Gerbils As Pets
Gerbils: Inquisitive, friendly animals that
rarely bite, Gerbils make good pets for children.
They are easy to look after, hygienic, and sociable.
They also love digging! Unlike hamsters, Gerbils
should not be kept on their own but in same sex
pairs or groups. They generally live for 3 to 5
years and are most active during the evening and at
Gerbils in the wild live underground in tunnels,
so you should aim to create a similar environment
for your domestic pet. A purpose-built Gerbil cage
is the best option, although a glass aquarium can be
used, provided a wire mesh lid is fitted to allow
Your Gerbil’s home should be kept out of direct
sunlight and away from draughts.
Shredded paper nesting material should be
provided, along with wood shavings or sawdust. As
Gerbils are naturally desert creatures, they use
food and water efficiently and therefore produce
little waste. The cage should be cleaned once a week
- a small litter tray can be provided to help keep a
hygienic environment for your Gerbil.
Types of Gerbil
There are a number of species of Gerbil; however
the Mongolian Gerbil is the one to keep as a pet.
Unlike Rats or Mice, Gerbils have hairy tails.
A good quality Gerbil mix makes an ideal core
diet for your pet. This can be supplemented with
small pieces of fresh fruit and vegetables. Be aware
that Gerbils hoard food, so don’t give them too many
green vegetables (which can rot). Fresh drinking
water should always be available, usually in a
gravity bottle although a small heavy bowl can be
used instead. Like all rodents, a Gerbil’s front
teeth grow continuously, so provide them with
something to gnaw on. You should never feed your
Gerbil potatoes, rhubarb, or tomato leaves.
after your Gerbil
Exercise & Entertainment:
Most active during the evening and night, Gerbils
enjoy cardboard tubes to run through and chew on,
and they love to dig and burrow so provide plenty of
bedding for this purpose. They also enjoy climbing –
a fruit branch is ideal.
Gerbils usually enjoy human contact but can
occasionally be timid. If this is the case, hold
your hand in the cage without touching your Gerbil –
this allows it to get used to your scent – then
gently stroke your pet. You can pick up a Gerbil by
placing your hand gently around its body behind the
front legs whilst supporting the hindquarters with
your other hand. Be warned though – they can move
and jump surprisingly quickly, so always handle them
above a soft surface that won’t harm them should
they fall. Never pick up a Gerbil by its tail as
serious injury can result.
Gerbils can breed extremely quickly from 3 months
old, producing a litter every 24 days! You should
therefore seek expert advice before considering
keeping a breeding pair and only if you’re certain
you can find good homes for the babies.
Tips for a happy healthy Gerbil
Unlike hamsters, Gerbils naturally live in groups.
Two or more Gerbils of the same sex, from the same
litter, should get on well. Adult Gerbils – females
especially – can be territorial so if introducing an
older Gerbil, proceed carefully. Dividing the cage
with a wire screen is the best way – your Gerbils
will be able to see and smell each other without any
danger of fighting. Swap them around to spread their
scent throughout the whole cage; after 3 or 4 days
it should be safe to remove the screen.
A healthy Gerbil will be alert, have bright eyes,
and a glossy coat. They are generally healthy
creatures but as with all pets, if you are worried
about any aspect of your Gerbil’s health, seek
veterinary advice. For a healthy life, your Gerbil
needs the following:
- A good balanced diet with no sudden changes
- Clean dry housing, cleaned once a week with
a mild disinfectant
- No extreme or sudden changes in temperature
- Water bottle and feed bowls cleaned daily
- Gnawing block or fruit tree branch to help
wear their continually growing teeth
- Plenty of wood shavings and bedding for
burrowing and digging
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