space filled with bedding so that they can create complex, extensive tunnel systems.
The housing requirements for a fat-tailed gerbil, however, are more similar to those of a hamster. They enjoy a bit of bedding to tunnel or dig if they so wish, but they often don’t like to tunnel extensively.
Additionally, a fat-tailed gerbil doesn’t require as much space in general as Mongolian gerbils.
Learn more: Best Gerbil Cages and Enclosures
If you’re considering adopting a duprasi gerbil, you’ll be thrilled to know that they have relatively long lifespans for such tiny pets.
While Mongolian gerbils typically live about 2-5 years, fat-tailed gerbils live an average of 3-8 years.
Another difficulty you can face with fat-tailed gerbils is finding adequate veterinary care.
Because they’re so rare still, it can be hard to find a vet who has experience with duprasi gerbils.
Do Fat-Tailed Gerbils Make Good Pets?
Duprasi gerbils can make excellent pets for attentive adult pet owners, especially if you’re experienced with hamster or gerbil care. There are several qualities that make fat-tailed gerbils good pets.
First, fat-tailed gerbils are more docile and less active than Mongolian gerbils, which means they can be easier to bond with and “tame.”
The initial investment for a duprasi gerbil is also slightly less than that of Mongolian gerbils. That’s because they don’t need quite as much space or bedding, and they also tend to eat less.
You also only have to feed and house one duprasi gerbil, rather than two Mongolian gerbils.
The biggest obstacle to adopting a fat-tailed gerbil is their availability. Because they’re still relatively new to the pet market, you might not be able to find one in your area.
Note: Fat-tailed gerbils have somewhat complicated needs, so they’re not recommended for children.
Caring for Fat-Tailed Gerbils
If you have already adopted one or are thinking about adopting a duprasi gerbil, here are the basic care needs you’ll need to address.
Fat-tailed gerbil housing
The housing requirements of a fat-tailed gerbil are similar to those of a hamster.
That means they need a space that is a minimum of 24 inches long by 12 inches wide and 12 inches tall. However, they’ll be happier with a good deal more space. We recommend using a 40-gallon breeder tank with a mesh lid, which provides plenty of floor space for a duprasi gerbil.
A duprasi gerbil should be housed on its own, rather than with another gerbil.
Fat-tailed gerbil bedding
You can use the same type of bedding for a fat-tailed gerbil as you would for a Mongolian gerbil or for a hamster.
We recommend a blend of aspen shavings, paper shavings, and Timothy hay. This mix holds its shape well and makes for nice, insulated nests.
As mentioned, duprasi gerbils don’t need quite as much bedding depth as Mongolian gerbils. Start out with about three or four inches of bedding, and if your duprasi gerbil shows an inclination towards burrowing or digging, add more.
You can also provide areas inside the enclosure that have coco coir, coconut chips, moss, sand, and stones to give your gerbil some interesting textures to enjoy.
Here are our bedding and terrain favorites for fat-tailed gerbils, hamsters, and Mongolian gerbils:
- Aspen shavings
- Paper bedding
- Crinkle paper bedding
- Timothy hay
- Coco coir
- Coconut chips
Fat-tailed gerbil diet
Fat-tailed gerbils have basically the same dietary requirements as Mongolian gerbils. They’re both omnivores, which means they live off of a blend of plants and animal protein.
Specifically, both types of gerbils eat a mix of insects, seeds, and grasses in the wild, but fat-tailed gerbils might eat slightly more insects than Mongolian gerbils.
A storebought gerbil food mix plus a pelleted diet is perfect for a fat-tailed gerbil. Look for a blend or pellet that has about 15% protein and less than 5% fat content. Providing both pellets and a seed mix gives your gerbil complete nutrition and the ability to naturally forage for food.
We recommend Oxbow Adult Rat pellets, which provide the same nutrition with every bite. (These are very different from Oxbow’s gerbil pellets, which we do not recommend.) A great addition to this is Higgins Sunburst seed mix.
You can also provide Timothy hay as both a snack and as bedding material.
Fat-tailed gerbil exercise
Like any other small rodent, a fat-tailed gerbil needs a wheel to stay healthy and happy.
The wheel requirements for a duprasi gerbil are the same as a Syrian hamster. Your fat-tailed gerbil wheel should be at least 10 inches in diameter.
We recommend this 10-inch wheel by Niteangel.
Learn more: Best Hamster Wheels for Dwarf Hamsters
Other fat-tailed gerbil needs
In addition to the above requirements, you’ll want to consider these things for your fat-tailed gerbil:
- Water bottle. A fat-tailed gerbil needs 24-hour access to fresh water, which is most easily provided with a water bottle.
- Sand bath. A sand bath helps your duprasi gerbil maintain a soft and healthy coat, and it also provides some mental stimulation.
- Hideouts. Your duprasi gerbil should have at least one hideout in its enclosure, especially since most fat-tailed gerbils aren’t very into burrowing.
- Chews and toys. It’s also important to provide plenty of materials for your gerbil to chew up, as well as some toys, like a tube or a see-saw.
- Playtime and interaction. Duprasi gerbils can become attached to their owners, and they value quality time with you. Consider picking up a playpen that you can sit in with your gerbil to bond.
Fat-Tailed Gerbil FAQ
Still have questions about duprasi gerbils? We’ll try to address them below.
How many fat-tailed gerbils can live together?
Fat-tailed gerbils are solitary in the wild, coming together primarily to mate or fight over territory. Because of this natural temperament, duprasi gerbils cannot live together safely.
How much are fat-tailed gerbils?
Duprasi gerbils are pricier than Mongolian gerbils because they’re still new to the pet market. A fat-tailed gerbil can cost $100 or even more, depending on how many are available on the market at the time.
What gerbil is the friendliest?
Which type of gerbil is friendliest is up for interpretation. Mongolian gerbils are incredibly inquisitive and full of personality, while duprasi gerbils are easier to hold on to and potentially easier to tame. Ultimately, it depends on what kind of gerbil friendship you’re looking for.
What is a fat-tailed gerbil’s lifespan?
A fat-tailed gerbil’s lifespan is 3-8 years.
Are fat-tailed gerbils legal in the US?
Fat-tailed gerbils are legal in the United States. However, it’s illegal to import duprasi gerbils to the US, which is why they’re so hard to find.
Adopting a Fat-Tailed Gerbil
If you’re researching what it’s like to own or adopt a fat-tailed gerbil, you’re on the right track. While owning a duprasi gerbil might seem complicated, ultimately, you’ll learn what your gerbil needs and wants based on experience.
Even if you don’t get it exactly right immediately, there’s no cause for concern. All that matters is that you make the necessary adjustments and do what you can to keep your fat-tailed gerbil happy and healthy.