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Table of Contents
Small, furry, and gentle rodents, hamsters and gerbils have become popular house pets and companions for humans. These animals are part of the order Rodentia in the animal kingdom, characterized by their continuously growing pair of front teeth.
See the fact file below for more information on the hamsters and gerbils or alternatively, you can download our 20-page Gerbils and Hamsters worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
ETYMOLOGY AND TAXONOMY
- The hamster is part of the Cricetinae subfamily which also includes voles, lemmings, and New World rats and mice. There are 19 species of hamsters classified under 7 genera.
- The hamster’s history extends as far back as 11.2 to 16.4 million years ago to the Middle Miocene Epoch in Europe and North Africa. The word hamster is derived from the German word “hamstern” which means ‘to hoard,’ pointing to the hamster’s habit of hoarding food in its cheek pouches.
- Meanwhile, the gerbil belongs to the Gerbillinae subfamily. They are classified into 16 genera with over a hundred species. The word gerbil is a modified form of the term “jerboa” which is actually a different type of rodent in the Dipodidae family.
- Gerbils are related to mice and rats because they belong to the Muridae family. A species of Mongolian gerbil, the Meriones unguiculatus is one of the more popular species for house pets.
- Hamsters and gerbils share similar physical features with each other such as having button eyes, pink noses, fur, whiskers, and a pair of incisors, but they also have noticeable differences.
- The hamster has a typically stout body with short tails and stocky legs. Their ears are small and furry and they have thick silky fur which can range from colors of black, gray, white, brown, yellow, red, or a mixture depending on the species. Depending on the species, hamsters can grow from 5 to 34 centimeters.
- The gerbil on the other hand has a long tail which make up half of their total length, and narrow hind feet with long claws. Their body length can only reach from 50 to 200 millimeters and their ears may be long or short depending on the species. Their fur ranges from reddish, gray, olive, yellowish, dark brown, and orangish colors.
- Hamsters are generally crepuscular, or active during twilight, and gerbils can be nocturnal, diurnal, or crepuscular depending on the species. When in the wild, both animals dig and build burrows in the ground for their habitation where they store food, nest, and protect themselves from predators.
- Gerbils may live alone in their own territories or build large colonies in tunnel networks. Members of these gerbil colonies form social interactions where they groom and communicate with each other.
- Unlike gerbils, most hamsters are severely solitary. Being housed together results in chronic stress for these hamsters. They may fight fiercely and sometimes even fatally. Hamsters use body language and a specific body scent to communicate to other hamsters or to their owners.
HABITAT AND DIET
- Hamsters are generally crepuscular, or active during twilight, and gerbils can be nocturnal, diurnal, or crepuscular depending on the species.
- When in the wild, both animals dig and build burrows in the ground for their habitation where they store food, nest, and protect themselves from predators.
- Gerbils may live alone in their own territories or build large colonies in tunnel networks.
- Members of these gerbil colonies form social interactions where they groom and communicate with each other.
- Fertility and breeding of hamsters and gerbils vary depending on the species. When born, young hamsters and gerbils are hairless and blind and must depend on their mothers for care and protection.
- Female hamsters prepare nests for their newborns. After about 1 week, the young hamsters begin to explore outside the nest. After they reach three weeks of age, they are considered mature.
- Young gerbils begin to grow their fur about a week or two after birth. After 2 to 3 weeks, they begin to open their eyes and at 10 to 16 weeks, they have reached maturity.
- The life span of these two rodents also varies on their species and whether they are captive or in the wild. Some hamster and gerbil species can live from 2 to 8 years in captivity, and significantly less when in the wild.
CONSERVATION AND CARE
- When kept as pets, there are several factors that must be kept in mind to ensure the survival of hamsters and gerbils. Not all hamster and gerbil species are suitable as pets and young hamsters are always easier to train than old ones.
- Hamster cages must have absorbent bedding, a water and food dish, as well as an exercise wheel to keep them active. It must be spacious enough for the hamster to run around and explore.
- Gerbils require a different type of housing since they need to be able to dig their own tunnel systems. Plastic components must be avoided because gerbils can easily gnaw on them and cause them to have health issues.
Gerbils and Hamsters Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the gerbils and hamsters across 20 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Gerbils and Hamsters worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the hamsters and gerbils which have become popular house pets and companions for humans. These animals are part of the order Rodentia in the animal kingdom, characterized by their continuously growing pair of front teeth.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Gerbils and Hamsters Facts
- Hello, Hamster
- Good Day, Gerbil
- Which is Which
- Pet Rodent FAQs
- Life Story
- Gallery of Hamsters and Gerbils
- Pros and Cons
- Compare and Contrast
- The Rodent Family
- House of Rodents
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Link will appear as Gerbils and Hamsters Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, August 3, 2020
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.