From an early age, many of us develop a love for pets and a growing majority have found a special place in our hearts for the Gerbil, a wonderfully loveable little Rodent.
Gerbils are fun-loving creatures and they brighten our days with their many little ways. Watching them scamper around their spacious homes, making their nests and investigating anything and everything they can bring us hours of delight.
From our personal experience with them, we have learned a thing or two about their care, though it should be stressed that we are not in any way qualified as veterinarians and offer the guidance in these web pages based purely upon our personal experience.
“Gerbils, Both Young and Old, Are Such Rewarding Pets.”
We hope that you enjoy exploring the sections that make up this site and have fun with your Gerbils. These pages have been designed for the benefit of Gerbil carers around the world.
All About History Of Gerbil:
Mongolian Gerbils come originally from North-Eastern China and eastern Mongolia. It was not until the latter half of the nineteenth century that Europeans are recorded as coming into contact with this particular species. Specimens were sent to the Paris Natural History Museum and it was here that they gained their Latin name Meriones unguiculatus. This Latin name has a literal translation of “Little Clawed Warrior” or “Little Warrior With Finger Nails”, though this does seem a little strange for the generally playful Gerbil we all know and love.
It is widely accepted that the first breeding in captivity was carried out in the 1930s. Professor Kasugo successfully captured some Mongolian Gerbils and proceeded to breed them at the Japanese Kitasata Institute.
It was not until the first half of the 1950’s that Mongolian Gerbils were imported into the United States of America, by Dr. Victor Schwentker. Here they were used as laboratory animals, starting a long interest by the scientific community due to the Mongolian Gerbil’s physical and psychological characteristics.
“Mongolian Gerbils: ‘Meriones unguiculatus'”
During 1964 Mongolian Gerbils were first imported into the United Kingdom and rapidly started to attract the interest of pet carers. By the early 1970s Mongolian Gerbils were starting to be widely kept as pets and from this point onwards found their place as a Rodent of much desire.
Mongolian Gerbils will normally live for about two to three years in captivity, though they can live for longer periods than this in some instances.
“Mongolian Gerbils First Came To The USA During 1954”
Gerbils have hair over their bodies and this extends also onto their tail. The basic color of a Gerbils coat is the golden-brown color with black ticking, normally described as “Agouti”. Other colors are the result of mutations to this basic coloration.
Mongolian Gerbils have two pairs of incisor teeth that characteristic of all Rodents. Added to these incisors are six pairs of molars, which are situated further back into the skull, below the eye sockets. Mongolian Gerbils have large eyes that provide a good all-around vision that helps to keep watch for predators.
Gerbils have superb hearing abilities that allow them to hear coming predators and this forms the cornerstone of their defensive abilities. Watching Mongolian Gerbils jumping, both from high levels and from the ground up, is a testament to their superb agility that adds to their defensive arsenal. Mongolian Gerbils have a normal body weight of around 80 grams, though overfeeding in captivity along with a lack of exercise can result in a bodyweight far in excess of this ideal figure.
Adult Mongolian Gerbils are about 11 centimeters long and have a tail that stretches back a further 9 centimeters, though for various reasons these lengths can vary widely.
Mongolian Gerbils have elongated, ‘Kangaroo’ like rear legs and smaller forefeet. Each foot has five toes with a slender, but strong, nail on each toe.
Such an arrangement of legs, feet, and nails enables Mongolian Gerbils to burrow very effectively in a wide range of ground materials.
Hopefully, this background information will help you understand your pet Gerbils to a greater degree.
“Mongolian Gerbils Are Wonderfully Agile Little Creatures”
“Sharp, Slender Nails Assist With Burrowing”
“Good Hearing Ability Helps Gerbils Avoid Predators”
All About Gerbil colors
For many years we called white Gerbils, albinos, grey Gerbils, grey and cream Gerbils, cinnamon. To us, these colors were ingrained into our thinking, but recently a new set of colors has come to our attention and they are being widely accepted more into the mainstream.
These colors are provided by The National Gerbil Society and constitute their “Show Standards”, which are used to differentiate colors when entered into the many popular shows that take place.
