8 Things to Consider Before Getting a Pet Gerbil
Are you thinking about buying or adopting a gerbil as a pet? Congratulations, you are moving in the right direction on the road to getting the ideal pet.
Gerbils are fantastic pets for both experienced pet parents who want fewer pet-related responsibilities and for first-time pet parents eager to test their ability to handle the responsibilities that come with the pet parenting experience.
8 Things to Consider Before Getting a Pet Gerbil
If exploring the idea of getting a gerbil as a pet, these are the eight things you need to consider before making the final decision.
1. Gerbils Are Not Needy Pets
Gerbils are low-maintenance pets. They are labeled as “pocket pets”. The term “pocket pets” refers to small animals, usually rodents that are pint-sized, fluffy and particularly easy to parent.
The list of most popular “pocket pets” includes gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, chinchillas, mice, rats, hedgehogs, and sugar gliders.
Gerbils are not needy from many aspects but most importantly they can live perfectly happily even if your lifestyle involves a 9 to 5 working schedule.
2. Gerbils Like Company
Gerbils like company, but then again, who doesn’t? As social animals, in the wild, gerbils live in small groups with well-set hierarchies.
If living alone in solitary, gerbils are likely to get stressed and depressed, affecting the lifespan.
Since buying an entire group of gerbils is understandably challenging, we recommend getting a pair. However, it would be best if you were mindful of the couple you are making.
In other words, unless planning to become a gerbil breeder, you should take a same-sexed pair.
Because of the mentioned hierarchy, gerbils can sometimes fight, but fighting is also part of their social life. Fighting is more likely to occur in unfamiliar gerbils.
Therefore, you should try buying gerbils from the same litter. Alternatively, if parenting adopted gerbils who like to fight, you need to consider separating them – gerbils are small but they can be feisty.
3. Gerbils Are Delicate – Teach Your Children to Treat Them With Respect
Gerbils are friendly and daytime rodents with low biting inclinations. These features make them an ideal pet choice. However, if you have small children, you need to teach them boundaries.
Gerbils are very fragile and must always be handled with care. Picking them up by the tail is very painful and can severely injure them. The same applies to squeezing.
Children often see gerbils as plush toys and may feel tempted to squeeze them out of love. However, the squeezing is painful and can have serious consequences.
Plus, they are very noise-sensitive and get easily startled by unexpected movements. Gerbils need to stay in quiet environments which can be hard to manage if living with children. They also need to be approached slowly and carefully.
Finally, children must understand the importance of washing their hands after handling gerbils.
4. Gerbils Can Be Messy – Make Sure You Clean Them Properly
When we say gerbils can be messy, we do not mean their personal hygiene. In fact, gerbils are particularly clean and groom themselves frequently to stay as spotless as possible.
However, their fondness for burrowing is what makes their surroundings quite messy.
Namely, when burrowing, they kick sawdust all over their enclosure and, more importantly around it, on your floor.
Luckily, there are several possible solutions – you can frequently clean the area around your gerbil’s cage, make fashionable covers for the cage’s sides, or buy a fish tank instead of a regular wire cage.
In fact, fish tanks are more suited for gerbils over wire cages because of other reasons too. For example, the gerbil’s strong teeth can damage the wires and risk injuries while fish tanks are a far safer option.
As for the inside of the enclosure, it needs to be cleaned at least once per week. Fish tanks might need more frequent cleaning than wire cages because they offer poorer ventilation.
5. Gerbils Like to Burrow, Gnaw and Exercise
When it comes to basic needs, burrowing, gnawing and exercising are critical for gerbils.
Burrowing is written in the gerbil’s genetic code. To ensure this need is met, provide you gerbil with approved toys and brown toilet rolls and fill its enclosure with sawdust.
The gerbil's need to gnaw stems from its constantly growing teeth. Just like other rodents, gerbils have teeth that never stop growing.
The only way to keep them normally sized is through regular wear and tear. This is best achieved with special toys, which you can easily find in all pet stores and online.
Most chewing toys for gerbils are made of wood. If you decide to make a wooden toy for your gerbil on your own, you need to be careful about the wood materials you are using – pine, cherry, mahogany, chestnut, blackwood, all redwoods, yew, and maple are toxic to gerbils.
Safe chewing toy options include apple sticks, paper tubes, and small cardboard boxes. These toys are not very lasting but they provide some quality chewing time.
To satisfy the exercising need, gerbils should be allowed to spend some quality time outside their enclosure.
Exercise balls are the perfect toy for gerbils – they can be used both indoors and outdoors. If using the ball outside, supervision is mandatory.
There are also static exercise balls. These are amazing for gerbils living in small apartments and lacking space for running around.
6. Gerbils Share Your Love of Healthy Treats
Although not all human foods are safe for gerbils, there are certain fruits and veggies you can share with your favorite gerbil.
If choosing something from the veggie section, offer your gerbil carrots or cucumbers, or if you have a sweet tooth and prefer fruits go for grapes or apples (without the seeds).
Plain Cheerios and whole-wheat toasted bread chunks are also the perfect snacks for gerbils.
Finally, we should note that you must never offer some human foods to gerbils. For example, chocolate is a no-go for this pocket pet because it contains theobromine – a highly toxic chemical compound.
Gerbils should not be offered iceberg lettuce too. This leafy green veggie is not directly toxic to gerbils but its high-water content is very likely to trigger severe diarrhea even when given in small amounts.
7. Gerbils Need Proper Housing
Same as you and me, gerbils like having nice houses. By nice we mean properly built, spacious, with a lovely interior, and in a good location.
In terms of building, considering gerbils are chewers, wooden enclosures are out of the question. Wire cages can be suitable, but keen chewers and diggers may accidentally hurt themselves if they damage the wire.
Therefore, choosing a sizable fish tank is the best option. By large, we mean around 20-gallon tanks but the larger the better. Spherical tanks might be easier to clean, but it deprives gerbils of the opportunity to sleep curled up in the corners (which they adore).
As for the interior, the enclosure should be filled with proper sawdust or bedding material, different toys, cozy hideout or box, food bowl, and gravity-fed water grip.
Finally, when it comes to the perfect house, location is everything. This is important because gerbils are prone to overheating. To avoid this issue, it is advisable to place the tank in a well-ventilated and climate controlled area that is not exposed to direct sunlight.
8. Gerbils Need Regular Vet Visits
Although some gerbils can live for up to eight years, most pet gerbils live around two or three years.
Achieving a longer lifespan is possible by satisfying the gerbil’s basic needs – adequate food and housing, gnawing and exercising opportunities and of course, a healthy social life.
Another important aspect of keeping your gerbil healthy is practicing regular checkups at the vet’s office. Even if there is nothing unusual going on, prevention is vital.
It is worth noting that the most common reason why pet gerbils need veterinary attention is overbite due to teeth overgrowth.
An overbite can be more dangerous than it sounds. A gerbil that cannot chew properly will stop eating and this can easily lead to decreased immunity and serious dietary deficiencies and even malnourishment.
Summing Up: Why Gerbils Make Good Pets For Me?
Gerbils are loving, fun, and very social pets with low biting inclinations and can be active both during the day and during the night.
They are extremely curious and love exploring, which basically means they are likely to provide you with hours of entertainment. The fact they need to live in pair means double the fun.
Plus, they are relatively straightforward to take care of – they do not need to be walked twice per day, brought to the groomer’s salon monthly, and do not represent a ten-year commitment.
All in all, gerbils make ideal pets, especially for first-time pet parents who want to test their limits as pet parents and see whether they are up for the challenge.