It’s common to think of small pets like gerbils as low-cost “starter pets.” However, it’s important to know that these pets have their own costs and requirements for proper care.
In many cases, gerbils, hamsters, and mice can become even more expensive to care for than a cat or dog. With that said, it all depends on what you choose to provide for your pet, whether or not you’ve owned gerbils in the past, and where you want to invest your money when it comes to gerbil care.
Here, we’ll go over the costs of gerbils, from adoption to ongoing care requirements and one-time purchases.
Cost of Gerbils: Up Front and Monthly
The estimated cost of adopting and caring for two gerbils if you don’t have any of the supplies starting out is as follows:
- Adoption and setup: $142 – $235
- Adoption: $10
- Enclosure: $95 – $150
- Wheel: $20 – $45
- Sand bath: $10 – $20
- Water bottle or dish: $7 – $10
- Monthly expenses: $31
- Bedding: $15
- Food: $10
- Sand: $6
- Other expenses: $25 – $360
- Veterinary care: $25 – $300
- Treats and toys: Free – $15
- Free-roam supplies: Free – $45
We’ll detail each of these categories below if you’re interested in how those costs break down.
Cost of Adopting Gerbils
The price of the gerbils themselves is not likely to be a hurdle to adoption. At a pet store, a gerbil typically costs about $10. However, we always recommend finding a small animal rescue near you to adopt your small pet instead.
Choosing a small animal rescue has many benefits, both for animal welfare and for your own pet ownership experience. Bonded gerbils you adopt together from a rescue have been observed and handled, which means that you can get a better idea of their unique personalities.
This also means they’ve already been screened for illnesses, which can end up saving you a lot of money in vet bills.
The good news is that gerbil adoption with a rescue is typically around $10 or less, and you might receive a discount if you adopt a pair of bonded gerbils.
Initial Costs of Caring for Gerbils
If you’ve never owned gerbils, mice, or a hamster before, you’ll need to make some larger up-front purchases to get set up.
It’s best to make the right purchases the first time around rather than wasting money on items you’ll need to upgrade later on.
Here’s a quick buying guide of what you’ll need.
Cost: $95 – $150
First and foremost, you need to provide a space for your gerbils to live. This will be your biggest expense for adopting gerbils if you don’t already have a suitable enclosure lying around the house.
Gerbils need at least 620 square inches of unbroken floor space. They also need an enclosure with a deep base for digging and burrowing.
A great option for first-time gerbil owners is a simple 40-gallon breeder tank with a lid. This tank provides the required amount of space as well as deep, mess-free burrowing opportunities. A 40-gallon tank is large enough for two adult gerbils.
This type of tank can often be found used on Facebook Marketplace or even at a thrift store. At Petco, the Aqueon 40-gallon breeder tank currently costs $120, plus a suitable lid which costs $35. However, Petco has frequent 50% off sales on tanks, which means you can get the proper enclosure for much less.
Gerbils need a sturdy exercise wheel to stay physically healthy and mentally enriched. Gerbils without a wheel can become stressed or even depressed over time.
While gerbils can often use an 8”-inch wheel without much issue, they typically prefer a 10”-inch or 12”-inch wheel. Running on a wheel that’s too small can also lead to serious health issues as well as decreased enjoyment for your gerbils.
Investing in a larger, higher-quality wheel from the beginning means you don’t have to worry about upgrading later on if your gerbil gets larger (which they often do) or chew up a lower-quality wheel.
Our all-time favorite wheel for gerbils is the Niteangel Super-Silent wheel. With this wheel, however, it’s important to remove the center cap, which gerbils can unfortunately get their tail caught up in while running. The wheel still looks great and functions perfectly without this cap on.
Cost: $10 – $20
Gerbils need regular access to a sand bath, which is where they clean themselves. This is very important for maintaining your gerbil’s health and happiness.
While you can find many sand baths marketed to hamsters online, many of these are too small for gerbils and tend to get messy. Your sand bath should be large enough that both or all of your gerbils can fit in it at the same time, and large enough for them to spin around in the sand without making too much of a mess.
Our favorite sand bath option for gerbils is a 1.7-liter glass candy jar. These are relatively inexpensive new, and you can often find them for sale in thrift stores.
Water bottle or dish
Cost: $7 – $10
Gerbils need 24-hour access to water, typically in a water bottle like this one. You can use a small dish or bowl for water, which provides a more natural drinking position.
However, we recommend providing a bottle as well, since gerbils tend to kick bedding into a bowl of water, which results in the bedding absorbing all of the bedding and leaving them without water.
If you go with a glass tank as your enclosure, we recommend affixing the bottle to the side of the tank using adhesive Velcro.
Ongoing Costs of Gerbil Care
As with any pet, the initial cost of adopting and setting up a habitat for gerbils is not the only cost you need to consider. Gerbils also have needs like bedding and food that require purchases on a regular basis.
Here are the ongoing costs of gerbil care that you’ll want to take into account.
Cost: $15 per month
You need something to fill your gerbil’s enclosure and provide plenty of opportunities for digging and burrowing. Gerbils typically prefer to make their own burrows and hides, rather than depending on solid hides that you might use for mice or a hamster.
Gerbils need at least 10 inches of bedding so that they can create these elaborate spaces “underground.”
Cost: $10 per month
It might be tempting to choose the least expensive food option you see for gerbils on the pet store shelves. Unfortunately, many (if not most) foods marketed towards gerbils aren’t actually suitable for them.
Luckily, even foods that are a little bit higher in price and more suitable for gerbils are very affordable when you’re looking at the monthly cost.
Your gerbils need a dependable and consistent pelleted food. For this, we usually use Oxbow Essentials Adult Rat Food. Additionally, gerbils should have a quality seed mix that engages their instinct to forage. For this, we use Higgin’s Sunburst.