These standards are split into three categories; “Selfs”, “White Bellied” and “Other Varieties”. Colors outside of these categories are put into a “Provisional” category and after a length of time, they are either accepted into the mainstream of colors or rejected.
“Agouti Is The Basic Gerbil Colour”
This category has the WHITE Gerbils and there are pink-eyed whites and ruby eyed whites. A long-standing favorite is the plain BLACK Gerbil, which is a jet black all over. These have been around for a very long time and we regard these as a very attractive color, that will grace any Gerbil enclosure.
What we would call grey is called LILAC and these have grey hair down to the skin and their eyes are ruby. Another form of grey is the DOVE color and these are a very light grey. Finally in this section comes the SLATE Gerbil, which has dark slate blue hair. Their eyes are black.
The first color in this section is the WHITE BELLIED AGOUTI GOLDEN, probably the first color that many long-standing Gerbil keepers had. Our first experiences with Gerbils came when at school in the early 1970s and they had an enclosure with a couple of these.
“There Are Two Types Of White Gerbils – Pink & Red Eyed”
Closely linked to this color is the WHITE BELLIED GREY AGOUTI Gerbil. Gerbils of both of these agouti colors have black eyes. The grey stands out clearly against the golden and you should have little difficulty telling them apart.
What we would know as cinnamon, is split into two colors, ARGENTE GOLDEN, and ARGENTE CREAM. The golden variety is clearly gold as opposed to the cream which is listed as being a more light apricot color. The eyes of both these colors are ruby. Without a doubt, the argente colors are totally beautiful and our firm favorite.
Finally, in this section comes the WHITE BELLIED CREAM color. These Gerbils have a pale cream coloration, with a white underside. Their eyes are again ruby.
This section has HIMALAYAN, SIAMESE, BURMESE, WHITE SPOT and PATCHED varieties listed by the National Gerbil Society.
“These Images Demonstrate The Differences Between Grey-Agouti &
These are awaiting full acceptance and include; DARK EYED HONEY, PEARL, PIED, NUTMEG and SHAW’S JIRD. More detailed information about these and the other varieties can be found each year in The National Gerbil Society Yearbook. Looking at other web pages that go into more detail about colors will also help you to understand Gerbil colors and their genetic structure.
New Gerbil Colour Standards:
As new Gerbil societies are beginning to be set up around the world, including the American Gerbil Society and The French Gerbil Society, consultation is taking place about the color standards that they are seeking to adopt. As events progress in this area we will make them known to you on this page.
All About Choosing Gerbils
It is important to choose a pet supplier that obviously displays a love for animals and looks after them well, taking care of their every need. In the pet store, the enclosure should be clean and tidy, with plenty of fresh food and clean water.
This web site strongly advises against purchasing, either animals or their feed, etc., from any pet supplier that is cruel and fails to put the animals’ welfare first. If you find a supplier or store that does not look after their animals, complain to the management and if necessary report the store to your local or national animal welfare organization.
There have been recent reports of unscrupulous breeders offering Gerbils for sale that have been badly treated in one way or another and again nobody that cares for Gerbils would want anything to do with such individuals. Indeed if anybody treats Gerbils or other animals in an uncaring way, report the matter to the authorities.
“Your New Gerbils Will Take A While Getting Used To Their Unfamiliar Surroundings”
Having found a reliable pet supplier, first look at how attentive the Gerbils are. They should be alert, full of life, curious about you and maybe coming to your side of the enclosure for a closer look. Remember that they are choosing you as much as you are them!!
Look for Gerbils that have bright eyes and whose fur has a slight sheen all over, but avoid animals that have any wounds or signs of damage to their tails. Good Gerbils should not be overweight or listless which is a sign of trouble and should not bite when handled, which is a sign of mishandling at some stage in their lives.
Though Gerbils of the same color may look the same you will get to know them by their distinctive personalities and this demonstrates that when you keep a Gerbil, a relationship is opening up from which a special bond will form.
