Gerbil Care Guide
Gerbils are interesting creatures, and their needs are fairly straightforward. However, you do need to know a few things about taking care of gerbils. These little pets are social, gentle, and can be accommodated in same-sex pairs. An ideal house should be big enough to give them ample space to play, hide, and chew.
Read on to quickly uncover some of the basics of gerbil care. In this gerbil care guide, we’ll let you know about the best ways to meet your new pet’s exercise, grooming, diet, and housing needs.
How Long Do Gerbils Live?
Their average lifespan is 3-4 years, but some may live longer. This range is generally between 2 and 5 years for Mongolian Gerbils, although fat-tailed ones live between 5 and 8 years.
Gerbils are mostly diurnal animals - they stay active mostly during the days. However, Mongolian gerbils are also known at times to be active during the night. They enjoy the company of their owners, are extremely social, and thrive when housed in same-sex groups.
Although there is no problem keeping mixed genders, be aware of the fact that these pets start breeding from around 3 months of age and can produce a litter of 4 to 10 babies every 24 days.
Some notable behavior traits are:
- Grooming - These rodents will often groom one another as well as themselves. This is a part of their social interaction.
- Thumping - This is something you’ll see when your pet is stressed or excited. They also do it sometimes to send a warning to others.
- Burrowing - They like digging tunnels deep underground when in the wild. So, this is another common behavior.
- Gnawing/Chewing - Like any rodent, gerbils are avid gnawers and will try chewing their way out through cages.
How To Know If Your Gerbil Is Healthy?
Usually, these rodents are healthy and don’t encounter many health problems. Still, if they’re unhealthy, it’ll be clearly evident from their physical behavior. Weight loss, lethargy, and loss of appetite are common tell-tale signs. If you notice your pet is less active than usual, make sure to get in touch with a veterinarian.
It is important to choose a healthy animal for petting. When purchasing a pet gerbil, look for the following:
- Bright eyes
- Shiny fur
- Healthy appetite
- High energy (if not sleeping)
- Clean, dry rear end (no signs of diarrhea)
A cage of around 12 cm by 24 cm by 12 cm tall is a reasonable minimum size for a pair of these rodents. However, it is better to opt for a relatively larger cage. Most owners prefer glass aquariums over wire cages. The cage should have proper ventilation, preferably using a mesh lid as it’ll also prevent escapes.
Wire cages can be a problem as these rodents have a habit of gnawing and chewing all the time. They also need a nest box to feel secure. Your pets will use it to hide out and for sleeping. A sturdy wood or ceramic nest box is preferable to plastic since the plastic will be destroyed by regular chewing. The wood will also get chewed up sooner or later, but it is still better than plastic. Clay flower pots are another possible choice to use as a nesting box.
Additionally, provide the pet with chewable toys and lots of other similar stuff for climbing and running like exercise wheels. You must also make sure to add a thick layer of bedding in the cage so that your pet doesn’t find a dearth of digging options. Above all, keep the cage indoors, away from direct sunlight, and possibly at a temperature of 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure the utmost comfort.
- Feed your pet a balanced diet of dried veggies, seeds, pellets, and grains every day. You can also feed them some high-quality rodent food, commonly sold under the tag of rat blocks.
- You must provide them clean and fresh water 24 hours a day. The easiest way to get this done is by adding a water bottle with a drinking pipe attached to the tank.
- Include small bites of fresh vegetables (daily) and fruits (alternate days).
- Avoid feeding junk food, onions, uncooked beans, candies, and chocolates. Instead, feed them broccoli, peas, bananas, apples, and carrots.
How To Hold Gerbils?
These pets are generally friendly by nature and rarely bite, but you’ll need to get your new friends used to you - as well as used to being handled.
- Start by feeding them small treats.
- Scoop them into your hand once they’re comfortable.
- Never pick up your pet by the tail, as this will injure them.
- These rodents don’t have decent eyesight; hence you should take extra care that they don’t trip or fall and injure themselves.
Common Health Issues In Gerbils
While these pets are usually very healthy, having a vet in your contacts alongside an exotic pet health insurance policy is always a good plan. Some common health issues that these pets face include:
- Diarrhea - Mostly caused as a result of improper diet, stress, unhygienic housing, and/or internal parasites.
- Mites - This is caused by external parasites. Mites lead to hair falling out in patches. If this happens, you must consult a vet immediately.
- Tumors - If abnormal lumps appear on the body of your pet, consult a vet immediately.
- Malocclusion - This is a case of overgrown teeth. Make sure to have your pet’s teeth trimmed frequently.