A gerbil is an adorable little pet that many people see as their gateway to being a pet owner. They're small, energetic, and super fun to watch, making them a great option for a pet! However, there are quite a few questions and uncertainties regarding gerbil ownership that tend to come up. One of the most prominent questions asked is: How much does a gerbil cost?
We've calculated that the initial cost of owning a gerbil is between $265 and $535 for the first year, with each additional year of ownership costing between $160 and $325. The numbers we've calculated are rough estimates, so you may end up paying more or less for your gerbil depending on several factors that we'll discuss.
Gerbil Cost Breakdown
When calculating the total cost of a gerbil, you need to take into account quite a few different factors. There are several purchases that you will have to make beyond the initial purchase of your gerbil itself (which is very cheap). Housing, food, bedding, and medical care for your gerbil are all some of the costs that you can expect to pay. In the table below, we've broken down the most common initial and recurring costs of gerbil ownership.
The column labeled "Initial Cost" adds up the cost of the first year of gerbil ownership, including the initial necessary supplies. "Yearly Cost" adds up the expenses that you'll need to pay each addition year that you own your gerbil. For detailed descriptions of each section, you can either click on the name of the product / service or simply scroll past the table.
Product / Service
$5 - $10
$50 - $100
$20 - $40
$10 - $20
$20 - $40
$20 - $40
$20 - $40
$40 - $60
$40 - $60
$75 - $100
$75 - $100
$0 - $50
$0 - $50
$0 - $50
$0 - $50
$265 - $535
$160 - $325
Cost Of Purchasing The Gerbil Itself
The cost of the gerbil itself is, ironically, one of the lowest costs of gerbil ownership. There isn't a guideline that places follow when pricing their gerbils, but they're all sold for around the same price. You can expect to pay between $5 and $10 for a gerbil when purchasing one from your local pet store.
When it comes to gerbils, cheaper isn't necessarily better. If a store is able to sell gerbils at a very low price, it's probably because they didn't take very good care of the gerbil leading up to their purchase. This is a common occurrence in larger pet store chains where they prioritize sales volume.
While it isn't terrible to purchase a gerbil from a standard pet store (it's a lot easier to do this), there are other options. You can either look for a professional breeder to purchase a gerbil from, or you can adopt one. Adopting a gerbil is the preferable method for many gerbil owners, and it is the most conscientious thing that you can do. There are many websites that you can use to find an adoptable gerbil near you, such as Petfinder.com.
Gerbil Cage & Accessories Costs
Unfortunately, gerbils aren't creatures that you're able to throw into an empty cage and have them thrive. There are a few things that gerbils need inside of their cage in order for them to live a happy and healthy life. Fortunately, most of these items only need to be purchased once, as they'll easily last throughout your gerbil's lifetime.
A gerbil's cage isn't an aspect of their habitat that you're able to cheap out on and not put a lot of thought into. Unfortunately, many owners fail in this area. Although gerbils may seem quite similar to hamsters, they have very different environmental needs. More specifically, gerbils exist in desert areas, meaning that they're used to burrowing constantly. Therefore, they need a cage that allows them to satisfy those burrowing urges.
Virtually every gerbil owner will agree that a gerbilarium is the best cage solution for a gerbil. "Gerbilarium" is a combination of the two words "gerbil" and "aquarium". Essentially what this enclosure is is a wire structure that sits on top of an aquarium. The wire structure gives the gerbils a solid place to live, while the aquarium is filled with bedding for burrowing.
While this cage setup sounds quite expensive, it's really not. A gerbilarium topper and a 10 gallon aquarium generally won't run you more than $50. However, a 20 gallon aquarium is much better for gerbils. It's a bit pricier, but your gerbil will thank you.
If you don't want to construct a gerbilarium, there are some cages that have a deep base pan that can be filled with bedding. Our guide on the best gerbil cages reviews some of these cages. This cages will work fine, but a gerbilarium does an excellent job providing gerbils with the environment that they need.