Always make sure that the enclosure is set up and waiting for them when you first bring the new family members home. The experience for the Gerbils is going to be stressful and the more you can do to reduce such stress will help the situation. Once in the home, leave your Gerbils in a quiet area of your home for a few days, to allow them to settle in.
“Now Then…This Way Leads to The Food & That Way To That Nice Warm Bed…”
Gerbils are not solitary animals so it is best to keep them in sexed pairs or pairs of the same sex. Compatibility can present problems so choose Gerbils that are young, (under nine weeks of age) prove the best for pairing up. After this age and fighting become a real possibility and the resulting injuries will prove very upsetting. Females become territorial at about nine weeks so this is one area for particular concern.
If you do need to introduce older Gerbils together then there are certain steps to take and even then things may not go according to plan. First set up an enclosure with a partition in the middle that allows air to get through but will not allow the Gerbils to pass in any way. Secondly, put the normal shavings, furniture and bedding material on each side, set up in identical ways to each other and introduce, one, Gerbil to each side of the enclosure. Every day for the next week swaps them around so that they spend time in each other marked territories, but do not replace anything during this time.
Now set up another enclosure that has completely clean furnishings and has been cleaned thoroughly to ensure that no scent remains. Put the two Gerbils in together and watch them carefully for the next hour.
“Gerbils Need Time to Settle Into Their New Home”
They should talk to one another because they have become used to the scent of the other Gerbil, but if they start fighting, then you have to separate and remove them straight away. You can try the partitioned cage for another week using the same method, but if they still do not get along at the end of the second week, the chances are that they never will. If you do decide to leave them together, watch them very carefully, because damage from fighting will leave its mark and take a long time to heal. Male and male will prove the easiest to pair and we would recommend this for an older matching.
Finally, remember to enjoy looking after your new family members. They will grace your lives with many wonders and being privileged to take care of any animal is a very rewarding experience.
All About How To Hand A Gerbil
When we first bring our newly adopted Gerbils home, we are eager to handle our new family members. This reaction is very natural and is most keenly felt by younger members of the family. But, there is a need to restrain our enthusiasm, in the interests of building a lasting relationship with our new family members. As this article will hopefully show, our patience will be rewarded many times over in the coming months.
We have broken the process of handling your Gerbils down into a number of stages, starting from when you first bring them home onwards to the prize of fully handling them.
Stage 1: Settling In
When you first bring your Gerbils home it is always a good idea to leave them alone for the first few days. This will enable them to find their way around and settle into their new home.
Stage 2: Hygiene
Always wash your hands, both before and after handling your Gerbils. Never use soap or detergents when you wash your hands prior to handling Gerbils, because these may prove harmful to them. If your Gerbils can detect smells that are on your hands this may make them cautious about exploring further. We use antibacterial soap after having any contact with our Gerbils, to ensure the removal of harmful germs.
“Give Your Gerbils Time To Settle Into Their New Home”
Stage 3: “Oh Boy, Its A Giant!!”
Bear in mind that to your Gerbil, you are an almighty giant. This should help you to recognize the need to take a few precautions when being around your Gerbils. Imagine how you would feel, coming face to face with something the size of a skyscraper – surely it would be a daunting experience. To Gerbils anything going on over their heads is intimidating because in the wild they would associate this with danger.
Stage 4: Hand = Food
The more contact you can have with your Gerbils the more they will become accustomed to you. So, every day make sure you take the old food out of their home and replace it with some new food. By smell, your Gerbils will come to recognize you, with your hand, and come to associate your arrival with new food.
“Before Handling Gerbils Wash Your Hands With Hot Water To Remove Foreign Agents”
Stage 5: Bribery & Exploration
While you are giving your Gerbils their food leave your hand into the enclosure and let your Gerbils wander over it. Try to do this every day so that your hand, and scent, become part of the furniture, so to speak. Maybe you could put treats into your hand, like peanuts or sunflower seeds. Again this will help your Gerbils accept your hand.
All About Gerbil Homes
Gerbils are very active creatures and thus need plenty of space to move around. Small enclosures are widely accepted as being cruel and should be avoided. Animals forced to live in cramped areas can become aggressive and turn on one another, while breeding activity becomes a near impossibility.