Cost: $6 per month
Sand is essential in helping your gerbils maintain their coat, and it also provides a source of mental stimulation.
You don’t need to replace the sand in your gerbil’s sand bath all that often, but you should replace it if it begins to smell. Some gerbils will use their sand bath as their “bathroom,” which means replacing the sand more frequently.
Between changes, you can sift out bedding and droppings using a fine mesh sieve. Place the sieve over a container and pour the used sand in. Then transfer the filtered sand back to the sand bath.
Our favorite sand to use with gerbils, as well as hamsters, is ReptiSand.
Learn more: Gerbil Misconceptions: Fact vs. Fiction
Other Costs of Owning Gerbils
We’ve already listed the typical costs of owning gerbils that you’ll face either initially or on an ongoing basis. The costs below are those that might not always come up, but that you should be prepared to pay if they do.
Especially for veterinary care, it’s important to have some savings to cover those costs.
Cost: $25 – $300
Many people make the mistake of assuming pet rodents do not need veterinary care. However, this isn’t the case.
Rodents like gerbils can develop cancerous tumors, as well as respiratory illnesses and other conditions. When these come up, it’s essential to take your gerbil to see an exotic vet.
If you take your gerbil to the vet, you’ll need to pay the cost of a check-up and examination, as well as any medications or surgeries your vet prescribes. This means you could pay as little as $25 for the appointment or upwards of $300 for a surgery. Prices vary based on the vet.
Treats and toys
Cost: Free – $15
Gerbils are relatively simple in terms of the toys they like. Mostly, gerbils love to chew up paper and cardboard, which you probably have lying around the house.
Give your gerbil some toilet paper rolls and coffee filters, and they’ll be entertained for the night.
Gerbils are also easy when it comes to treats. They enjoy unsalted, unroasted sunflower seeds, as well as some fresh vegetables. You can try giving your gerbils small pieces of vegetables you already have in the fridge.
You might also choose to buy some special treats and chews for your gerbils. It’s always important to research and make sure that these are safe if they’re marketed towards small pets. Our favorite special chew treat is Whimzees, which are actually marketed towards dogs.
Free roam supplies
Cost: Free – $45
Gerbils need time outside their tank on occasion, which is time known as “free roam.” Some gerbils love free roam time more than others, but it’s important to make this something that’s available to your gerbils.
If you have a gerbil-safe room, you don’t have to pay anything to set up a free-roam space. Just let your gerbils run freely around the room! Make sure to block off any small holes or other hazards. You should also protect any wires, books, or anything else you don’t want chewed.
Another option is to purchase a playpen for your gerbils’ free-roam time. We use two of these MidWest Homes animal pens, connected together to form a larger space.
Lay out some obstacles and entertainment items like cardboard boxes and paper towel rolls, and enjoy watching your gerbils explore. Make sure they have access to food and water during free roam.
Learn more: What Is the Best Bedding for Gerbils?
How to Save Money When You Own Gerbils
Owning gerbils isn’t free, but it doesn’t have to be vastly expensive either. As you can see above, you can expect to spend about $30 per month caring for your gerbils, and the initial setup for your pets will cost about $150 to $200.
If you want to make sure you don’t overspend, here are some ways to save money when you’re caring for gerbils.
Don’t overfeed your gerbils
One of the easiest mistakes to make that can cost you money is overfeeding your gerbils. Gerbils need about a tablespoon of food each per day. Giving more than this can just waste food and result in you buying food more often.
Watch for signs of illness
It’s always best to catch medical issues sooner rather than later. When a respiratory illness or tumor is left to progress, your vet bills can quickly escalate. Perform regular health checks by weighing your gerbils, running your hands over their body, and listening to their breath.
Don’t change gerbil bedding too frequently
It’s common to feel like you should change your gerbils’ bedding frequently, and making sure your gerbils have clean bedding is an important part of keeping them healthy. But gerbils don’t need their bedding changed as frequently as other rodents like mice.
Gerbils are desert rodents, which means they drink less water and urinate less than other kinds of rodents. Changing out the bedding too often isn’t necessary and can end up costing money you don’t need to spend.
Additionally, changing all of their bedding too often means destroying their burrows, which can cause them a great deal of stress.
Aim to replace ⅓ to ⅔ of your gerbils’ bedding every two weeks to a month, or more frequently if they’re overcoming an illness.
DIY chews and hides
Gerbils aren’t complicated when it comes to what they like to do in their spare time (all the time). Gerbils like to chew! Even if you provide expensive toys for them, they will still prefer to chew up a simple toilet paper roll or piece of construction paper.
This means that you can just recycle these items by giving them to your gerbils or glue them together (using non-toxic glue) to create unique hides, tunnels, and foraging toys.
Make your own gerbil bedding
Bedding is typically the most expensive part of owning a gerbil, so many people choose to improvise. One of the best ways to supplement your paper and aspen bedding to save money is by shredding your own cardboard.
Purchasing a paper shredder that can handle cardboard means making an investment at first, but it can save you lots of money in the long run.
This can be especially beneficial if you have a lot of cardboard lying around the house or get packages frequently.
We use this paper shredder to shred cardboard perfectly for bedding.
How Much Do Gerbils Cost: Budgeting for Care
If you’re wondering how much gerbils cost before you dive into gerbil care, you’re already ahead of the curve. Knowing how much you’ll need to spend to properly care for your gerbils is a great first step.
Many people underestimate how much small pets like gerbils cost, which can ultimately end in them surrendering their pets to a rescue or rehoming them. By preparing financially for gerbils, you’re taking the perfect first step in gerbil ownership.