Shelters & Tunnels
Gerbils love a bit of diversity in their environments! A tank full of bedding will be an excellent home, but it does need a bit more than that. Throwing a tunnel, bridge, and house into your gerbil's cage will help to spice things up immensely. These structures can either be placed on top of the bedding or buried underneath it to provide a little hidden den!
The shelters and tunnels that you put in your gerbil's cage should last quite a long time, but maybe not forever. The reason behind this is because gerbils love to chew, and wooden structures are right up their alley! So, put a little bit of cash aside every once in a while to replace the chewed-up structures in your gerbil's cage.
These accessories should only cost around $30 initially and then about $10 annually.
Food & Water Containers
Gerbils have quite a few requirements for their environment, and their food and water containers are no exception. Most gerbils absolutely love to chew on plastic, so that material needs to be avoided at all costs. Poor-quality water bottles and food bowls can be a health hazard, so it's best to spend a bit of extra money to get safe, quality containers.
Many gerbil owners opt to use a ceramic food bowl, as it's quite difficult to move around and entirely chew-proof. As for a water bottle, you need to find one that's both glass and doesn't get jammed. There's not much of a reason for either of these things to break, so it's likely going to be a one-time investment for you that's very affordable. Despite their quality, a good bowl and bottle set only costs around $20.
Gerbils are extremely energetic creatures. Just a couple hours of ownership will show you how true this statement is. Therefore, you need to provide your gerbil with an environment that allows them to expel their built-up energy! Digging through their bedding is great exercise, but it's not quite enough. A well-built, safe exercise wheel will provide them the means to run to their little heart's content.
A quality running wheel will generally run you about $30 or less, so it's a very average-sized investment. When buying an exercise wheel, it's a good idea to get one that's mostly chew-proof, as gerbils will likely chew on it. Unfortunately, many metal wheels are unsafe, so a tough plastic may have to do. If you provide your gerbil with enough wooden chewing toys, though, there shouldn't be a chewing issue. An un-chewed wheel will last for years.
Gerbils are similar to hamsters when it comes to their exercise wheel, so both our post on the best hamster wheels and the video below are totally relevant.
If you ever plan on taking your gerbil anywhere, it's a smart idea to invest in a carrier. This carrier will work to keep your gerbil contained and separated from the strange outside world. This increases their safety and decreases anxiety! You won't use this carrier much, but it is a handy piece of gear to have available in case you do need it.
You can easily find a quality carrier for under $10, and it will last a lifetime due to its infrequent usage. If you don't want to invest in a carrier, you could also use a secure cardboard box in the event that you need a carrier. This isn't recommended, but it should be effective enough if you keep close watch on your gerbil.
Gerbils chew -- it's what they do! In order to satisfy their natural tendency to chew everything in sight, you should supply your gerbil with a variety of safe chew toys. There are many gerbil toys that cost next to nothing, fortunately. In addition to the tunnels and structures you've placed in your gerbil's enclosure, they also love to chew on natural wood sticks. It's important that you provide them with a constant supply to both keep their teeth a good length and to keep them from chewing plastic in their cage.
As stated in the previous paragraph, gerbil chew toys are very cheap. You can expect to pay around $20 to $30 a year and have your gerbil be more than satisfied. While it's not a lot of money, it can add up to be a good portion of your gerbil's total expenses.
Gerbil Consumables Costs
The gerbil supplies that will cost you money year after year are their consumables such as their food and bedding. When it comes to consumables, many owners opt to get cheaper variants in order to save money over time. However, with these items, it's generally best to get the highest quality that you can afford.
The food that you feed your gerbil is incredibly important. Aside from a few fresh veggies, this is how your gerbil is going to get most of their nutrients. Therefore, it's important that you provide your gerbil with the highest-quality food that you can get. A healthy serving of gerbil food given every day will keep your gerbil energetic and all-around healthy.
As for what specific gerbil food they should be fed, a mixture is great. The best pellet food available is the Oxbow Animal Health food, while the best mixed gerbil food is this mix by Vitakraft. Combining this food with a healthy amount of different vegetables is a great way to keep a gerbil's diet complete and consistently interesting.