Don’t imagine that having a cramped home, but allowing the animal out for a supervised run every so often is the answer. The enclosure is the gerbils home and this will determine if your animal will be happy or otherwise. Generally, two gerbils need an area of about 75 cms by 45 cms and a minimum height of 30 cms.
Wide Base Clear Top Enclosure:
There are enclosures on the market made from durable plastic, that has an opaque base and a clear upper section, with a metal bar frame that slides along the top. The construction is such that the top clear plastic section comes away from the lower dark plastic area, thus allowing easy access and cleaning. Also, this mainly solid plastic construction helps to prevent problems with drafts and in general, these enclosures make ideal Gerbil homes.
An aquarium with a length of over four feet gives your gerbils the running area that they will appreciate and this factor has prompted many Gerbil carers to adopt this form of enclosure. You can purchase them from pet shops in either glass or clear plastic construction, though these latter ones may suffer from scratching over a long period. It should be noted that you may be able to obtain an aquarium that cannot be used for fish, because of leaking, but is still ideal for gerbils. A potential problem with aquariums is that a lack of air circulation can occur if too many gerbils are housed together. Aquariums though are easy to clean and maintain.
Plastic Hamster “Habitrail” Style Enclosures:
These enclosures are superb for Hamsters and give them a wonderful home that can be added to with lots of different sections, that could eventually build up into an amazing complex. We have experimented with them for Gerbils but subsequently found that they are demolished quickly by the Gerbil’s natural chewing tendencies. The plastic cannot withstand a prolonged gnawing onslaught, so, for this reason, we would advise that this form of the enclosure should be avoided for Gerbils.
Cages made with metal bars all around should be avoided, primarily because the gerbils will gnaw the bars and give themselves sores on their noses. You will also experience bedding and floor covering material being thrown out by gerbils burrowing activities, which will be very frustrating for those trying to keep the home clean. Painted metal areas may also be prone to rust when the Gerbils corrosive waste products act upon them. This paint will be consumed by the gerbils when they chew.
Hagen Small Pet Pens:
One form of enclosure that is popular is the “Small Pet Pens” range made by the Hagen group and they come in many different sizes and colors. They are very handy for transportation, while you clean out their main home, for pups just weaned from their mothers and for sick gerbils – but are a little too small for everyday use as a permanent home for adult gerbils. That said many gerbil owners have these pens because they prove useful in many ways.
Some Gerbil carers construct enclosures from wood, but they’re a couple of major drawbacks to using this material. Firstly, the wood will be hard to keep clean and whole sections will need to be replaced regularly. Secondly your Gerbils will eventually gnaw through the wood and escape. For these reasons, we would advise against wooden enclosures.
Whatever form of enclosure you do decide upon, remember that your Gerbils need to be safe from escape, because an escaped animal may be very difficult to find and may die without the normal food and water it relies upon. Also, the enclosure should be safe from other animals getting in, such as cats and dogs – who will kill gerbils through instinct. Provide a comfortable home and your Gerbils will live happy contented lives.
All About Gerbil Enclosure
In general, we would recommend that as many furnishings as possible be made from approved non-toxic soft-wood because they are hard wearing and your pets will be encouraged to gnaw at them.
You could also purchase clay, glazed or unglazed items which are fine for gerbils because their chewing actions have hardly any effect upon them. Plastic materials look fine and are heavily marketed, but they are very impractical and will be chewed to bits in no time by mature gerbils. The dust produced from gnawed plastic could again prove toxic if consumed.
We have used both clay and wooden boxes and find them fine. Wooden boxes can be made by yourself or purchased ready to use, with detachable parts to allow cleaning and inspecting if pups come along.
One of our favorite types of the box is made from clay is shaped like a barrel and has five entrances that the gerbils love constantly exploring. Wooden boxes too can be shaped after different items and it is a matter of taste which ones you choose.
“Soft Wood Blocks Encourage Your Gerbils To Gnaw”
“The Cheese Holes Can Be Explored”
Feeding & Water Items:
Water should be given in the form of a bottle that is either hung inside the enclosure or outside with a hole for the drinking tube. The drinking tube will have a ball-bearing that stops the water normally flowing out, though it will release fluid when the gerbil comes to drink.
