Pet Gerbil Diet and CareCommon Name:

Scientific Name:
Mesocricetus auratus

Life Span:
1 – 5 years

2 – 4 ounces

Gerbils can eat standard lab blocks or pellets or a seed mix made for gerbils found at your local pet store or in the pet section of your local grocery or department store. Gerbils also enjoy a small amount of fresh vegetables or fruits and whole grain cereals.

The Gerbil as a Pet:
Gerbils can be found in a variety of colors, most commonly brown, black, and tan.  Occasionally you will see white or other colored varieties.

Gerbils like companions, as they are very social and need other gerbils to interact with. Unless you plan on breeding your gerbil, it is suggested that you only keep same sex pairs.

Most gerbils tend to be “look at” pets more than handled pets. Gerbils are skittish and generally do not enjoy being held.

Not unlike people, some gerbils just won’t get along with each other. It is best to get gerbils in same sex pairs that have already been introduced to each other.

Gerbils “thump” their feet if they are stressed to signal a warning to other gerbils. Thumping is when a gerbil taps one or both hind legs on the ground.

Gerbils are one of the few rodents that like to sleep at night and are awake during daylight hours.

Cage & Bedding:
Gerbils are best housed in a glass tank rather than wire cages or plastic enclosures. We recommend a fish aquarium tank at least 10-20 gallons for two gerbils and a 20-30 gallon tank for three. Gerbils enjoy piling their bedding over food bowls and into corners. Housing gerbils in a tank ensures the bedding does not end up on your floor.

If you do decide to get a wire cage, the demensions should be at least 24 inches long, 14 inches wide, and 12 inches high. The floors should be solid to prevent broken legs and feet. Keep in mind that gerbils can fit into very small spaces and can jump fairly high and will chew through anything plastic.

As with any small animal, avoid using pine or cedar beddings due to the toxic nature over time. Aspen shavings or recycled paper shavings are best for gerbils.

Gerbils chew – they chew A LOT. They love empty toilet paper rolls, small cardboard boxes and shredding paper towels. Plastic igloos and cloth toys rarely last long. Gerbils are natural chewers and will chew anything they can get a hold of. Do be sure to items for them to chew on in their habitat. This helps keep their teeth healthy and creates some entertainment and nesting material for your gerbils.

Gerbils also love to run in wheels and should have access to an exercise wheel at all times. Due to their plastic chewing habits, a metal wheel with an almost solid running surface works best.

Gerbils are naturally desert animals, thus drink very little and excrete very little. Generally their bedding should be changed out every two to three weeks (or when beginning to emit an odor). The tank itself can be cleaned with warm, soapy water and rinsed well.  Food bowls and water bottles should be thoroughly cleaned weekly.

Bathing a gerbil is not necessary, however they do tend to get oily fur. Providing a dust bath in a glass container (small fish bowls work perfectly) provide them with a way to clean up.  This also makes all gerbils in one cage smell the same, thus prevents fighting.  Plus it’s great fun to watch a gerbil take a dust bath.

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