How To Care For Gerbils
The pet gerbil, or Mongolian gerbil, makes a great pet, especially for young children. Like many rodents, gerbils need the right bedding, food, cage, and toys to be kept happy. Care for the gerbil properly, and he will be an enjoyable pet to look after and raise.
Step 1: Background information
The pet gerbil, or Mongolian gerbil, originates from Mongolia and Northern China. Their natural habitat is arid desert conditions. They can grow up to 12cm in length, and live from 3-5 years.
Step 2: Buying
When buying a gerbil, especially for a child, it must be young so that it is easy to tame. Too young though and it may have nutritional and behavioural problems.
Perform a health check on the ears, teeth, feet and fur. You want to avoid bare patches, parasites, diarrhea, arched backs, and swollen joints. Always consult a reputable breeder..
Always look for a clean sparkly eye and a zest for life!
Step 3: Behaviour
Gerbils are social by nature, so avoid keeping them singularly. They should be introduced at a young age. A gerbil that is properly handled and treated well will usually not bite, and then only as a last resort.
They are an inquisitive animal and are active both day and night; bare in mind though that they are not really a pet to be cuddled.
Step 4: Handling
To pick up your gerbil, always grip firmly at the tails base and support the body as you lift. Never pick up at any other point of the tail, as there natural defence against predators is for the tail to detach, and it won't grow back!
Step 5: Housing
Barred cages are fine for a gerbil, but glass ones are even better. They love to dig, so provide a clean dry sand (not builders sand), mixed with hay to keep it aerated.
Cover the area separate from the sand with aspen or similar. Never use pine shavings or newspaper, as recent research suggests they may be toxic to rodents.
Provide a hide such as a wooden or even cardboard box, and fill this with hay, and a safe willow or fruit tree branch for climbing along with some toys.
Gerbils are largely odourless, so if the cage starts to smell, clean it thoroughly.
They are also great jumpers so ensure the lid is secure.
They must be kept at least at room temperature. To keep the temperature up, try using a reptile heat mat, or a low wattage bulb.
Step 6: Food
Gerbils only need a small amount of good quality food. Mixed rodent food is ideal, perhaps with some insects for protein, and some pieces of fruit. Give them a few sunflower seeds and peanuts as treats.
For water, drinking bottles are best. Use bottled water when possible, or add a water conditioner and vitamins to tap water.