Caring for Your Gerbil
CARING FOR YOUR PET GERBILS
Gerbils are clean, quiet pets that are best kept in twos or groups. These mini architects spend hours entertaining their owner, tunnelling and building burrows. There are approximately 89 species of gerbils, with the most popular being the Mongolian gerbil, from (you guessed it!) the Mongolian Desert. In the wild, gerbils like to live in burrows with their families. Assorted colour variations are available, which include agouti, argent, blue, lilac, dove, cream, chinchilla, black and albino.
One Gerbil, Two or More?
In their natural setting, gerbils thrive living in communal groups. This should be sufficient reason to keep more than one gerbil. Unless babies are wanted, females generally get along together better than males. Gerbils should be introduced to one another at six to 10 weeks of age if a relatively happy living arrangement is to be accomplished.
Raising A Family
Sexual maturity occurs at eight to nine weeks and the gestation period is 24 to 28 days. The number in a litter may be two to eight pups and their eyes open at 10 to 12 days. During birth and weaning, if the male is left with his partner he will share the parental duties. Very little intervention other than fresh food and water are required. Anything more than a quick change of food and water and the occasional spot cleaning will upset the mother, and cause her distress.
We recommend placing your gerbils’ home in a room where there is a fair amount of activity. This way they will have an opportunity to get familiar with your family’s day-to-day routine. The optimum room temperature is between 68°F – 74°F (20°C – 23.8°C). Rapid changes in temperature may lead to respiratory problems. Place the cage away from direct sunlight, heat or air-conditioning vents and any drafts.
Our pet counsellors are small animal lovers and because they are, they hold and play with all the small animals in our store. Our guests also play a big part in our small animal’s social skills.*
This is why Petland small animals are quick to bond with their new owner.
To provide a happy, healthy atmosphere for your gerbils, Petland recommends the following necessary, and fun accessories. We have listed them as your new pet’s four basic needs: Nutritional, Environmental, Maintenance and Behavioural. When these needs are met, along with a loving environment provided by you, your gerbils can live a long and happy life. Typically, a healthy gerbil may live between two to four years.
Your Gerbil’s New Home – An aquarium with a tight fitting lid is an excellent option for your gerbil who loves to dig in his bedding. A two-story cage with a removable plastic bottom is another option – just don't underestimate your potential escapee! Try and give your gerbil room enough to run, sleep and tunnel.
Nesting Material – This material is made specifically for gerbils, hamsters, mice, rats, and degus (it’s safe). It provides your gerbils with an opportunity to gather and chew bedding to form a cozy bed inside their hideaway.
Hiding Place – Every living creature needs an area to call their own. A hideaway is necessary in reducing stress and makes them feel secure. Their home can be made of ceramic, wicker or wood, but make sure it is made specifically with a gerbil in mind. Tissue boxes or toilet paper rolls, although happily slept in and chewed, are potential health hazards that you should avoid.
Your gerbil is an omnivore, which means he eats both plant and animal food. Your gerbil's primary diet is an extrusion food. Follow the recommended guidelines on the bag of food as to how much should be offered daily. Also, add a teaspoon of a gourmet hamster & gerbil food mix to the extrusion food daily feeding program, to keep him satisfied. Gerbils have a habit of selecting mixes with nuts, corn, seeds and fruit morsels and leaving the healthy pellets behind, so a primary diet of extrusion food is the best option.
Many small animals are susceptible to diarrhea, especially when new foods are introduced too quickly or they encounter a stressful situation (i.e. being adopted). By providing food that is familiar to them, their digestive systems will prevent this type of health problem.
Moss Hollow Adapt – Using Moss Hollow Adapt, while minimizing stress, can help your new pet adapt to their new home by promoting relaxation from stress caused by the environment (Echinacea), offering a prebiotic for building gut flora (Burdock Root), easing diarrhea (Psyllium Husk), increasing palatability (Wheatgrass), providing a natural dewormer (Diatomaceous Earth), and nutrient rich clay (Bentonite). This veterinary health product uses natural ingredients which can aid all small animals before symptoms emerge.
Treats and Other Diet Variations – Supply grass hay to stimulate natural foraging activities, which help in the prevention of obesity. The bonus here is that they also love it! Hay is also an excellent source of nesting material. There are variety of hays to choose from; however, gerbils especially enjoy oat hay, which often contains immature seed heads.
Treats are a great way to help keep your gerbils from becoming bored with their fare, and staying healthy and active. All gerbils should be introduced to new foods gradually. Never more than 5% of their total diet should consist of treats, or about a ½ tsp daily. Offer treats to encourage interaction between you and your pet, but only after your pet eats his basic food.
