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Mice, Hamster, & Gerbil Habitats: What’s the Right Size?

Small animal habitat size

With Special Thanks to Natalie Riggs

It's about time our littlest friends got some attention. Gerbils, hamsters, and mice may be small, but that doesn't mean their living space needs to be. "Starter" cages that don't allow enough room for normal behavior and enrichment can lead to boredom, depression, aggression, and even health issues. The size of gerbil habitats, hamster habitats, and mouse habitats are essential to consider when it comes to being a pawrent to one of these little sweeties.


Gerbils, unlike hamsters, are social animals. In the wild, their groups have up to 20 gerbils. Therefore, these guys are the life of the party, living best in pairs or even large groups. It's critical to have enough cage space to accommodate their popularity. While hamsters love running, gerbils are more into digging and burrowing, creating interconnected tunnels. This makes aquarium tanks a good option for them. 


Both the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and the American Gerbil society recommend a MINIMUM of 5 gallons per gerbil. However, bigger is better when it comes to gerbil habitats. As a result, you should provide the maximum amount of space possible as too small of an area can result in territory battles.

The gerbil habitat should be at least one foot deep and 20 gallons/400 square inches for 2-3 gerbils from our research. This allows for a thick layer of bedding to dig and burrow in and plenty of personal space.


Conversely, hamsters are solitary animals that prefer to live alone, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need plenty of cage space. Hammies instinctually enjoy running, playing, exploring, and digging. Like we see with guinea pigs, many commercial cages on the market are simply inappropriate and too small for hamsters.


When calculating cage size, length and width are more important than height. In the wild, hamsters live in vast open areas, so floor space is the most crucial factor. Finding properly sized, safe hamster habitats isn’t always easy. Luckily, bin cages are both cost-effective and easy to create DIY-style!

The bare minimum hamster habitat size, regardless of breed, recommended by the HSUS (The Humane Society of the United States is 2 square feet or 24 inches long x 12 inches wide x 12 inches deep. The “bigger is always better” rule applies here as well. You'll see the most activity at night from your hammy. Hamsters are nocturnal and burn off their energy while you sleep. To indulge their love of digging, providing the correct litter will make them happy.


Like gerbils, mouse habitats that are too small or too big cause problems. Not enough space can cause mice to become bored, inactive, and depressed. Too much space, on the other hand, can cause stress, skittishness, and fighting.

As mice are social animals and do best in pairs, the Ottawa, Canada Humane Society recommends an enclosure that’s 36 inches x 24 inches x 24 inches. If using wire cages, be careful careful the bar spacing doesn’t allow mice to escape, and there are no exposed wire floors and shelves to cause leg injuries.

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Regardless of cage size, large open spaces aren't ideal for mice. The most significant open space should be the nest, with the rest of the cage full of activities and enrichment opportunities like toys, places to hide, and wheels.

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Remember, most of these little furries’ lives will be spent within the enclosure you choose. Pick a roomy yet cozy home with plenty of species-appropriate enrichment to make their years as fulfilling as possible. We’d love to see your mouse habitats, hamster habitats, and gerbil habitats. Please post pictures on our socials or email them to

DISCLAIMER: These links are being provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by Small Pet Select of any of the products, services or opinions of the corporation or organization or individual.

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