Due to their small size, food lasts for quite a while. This helps to keep costs down to around $50 annually.
As stated previously, gerbils need an enclosure that allows them to dig frequently. They've existed in deserts for thousands of years, burrowing to keep themselves safe from the weather and predators. Therefore, you need to provide them with a means to burrow and fulfill those natural urges. A tank with several inches or more of bedding is how you're going to accomplish this.
It's important that you get a bedding that's natural, dust-free, absorbent, and soft. It also helps if you purchase your bedding in large quantities, as you'll end up going through quite a bit of bedding every year. Around $100 a year is how much most gerbil owners can expect to pay.
Since so much bedding is going to be used, a lot of owners usually mix two kinds of bedding together. A common mixture is some Carefresh bedding with Small Pet Select bedding taking up the rest of the space.
Gerbil cleanliness is actually something that you should take into consideration! While humans and a wide variety of different animals bathe in water, gerbils are different. Instead, they take a dust bath, which involves them rolling around in dust to remove dirt and oils from their skin and fur. Providing your gerbil with a dust bath is a great way to help them stay clean and healthy.
The dust that you use for their bath isn't like the dust you may find around your house. This dust is essentially a very fine sand that's specially-crafted for animals like gerbils and chinchillas. Blue Cloud dust is the most high-quality and trusted dust available, and we can't recommend it enough. You can expect to pay about $30 a year on dust.
When it comes to a bathing schedule, there's two routes that you can take. First, you can simply keep a small bowl of dust in your gerbil's cage so that they can bathe whenever they want to. They also tend to use this bowl as a toilet, which makes it very easy to clean their cage. If you don't want them using the bathroom in their dust, you can keep the bowl outside of their cage and place the gerbil in the bowl once or twice a week for a bath.
Gerbil Medical Care Costs
Like every other living creature, gerbils may occasionally need medical care. There's a very good chance that you'll have to pay next to nothing in medical bills for your gerbil, but it's an uncertain area. Your gerbil may come down with an illness that needs medical attention, or it may have an issue that needs a simple remedy. A readiness to handle this uncertainty is what defines the best pet owners, no matter how small the pet is.
Flea & Mite Meds
Gerbils have fur, which means they're at risk for having fleas and mites. If you're keeping your gerbil inside and away from exposure to the outdoors, then the chances of them getting fleas and mites are very small. However, there's still a chance something may come up.
Medications for fleas and mites can be given as a preventative, but they're really not necessary unless they're a known issue. Fortunately, these medications are relatively cheap and effective at curing the problem (well under $100), so they won't eat into your bank account if they're needed.
Random Medical Needs
The health of any living creature, gerbils included, is filled with uncertainty and various surprises. If you take good care of your gerbil, then there's a good chance that nothing bad will come up. However, even the most cared-for gerbils still become sick.
The initial vet visit for a sick gerbil will cost money, and so will the treatment afterwards. The price of treatment will vary greatly depending on the illness that your gerbil has, so it's good to always be prepared. However, vet visits typically run between $50 and $100.
Are Gerbils Cheap Pets To Own?
Overall, gerbils are some of the cheapest pets that you can own! They do require a good amount of initial investment for their habitat, but their yearly costs are quite low compared to other pets. Of course, if you opt to invest in higher-quality supplies, the initial cost will be significantly higher, but you'll generally save money in the long-run.
The ongoing costs of gerbil ownership will be fairly consistent throughout the life of your gerbil. Food, bedding, toy, and dust consumption won't change much from adolescence to adulthood. The only factor that may change year after year is your medical expenditure, but there's a good chance that it will stay very low.
So, gerbils aren't super cheap to own, but they are cheap comparative to most other pets. Regardless, gerbils make for fantastic pets that provide tons of fun experiences and entertainment. If you're serious about gerbils, the benefits that you'll get from them are more than worth the costs of ownership.