We recommend that for the first few days in your home, you do not feed your new pets any fruits, vegetables or treats. It is at this time that they will be most prone to getting diarrhea. Limiting their variety of foods is best until they are settled. Fresh foods are considered treats for gerbils rather than a staple in your pet’s diet. Carrot and beet tops, dandelion greens and flowers (that have not been subjected to spraying), kale, collard greens, romaine and leaf lettuce (not iceberg lettuce), parsley, carrots and pea pods are some good choices. Large amounts of green foods should be avoided, since they are difficult to digest and can cause health concerns.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplement – This should be added to the drinking water or food, according to bottle directions. In the wild, animals can choose the foods their bodies require. Even i f you give your gerbils a variety of foods, you may not be providing them with certain vitamins/minerals that they need.
Salt and Mineral Stone – Your gerbils need a salt and mineral stone available at all times. Salt will encourage them to drink enough water, and the water aids in digestion.
Water Bottle – The use of a four to eight water bottle is necessary, so the water stays clean and free of bedding and the vitamins are not wasted. Fresh water should be available at all times and replaced daily. Water bottles need to be kept clean of not only any bacterial growth, but also of sediment that may be caused by using nutritional supplements. Use a bottle brush set to clean both the inside of the bottle and the inner surface of the stainless steel drinking tube. Brushes may be used with dish soap. Be sure to rinse bottles and tubes well and to wash and rinse brushes themselves following use. If your pet is housed in an aquarium, a bottle holder or bottle guard will be required.
Crock Bowls – These are easy to clean, cannot be chewed and are hard to tip over. Two are advisable, one for food and the other for treats.
Dust Bath – Gerbils need regular dust baths to remove excess natural oils from their fur. They don’t bathe in water, but in finely ground sand. Approximately two tablespoons of dust bath should be added to a shallow dish for five–10 minutes at a time.
Litter – Eco Bedding is the best choice for your gerbil's home, as it is really fun for them to tunnel into and build nests. An aquarium half-full of eco bedding is a great activity for them to create a maze of secret channels. Aspen bedding or soft bedding made of natural fibers (e.g. CareFRESH®) is also recommended for gerbils. Cedar or other aromatic litters may not be used due to a gerbil's sensitive respiratory system. A litter scoop will be needed to spot clean your gerbil’s home once a week. Strip (completely clean out) your gerbil’s home once every two weeks. Since gerbils produce only small volumes of concentrated urine daily, this amount of cleaning should be sufficient.
Cage Cleaner – There are pet safe stain and odour removers available for small pets. Many are enzyme-based formulas that work naturally to permanently break down stains and odours. Once every two weeks, you should clean his cage with a pet safe cleaner, or hot water and mild soap, rinse well and dry. Do not use bleach, or other household cleaners, which will irritate your gerbil’s respiratory system, or even cause worse problems.
Chew Blocks – Your gerbil’s teeth will grow throughout their life. Give them a variety of chewing aids to keep their teeth trimmed. A branch from outside may not be safe nor will a toilet paper or paper towel roll. Small animal chews are generally made from balsa wood, which is hard enough to gnaw on, but soft enough not to splinter or cut. Your gerbil doesn’t play fetch with a ball or run after squeaky toys, as other pets do, but they have a behavioural need, and that is to chew.
Tunnels and Tubes – Your gerbils will love to burrow and run about in a maze of tunnels and tubes. In order to provide them with mental stimulation and exercise, they require an assortment of tunnels and tubes to play and explore in.
Exercise Wheel – Just like us, gerbils need exercise to stay healthy and trim. As any gerbil owner can tell you, the wheel is used nightly for your little one’s instinctual need to run, run, run!
Exercise Ball – An exercise ball can be a fun and safe way for your gerbils to gain a little more freedom while staying in shape. Remember, to keep the ball far away from stairs to prevent a sudden accident. Limit the amount of time in their ball to five to 10 minutes.
Please ask your pet counsellor what other items pertain to your particular pet’s needs.
Cleanliness and Safety
All pets can potentially carry diseases that may be contagious to people. Young children, infants, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems and the elderly are at greater risk of infections and should use caution when in contact with pets or their environments. Regular cleaning of your pet’s environment with a pet safe cleaner may help avoid the spread of contaminants.
Hygiene procedures such as washing your hands before and after handling your pet and/or after having any contact with their habitat, is a necessary routine. Children should be assisted with hand washing and always have adult supervision when interacting with pets.