A gerbil is a small mammal of the order Rodentia.

Once known simply as “desert rats”, the gerbil subfamily includes about 110 species of African, Indian, and Asian rodents. These include sand rats and jirds, all of which are adapted to dry habitats. Most are primarily daily, and almost all are omnivorous.

One Mongolian species, Meriones unguiculatus, also known as the Clawed Jird, is a gentle and hardy animal that has become a popular pet. It was first brought to the United States in 1954.

Gerbils are typically between six and twelve inches (150 to 300 mm) long.This includes the tail which makes up approximately one half of their total length. The great gerbi, originally native to Turkmenistan, can grow to more than 16 inches (400 mm) long. The average adult gerbil weighs approximately 2 1/2 ounces. Pet gerbils have an average lifespan of 2 to 4 years.