If you’ve ever owned a pet, you know how rewarding it can be. It’s one of those relationships that feels like it goes both ways. Your pet feels grateful to have you as their caretaker and will return the trust and love with unending loyalty. If you’re considering adding a gerbil to your menagerie, read on for everything you need to know before adopting this small mammal. The gerbil is an adorable little rodent found among the grassy hillsides and arid deserts of central Asia. They are known for having slightly oversized hindquarters (which has given them the nickname “plump rats”) as well as being excellent climbers who spend most of their time above ground in pursuit of their main food source, grass seeds.
Things to Know Before Adopting a Gerbil
- Gerbils are rodents. This means they chew and gnaw to stave off boredom and anxiety as well as keep their teeth in shape. If you have small children or infants, you’ll have to be careful to keep your gerbil’s cage out of reach.
- Gerbils are social animals who thrive in pairs or groups. If you plan to keep only one, you must be prepared to provide a lot of daily attention and stimulation.
- Gerbils aren’t like hamsters or mice. They aren’t “easy” pets. They are high-maintenance animals that require daily attention and care.
- Gerbils live for about two years, but sometimes less. Make sure there are at least two gerbils in your group to ensure that one survives the tragedy of the other’s death.
Gerbils Are Nocturnal
Gerbils are mainly nocturnal, although they may be more active during the first few hours of the day. This means that you’ll need to adjust your expectations of when you will see your gerbil. You might go to bed at night and think your gerbil is asleep, only to find him awake and running around his cage first thing in the morning. Nocturnal rodents are more common than you might think. Squirrels, chipmunks, and rats are other examples of nocturnal animals.
Food and Nutrition Requirements for Gerbils
Gerbils are herbivores and should be fed a high-fiber, high-carbohydrate diet. They are prone to obesity, so keep an eye on their weight and adjust their diet accordingly. Gerbils eat the following:
- Water and water-based foods: Water is an essential part of any gerbil’s diet. If you feed them a dry pellet diet, they will need to be given water to keep them hydrated.
- Vegetables: Gerbils like their greens! Try feeding them spinach, dandelion leaves, or any other leafy green you have around. They love them.
- Seeds: Gerbils are primarily herbivores, but they love to snack on a few seeds. Try sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and hemp hearts.
- Fruit: A small piece of banana or apple is a great treat for your gerbil.
- Treats: Your gerbil will love a few nibbles of a rice cake or a bit of quinoa. Be careful not to feed them too many treats, though.
Housing Options for Gerbils
Gerbils need a lot of space, so the cage must be large with plenty of room for exercise and exploration. Ideally, the cage should have a mesh bottom so that the bedding can be changed easily. Be sure the bedding is safe for rodents and avoid cedar shavings as they are toxic to gerbils. Here are some of the best options for gerbil cages:
- An aquarium: The only downside to using an aquarium is that it’s difficult to clean and odor can build up easily inside.
- A plastic storage bin: A storage bin with a lid is easy to clean and provides lots of space. It’s also great if you have more than one gerbil.
- An indoor-outdoor pen: For outdoor-loving gerbils, a pen is a great option. Just be sure to keep it indoors when the weather gets cold.
Health Care Needs of a Gerbil
Gerbils are delicate creatures and prone to several health problems. As their caretaker, it’s your responsibility to ensure they are healthy by giving them the following daily attention:
- Clean their cage: This isn’t just a “once-a-week” task. Clean their cage every day to prevent mold and odor buildup.
- Give them plenty of exercise time: Your gerbils will become overweight and lazy without regular exercise time. Make sure to give them a safe place to roam each day.
- Check for sores and signs of infection: Be on the lookout for sores and infections, which can be caused by unclean conditions or a biting gerbil.
Final Words: Is a Gerbil the Right Pet For You?
Gerbils are unique and captivating animals, but they aren’t for everyone. If you are interested in adopting a gerbil, there are a few things you should keep in mind before committing to this furry friend. Gerbils are social animals. If you plan to keep only one, you must provide him with lots of daily attention and stimulation. Furthermore, gerbils are high-maintenance animals that require daily care and attention. They are also nocturnal, so you might see them running around at all hours of the night!