Make sure that the bottle is at the right angle and that nothing is touching the end of the tube, or you may find that the water all runs out and soaks much of the cage! The construction of the bottle should be mainly plastic and metal for the tube. Avoid bottles that have glass, because this could easily shatter with a gnawing and harm your pet.
Food containers should not be made from plastic, because it will be gnawed in no time and is too light to withstand the gerbil’s activities. We use glazed food dishes that come in a range of sizes and are readily available from most pet stores. They are heavy, so do not get knocked over too easily and can be cleaned effectively.
Gerbils like wheels and it can be fun watching them try to master the timing required to get off once they have started. But this enjoyment can only be safe if you follow some easy steps for your animals safety.
Do not purchase wheels that have been designed for hamsters and have gaps in the construction which the tail of your gerbil could get caught in and trapped, leading to serious injury and amputation. Only buy the solid wheels which are safer, though these come mainly in plastic so expect the item to “disappear” after a little while.
No Gerbil enclosure should be without toys of some kind or another and indeed rotation of toys helps to avoid boredom among your Gerbils.
Again, wood is the preferred material because it will withstand chewing. The photograph on this page shows a small plastic toy that has a bell in its center. After just a few hours the damage shown was done and after a few days, the plastic parts had all but disappeared.
Ideas for toys include balls, barrels, ramps, bells, etc. One thing that we have found to go down well is imitation items, such as cheeses and tomatoes which are not made from wood – but do not suffer the same destruction as plastic for some unknown reason. Just a plain used cardboard toilet roll will give your Gerbils a few minutes of frantic fun!!!
All About Bedding And Floor Covering For Gerbils
Many small rodent keepers use sawdust and this is ideal for gerbils, but there are a few points to consider before buying in bulk from a wood merchant happy to offload the sawdust produced.
All sawdust must be guaranteed free of any chemicals because this will have disastrous results for our gerbils. Always use sawdust from a good pet shop, which has been designed for use by rodents as this guarantees that it comes from a reliable source.
When you put sawdust into the enclosure deeply the gerbils will love tunneling through it and this imitates their natural instincts. But, you will find that everything gets covered with sawdust within a little while as the little terrors tunnel away, and as the sawdust deteriorates, it will give off the dust that may irritate your gerbil’s sensitive areas.
“Standing Food Bowls on Blocks Helps Ensure That They Stay Free Of Shavings”
We use wood shavings designed for pets and this helps to avoid much of the dust that comes from sawdust. But when gerbils tunnel the shavings are not as steady and your furnishings can topple away, especially the food bowls, so it may be a good idea to stand important items on the wooden blocks that can be purchased from pet shops. Remember also that gerbils urine and any spilled water will not be absorbed to the same degree as sawdust.
This is another alternative, but be warned that sand can get everywhere – especially the carpet. Sand is very natural and will allow effective tunneling to be done that your animals will appreciate and you can construct special enclosures from glass that allow you to watch the animals as they negotiate their way around the labyrinth of tunnels.
Sand has a poor ability to soak up waste products, though like any other material needs to be removed regularly and cleaning out sand is a thankless task! If you are determined to use sand, purchase non-toxic children’s play-pen sand from do-it-yourself outlets.
Some people use newspaper, but the paper and print may contain harmful chemicals that may poison gerbils. Peat can be used though it will make your animals appear very dirty.
Other materials include crushed corncobs and manufactured pet materials, though you should, of course, ensure that any materials are free of agents that could poison or irritate gerbils.
We have found that the best bedding material is paper wool because it is warm and does not irritate gerbils. It comes in a packet and is condensed so a little placed into the enclosure will soon expand as the gerbils go to work. It provides warmth and is naturally safe for gerbils.
“Gerbils Make Warm Beds For Young & Old Alike”
Tissue paper and paper kitchen towels will soon become shredded by your Gerbils. Indeed we like to stuff tissue into toilet rolls and kitchen rolls, which usually prompts a determined effort to extract the materials, by your Gerbils that present them with a challenge.
