Last Updated on August 6, 2021 by Fumipets
Gerbils, like hamsters, are popular pets because they are tiny, cheap, and simple to care for. Gerbils are burrowing rodents that originated in Africa and Asia. While there are many kinds of gerbils in the wild, most pets are Mongolian gerbils that have been raised in captivity. While gerbils are popular as pets, they are not suitable for very young children since they may be harmed if crushed or dropped. If scared, they are also capable of nipping or scratching.
The wild-type colouring is known as “agouti” colouration, with grey, yellowish, and black bands on each hair and off-white hair on the abdomen. Several beautiful colour variants, including white, black, and gold, are accessible via careful breeding.
Gerbil Temperament and Behavior
Gerbils, unlike mice and hamsters, are often observed sitting up on their hind legs. Mongolian gerbils are not nocturnal, although they do come out at night on occasion. Over the course of a 24-hour period, they go through multiple typical sleep cycles. They are extremely inquisitive as pets and will investigate everything, making them quite fascinating to watch.
Gerbils are sociable creatures that live in colonies in the wild; they do not make good lonely pets. It’s essential to have a same-sex pair; littermates generally get along well. However, since gerbils are territorial, it may be difficult to introduce a new one if you just have one. Never put two unusual gerbils together without first introducing them to each other. They will fight, and one of the gerbils will usually die in the process. You’ll have to wait a few weeks for the introduction, so be patient.
Gerbils, being sociable animals, may grow very tame with frequent treatment. They have a typically pleasant disposition and will only bite if they feel threatened. Hand-taming a gerbil is generally simple, and food and positive reinforcement techniques such as operant conditioning may assist speed up the process. Gerbils have long hairy tails with a tuft of fur at the end, however, you should never pick up a gerbil by its tail; it will injure them permanently.
Allow your gerbils to adjust to their new environment for a few days before touching them. Start approaching your dogs carefully while they are awake when you believe they are ready. With these steps, you may gradually earn their trust:
Offer them treats through the bars of their cage.
When they accept the treats regularly, offer a treat through the open cage door.
Place a reward on your open hand when they are comfortable, and wait for the gerbil to sit on your hand and consume the treat.
Treats should be placed on your arms so that the gerbil has to climb up to get them.
You can hold and carry your gerbil in your cupped palms after it is comfortable with you. Many gerbils love having their heads softly stroked on the sides and backs. Avoid touching your gerbil’s tail; if you’re worried it’ll fall, grab the scruff of its neck and adjust it swiftly but gently.
Housing the Gerbil
A cage of 12 inches by 24 inches by 12 inches tall is the least size for a pair of gerbils, but since gerbils are active, a bigger cage is always preferable. Glass aquariums may be utilised and are preferred by many pet owners over wire cages. Aquariums provide for a thick layer of bedding to enable the gerbils to burrow, which is a natural habit for pet gerbils. To prevent escapes and allow for proper ventilation, a tight mesh lid is required.
Gerbils can be kept in wire cages, but they have a habit of kicking the bedding out of the cage through the wires as they burrow, causing a mess. If you’re in a hurry, keep the bar spacing to less than 1/2 inch, but be aware that any wire cages may allow kicking legs to get caught. Gerbils gnaw on wire cages when their cages are too tiny, resulting in sores on their noses and broken teeth. 3 Plastic cages should not be utilised since they do not withstand gerbil gnawing and do not offer sufficient ventilation.
A nest box is also necessary for gerbils to feel safe. They’ll take refuge in their nest box and sleep there. A strong wood or ceramic nest box is preferable to plastic since chewing will soon destroy any plastic; wood will certainly be chewed as well but will survive a bit longer. Another option for gerbil nest boxes is to use clay flower pots.
Thick pieces of wood, sturdy big boulders, ladders, ramps, and platforms are all good climbing and enrichment items. Toys that can be chewed on should always be on hand. Chewing options include wood toys or basic blocks of wood, twigs, hay, wooden and rope parrot toys, and tiny cardboard boxes. Toilet paper tubes will almost certainly become a popular toy, despite the fact that they will be soon destroyed.
You may buy an exercise wheel, but make sure it has a firm surface to avoid injury. Some owners make a solid surface out of the standard hamster wheel by covering it with non-slippery tape. There should be no area in an exercise wheel where your gerbil’s foot, particularly its tail, may get trapped.
A two to three-inch-thick layer of bedding in the cage offers a solid foundation and enables the gerbils to dig. Avoid using pine or cedar shavings. 2 While aspen shavings are excellent, most owners prefer one of the numerous types of paper bedding available.
It’s also a good idea to provide gerbils with nesting material that they may shred and use to line their nests. Little feet may become caught in the threads of the nesting material offered in pet shops, so it’s not ideal for this. It’s best to use plain white face tissue that’s devoid of scents and chemicals, which you can shred into strips for the gerbils. Paper towels and/or grass hay may also be used for this.
Water and Food
Diets for gerbils should be made up of designed gerbil food. These are usually loose seed mixes with rodent blocks included. Sunflower seed combinations, as well as Cheerios and Rice Krispies cereals, should be saved for special occasions. Look for a packaged diet with 15 to 16 percent protein and 4 to 5 percent fat content. Because they are more difficult to tip over than a plate or a lightweight bowl, heavy ceramic food dishes are the ideal option. On the cage, a water bottle with a metal spout may be mounted. Always have a fresh supply of clean, non-chlorinated water on hand.
Typical Health Issues
Although gerbils are generally healthy, it’s a good idea to find a local exotic animal veterinarian in case of accidents or health problems. The following are some of the more frequent problems to be aware of:
Picking up your gerbil by the tail can cause irreversible harm to your pet. Tails get trapped and broken as well.
Gerbils are hardy little creatures that can typically withstand a fall from a low height. However, if they fall from a greater height, they may shatter a bone. If your gerbil is injured, such as from a battle with a cage mate or a scratch from a piece of metal, see your veterinarian for instructions on how to clean the area.
Gerbils are susceptible to heat stress and heat stroke, which may result in lethargy, trembling, and even death. Make sure your gerbil’s cage is well-ventilated, and act immediately if you suspect your gerbil is overheating.
Gerbils, like other rodents, may get colds, have diarrhoea, and even host fleas and mites. All of these problems are curable, but they may reduce your pet’s life if left untreated. 3
Shock: If a gerbil is dropped or startled, it may experience shock, which may result in convulsions. Gerbils usually recover on their own.
Getting Your Gerbil
Gerbils may be purchased from pet shops and trustworthy breeders. If you’re searching for a certain coat colour or pattern, you’ll want to talk to a breeder; be sure to check out the breeder’s reputation beforehand. Each state’s ethical breeders are listed by the American Gerbil Society. Look for a gerbil with bright eyes and glossy hair when buying one. Observe your selected pet and other animals in the same group until you see a healthy appetite and regular water intake. Make sure all of the animals are alert (if they aren’t napping), and choose only those with clean, dry rear ends (showing no signs of diarrhoea).