What is a gerbil?

Also known as "Jirds", gerbils are small burrowing rodents adapted for life in deserts. The Mongolian Gerbil is the most common type of gerbil kept as a pet.


Gerbils are sociable animals and should never be kept alone. They live best in groups or, as a minimum, pairs and have complex social bonds.

Download our Gerbil Adoption fact sheet (pdf)



  • Lifespan: 3-4 years, though some can live to 5 years

  • Size: 11-12cm, with a tail length of between 9-10cm

  • Colour: various, including their original wild Agouti

  • Most active: night and early morning (nocturnal)


Download our Gerbil Care sheet (pdf)

Gerbil care

Diet and nutrition

Gerbils should be fed a quality, complete dry food mix such as Gerri Gerbil.


Scattering their dry food over their substrate will encourage natural foraging behaviour.


Gerbils are omnivores. They can have fresh fruit and vegetables in small quantities (be sure to check which ones are suitable), and they enjoy mealworms as a treat.

You should avoid feeding gerbils too many sugary treats.

Gerbils require fresh, clean water everyday.

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Accomodation and environment

The minimum recommended tank size for a gerbil is 75cm x 45cm x 63cm.

Gerbils should be housed in glass tanks. Hamster Cages, plastic cages and Gerbilariums with wire flooring, are all unsuitable.

Gerbils must be kept indoors.

Gerbils are very sociable animals and should be kept in pairs or, ideally, groups.


Gerbils need a large tank with a minimum of 20cm of substrate for burrowing. Recommended tanks include the Skyline Falco, Skyline Marrakesh, Jungle Pets Gerbilariums, Ferplast Gabry 80, or home adapted aquariums with a topper. 


Scattering additional food and forage mixes into your gerbils' tank will encourage natural foraging.

Gerbils will appreciate a solid wooden wheel (minimum 21cm). Be aware that this is likely to get chewed as well as used for running! They will need lots of wooden chew items to keep their teeth worn down and also love chewing cardboard and grassy chew toys.



Gerbils must be able to fulfil their natural instincts to burrow, so need at least 20cm of substrate. e.g. shredded Fina-card, Timothy hay (to bind tunnels) and shredded paper. Sawdust and wood shavings are not suitable bedding materials for gerbils.

Gerbils require a sand bath in a large dish a few inches deep to keep their fur in good condition.

IMPORTANT: When cleaning a gerbil tank, replace 25% of the old substrate to keep a familiar scent.

More gerbil care advice

The below videos from Wood Green Animal Shelter provide some great advice about how to house and how to care for your gerbils.