If you put card board-boxes into the enclosure, your Gerbils will chew these up and add them to the bedding materials provided. After a good clean out your Gerbils will get to work making the bedding and other materials into a warm nest in no time.
You should avoid any materials that may appear okay, but will harm gerbils, which would include wool, nylon, cotton thread, and soft plastic. Your pets could wrap these materials around their necks and limbs, causing nasty injuries or fatal results.
All About Feeding Gerbils
Gerbils need a sensible diet to make sure that they have balanced nutrients – including protein, minerals, and vitamins – to sustain their little bodies.
By reading many books one could conclude that regular feeding with any old “Rodent Mixture” from the local pet shop will fit their needs, but let us quickly sweep away that old wives tale! What is okay for Mice, Rats and Hamsters could seriously harm your Gerbil’s health in the long run.
The choice of mixture that you feed to your Gerbils is vital and will go a long way in determining whether there will be major health problems later in their lives.
“Gerbils Pounce On Their Food Bowls When Food Is Provided”
After long experience, we prefer to use a mixture that does not have any peanuts or sunflower seeds in it and the one we use is “Gerri Premium Gerbil Food” as supplied by Supreme Petfoods. This mixture has pumpkin seeds and raisins included and is the basis for a balanced diet (This product is currently not available in the USA).
Young Gerbils appreciate plain oats in the enclosure and adult Gerbils devour these foods quickly. Budgie food is good for younger Gerbils, while older ones tend to ignore the small seeds in favor of larger items, though spray millet is consumed.
In the wild Gerbils do eat insects and other small living creatures, but we do not provide any form of meat for Gerbils and rely upon other forms of food. Cannibalism of baby Gerbils is rare and we strive to make it stay that way by avoiding the possibility of developing in our Gerbils an appetite for the flesh of any kind. In the decades that we have kept Gerbils, there have been only a few cases of cannibalism and this is a vindication of the non-meat policy.
Do not take the previous information to imply that you cannot give Gerbils peanuts and sunflower seeds, but it is important to ration such items because they will be consumed with distraction. Regard peanuts and sunflower seeds as treats that will “spice” up their diet and help avoid the boredom that can creep into their daily lives, from a food point of view.
Feeding such items by hand is a good way to get the Gerbil accustomed to hand contact and smooth the path to more involved handling. Avoiding too much of the fats that these items contain can thus prevent obese Gerbils that always look sluggish, unattractive and of course downright unnatural.
“Gerbils Need A Basic Food Mixture That Is Low In Fat”
From an early age, we start our Gerbils on fresh vegetables and fruit because this is a natural way to provide water and the goodies that Gerbils need while growing and developing strong bones, muscles, teeth, and so on…
Cucumber is demolished in no time – which usually results in cucumber skins littering the floor of the enclosure. Apple is another favorite, along with grapes, carrot, cabbage, and celery. It is best to remove such items after a day because they can dry out and start to smell otherwise.
“Attacking the Mineral Block”
Gerbils attack mineral blocks the moment that they are introduced into the enclosure and this applies equally to pups too. Instinctively they realize that they need the salts, minerals, seaweed, starch, calcium phosphate, calcium that the blocks contain – they may not know the fancy names, but they like the results. Always ensure that such blocks are present in the enclosure.
Finally, Gerbils love toast. Many mornings we cook some toast and cut it up into little squares. We place these squares of toast into the Gerbil enclosures – minus the margarine – and watch them all stand around eagerly consuming their portion. Very rarely we put some peanut butter on the toast, but this can sometimes lead to unsavory displays of gobbling down your food and then trying to eat your partners.
All About Gerbil Behaviors
There are many things that we do not understand about Gerbils, but the experience of Gerbil carers has provided important insights into their general behavior. Anyone who spends time observing their Gerbils will be able to learn much in this area.
Gerbil’s behavior though certainly interests those who care for these pets and one of the most popular questions people ask is about Gerbil and their behavior. Hopefully, this section will be able to shed some light on the mysteries of why Gerbils do this or that?
