Gerbil Care: Species Overview
- Common Names: Mongolian Gerbil
- Scientific Name: Meriones unguiculatus
- Adult Size: Body is about 4 inches long; tail adds another 4 inches
- Life Expectancy: 2 to 3 years on average; can live up to 8 years
Gerbils are popular pets and are small, inexpensive, and their care is straightforward. Gerbils are burrowing rodents that come from African and Asia.
Gerbil Care: Habitat Set-Up
- The best size cage for your Gerbil is as large as you can afford. Generally, for a pair of gerbils, a cage of about 12 inches by 24 inches by 12 inches is large enough. Gerbils are active, and a larger pen is always better.
- You can consider a glass aquarium or a wire cage, avoid plastic enclosures. Aquariums allow a deep layer of bedding so the gerbils can burrow, a behavior that is an instinct for pet gerbils. A secure mesh lid is necessary to prevent escapes and to allow for proper ventilation. Wire cages work well and have excellent ventilation, but Gerbils will kick the bedding out of the cage through the wires when they burrow. Do not use plastic enclosures. Gerbils’ have chewing habits, and the pen won’t hold up.
- Gerbils also need a nest box to feel secure. They will hide out in their nest box and use it for sleeping. A sturdy wood or ceramic nest box is preferable to plastic since any plastic will quickly be destroyed by chewing; wood will likely get eaten as well but tends to last a little longer.
- Use a thick layer of a substrate at the bottom of the cage (two to three inches), such as Aspen shavings. For their nests, use simple, white, chemical-free facial tissue.
- Provide lots of climbing and enrichment items, such as thick pieces of wood, large stable rocks, ladders, ramps, and platforms. Toys that are safe for chewing should always be available. Wood toys or simple blocks of wood, branches, hay, wooden and rope parrot toys, and small cardboard boxes are all excellent choices for chewing.
- You can consider getting an exercise wheel but get one with a solid surface to prevent injuries. Your Gerbil can get their feet, and their tails stuck.
About the Gerbil
Gerbil Care: Temperament
Mongolian gerbils are not nocturnal, but they are sometimes active at night. They go through several regular sleep cycles in 24-hours. As pets, they are very curious and will explore anything so they can be quite entertaining to watch.
Gerbils are very social animals; they do not do well as an individual pet. Keeping a same-sex pair is necessary; litter-mates usually do well together. However, if you have a single older gerbil, it can be challenging to introduce a new one as they are territorial.
Gerbils can become tame with regular handling. They generally have an agreeable temperament and are only inclined to bite if they feel threatened. Hand-taming, a gerbil, is usually straightforward and treats help speed up the process.
Gerbil Care: Diet and Nutrition
- Gerbil diets should consist of formulated gerbil food. These are typically loose seed mixtures that also include rodent blocks.
- Use heavy ceramic food dishes since they are harder to tip over than a plate or lightweight bowl.
- For treats, you can give sunflower seed mixtures, and commercial treat sticks.
- Always provide a clean source of water for your Gerbil, and refresh it daily. Cage water bottles work well because they are easy to keep clean and sanitary. You can also use a shallow dish for water until your Gerbil learns to drink from the bottle.
- Use caution when handling pets and remember they may bite or scratch (especially when stressed).
- Supervise children around pets.
- ALL ANIMALS can potentially carry viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic diseases contagious to humans.
- Thoroughly wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after contact with any pet or its habitat.
- Adults should assist children with handwashing after contact with a pet, its habitat, or aquarium water.