Gerbils are naturally clean animals and carefully groom themselves to retain that clean-cut appearance. They use their paws and tongue to clean their bodies all over and keep their fur in good condition. You can help your Gerbils in their quest to keep their fur conditioned by providing a low sided bowl of children’s play-pit sand for the enclosure.
Your Gerbils will roll over in this sand in a manner similar to the way horses rollover. To help Gerbils grooming it is important to avoid any significant humidity or dampness in the enclosure, which will be detrimental to the fine appearance of their fur.
Affection Between Gerbils:
Linked closely to grooming is the affection that exists between Gerbils of the same community. Gerbils may often seem to have tensions between themselves, only to suddenly stop and groom each other, a behavioral trait that seems very odd at times. When laying in their nests, snuggled together, displays of affection are common. You may notice one laying on it’s back and another, seemingly still asleep, start to lick the first one and groom it.
We have particularly noticed the way that Gerbils in a community will take responsibility for cleaning the pups. Gerbil mothers will do this as a matter of course, but the other members of the community joining in makes the bond that exists certainly stronger in our view and makes this one of the key areas to our understanding Gerbil’s behavior. In one enclosure, made up of four female Gerbils, one had a litter of pups and we kept a careful eye on the way things developed. Again and again, our observations resulted in each female taking turns in licking the pups all over.
Relationships Between Gerbils:
As the above shows, the relations between Gerbils can be very affectionate. But the reverse can be true too! Gerbils love a good old game of tag and chase, all of which are mainly friendly.
But they will often quarrel with each other and have exchanges where they come close to blows, though it is rare that any damage is exchanged between members of the same bonded community. Damage though can and will be severe between Gerbils that are strangers to each other.
Domination is important between Gerbils and young pups start the process of establishing “top-dog” within about four weeks of their birth. Sparring will be observed as the pups start to challenge one another over food and minor squabbles will result.
Some Gerbils can become very dominant when two or more Gerbils reside together in their own enclosure.
What To Do When Your Gerbil Runs Away
One thing that pet owners dread is the thought of their Gerbils escaping and there are a number of points to remember if this happens to you.
Firstly, Gerbils treat their enclosure as home and look to that area as a place of safety. So long as the enclosure is large enough and with lots of activities to keep them amused, the Gerbils will not spend their days longing for escape.
Secondly, your enclosure should be sufficiently secure to ensure that escape is not a real possibility in the first place. Make sure that your Gerbils cannot chew their way to freedom at a point of particular weakness.
And finally, if your Gerbil does escape: don’t panic!
“Your Gerbil’s Enclosure is Their Area of Security & Safety”
Whatever you do, don’t chase the poor animal around the room because this will only frighten the poor creature and stress them. Very rarely does this method of recapture succeed. Even though it takes longer, the patient approach pays dividends in the end.
Close all the doors to the room where your Gerbil escaped and one method of recapture is to put a bucket in the room with a wooden ramp between the floor and the top of the bucket. Put some food into the bucket and maybe also the escaped Gerbils mate or friend from their enclosure.
Now leave the room and by the next day, the Gerbil should be found in the bucket, having fallen in after the food, without the means to escape again. Bear in mind though that this may not be strictly true because Gerbils are very effective jumpers and may not have a problem jumping up to the sides of the bucket. Also, the escaped Gerbils mate, that you have placed into the bucket may also jump out – resulting in not one, but two escapees!!!
“The Golden Rule When Your Gerbil Escapes is…Don’t Panic“
Another method is to use long cardboard tubes and wait patiently for your Gerbil to enter the tube, regarding it as a natural place of safety. When your Gerbil has entered the tube, place your hands over the ends and return the wandering star to their own enclosure.
The method that we have found the most effective is the “Home-Sweet-Home” method. The principle behind this method is simple. Your Gerbil regards his home as a place of safety and maybe looking for a way to return home from this hostile environment.
If you remove the other Gerbils from the escaped one’s enclosure and make a way for the escapee to return, you will often find that after a little while the reunion will take place naturally, allowing you to return the other Gerbils and have things back to normal.
“Gerbils Naturally Burrow – Which Does Not Mean That They Are Desperate to Escape”
When we let our Gerbils out for a run we usually put the enclosure into that area, open and freely accessible, and this encourages the Gerbils to come and go as they wish. In this way we attempt to encourage them to return, should they ever escape. But if these methods do not work and time passes it will become increasingly difficult to recapture your Gerbil.
Taking your Gerbils outside is always a risky proposition and many Gerbils owners do not take the risk in the first place. But if you can ensure that the Gerbils cannot escape the real advice is to be extra vigilant for dangers.
Should your Gerbil escape outside, the chances of recapture are very remote and predators will almost certainly attack and kill your naturally trusting, tame Gerbil. But, on the other hand, they are very adaptable and can very easily adjust to prevailing circumstances. Gerbils have set up wild colonies in the United Kingdom, after escaping from captivity – which clearly demonstrates their naturally tenacious instincts.
At the end of the day prevention is the important word and making sure your Gerbil does not escape in the first place is the important thing to ensure.
FAQS About Gerbils
Q. How Often Should I Clean Out My Gerbil Enclosure?
A. This depends upon the number of Gerbils and the size of the enclosure. A good rule of thumb is that you should never allow more than a week to go by before carrying out this important task.
Q. How Should I Pick Up My Gerbils?
A. It is not a good idea to pick up Gerbils by their tails, because of the gentle tissues in this area. The best way is to gain their trust, so that they do not view you or your hand as dangerous, and use always use two hands to pick them up.
Q. Should I Give My Gerbils Something To Chew?
A. All rodents need something to ensure that their incisor teeth do not grow too long. Wooden blocks or other furnishings placed into the enclosure are a good way to fulfill this need.
Q. How Often Should I Replace Food & Water In The Enclosure?
A. Fresh fruit and vegetables should be replaced every day. Dried food can remain for about three days before replacement becomes necessary. Replace the water every day to make sure that it is fresh and clean.
Q. Can I Put Adult Gerbils Into Each Other Enclosures?
A. Gerbils are very territorial and caution should be exercised. Use the methods explained in our section on this very subject and most of your unions should prove to be happy ones!
Q. I Have Heard That Gerbils Eat Their Young, Is That True?
A. Sadly, there are some cases where this does happen, which is heartbreaking. But this needs to placed in perspective. The vast majority of Gerbils are model parents and take wonderful care of their young. Chances are that your pups, as Gerbil young are known, will grow to be strong and energetic adult Gerbils that you will be very proud of.
Q. Should I Give Vitamin Blocks To My Gerbils?
A. We have regularly used vitamin blocks in our enclosures and trained our Gerbils on them from the early stages of their lives. Our experience has proved that Gerbils love these blocks and will demolish them in no time. Gerbils also appreciate “Tonic Grit, for Budgerigars” which will also help to provide the important elements that Gerbils require.
Q. What Form Of Floor Covering Should I Use – Wood Shavings or Sawdust?
A. Sawdust allows your Gerbils to dig good tunnels and absorbs moisture well, but the dust that comes from sawdust can irritate your Gerbil’s respiratory tracts. Wood shavings, while not so good for tunneling, have a fair absorbing ability and do not produce so much dust. If you add some hay to the shavings, your Gerbils will be able to tunnel much more effectively as the hay helps to bind such tunnels together.
Q. Should I Put Sand In My Gerbils Enclosure?
A. Put a bowl of non-toxic “children’s play-pit” sand in your Gerbil enclosure! This is a must, because your Gerbils will be able – GLEEFULLY – to roll over in it and this will help their fur no end.
Q. Are Gerbils Affectionate With Each Other?
A. Gerbils that are part of the same community will show a lot of affection to each other including grooming and cleaning etc. But that affection is lacking towards Gerbils that are strangers and fights will almost certainly take place.
Q. Should I Provide My Gerbils With a Water Bottle?
A. Fruit and vegetables, with high water content, will not provide all the water that your Gerbils require. Providing a dish of water is not practical because it will be full of shavings and food in no time, so a water bottle is very important and should be provided in your enclosure.