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Gerbils

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What is a gerbil?

The Mongolian Gerbil is the most common Gerbil kept as a pet. They are burrowing rodents adapted for life in deserts.

 

They are sociable animals and live in groups or a minimum of pairs. They have complex social bonds, and should never be kept alone, as they become depressed and lonely. Meriones unguiculatus roughly translated means "Clawed Warrior.

For complete Gerbil care information refer to www.gerbilcare.co.uk

Download our Gerbil Fact Sheet (pdf)

KEY INFORMATION

 

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

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

  • Colour: various, including their original wild Agouti

  • Most active: evening and early morning (crepuscular) but also awake during large chunks of the day and night

 

Download our Gerbil Care sheet (pdf)

Gerbil care

Diet and nutrition

Gerbils should be fed a quality, complete dry food mix such as Bunny Gerbil Dream and Gerri Gerbil mixed together for interest and variety. 

 

Scattering their dry food over their substrate will encourage natural foraging behaviour and provide them with enrichment. Avoid food bowls as this can encourage territorial behaviour.

 

Gerbils are omnivores. They can have selected fresh fruit and vegetables in small quantities (be sure to check which ones are suitable). They also enjoy mealworms, fried fruit & vegetable treats or pumpkin seeds. 

You should avoid feeding Gerbils too many sugary treats.​ Gerbils require fresh, clean water everyday.

Refer to Feeding, Treats & Water Bottles – Gerbil Care for full information.

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Accommodation & Environment

The minimum recommended tank size for a pair of Gerbils is 100cm x 40cm x 40cm, but the bigger the better.​ Gerbils must be kept indoors.​ They are very sociable animals and should always be kept in pairs or small groups.

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

Gerbils need a large tank with a minimum of 25cm / 10 inches of substrate to allow them to fulfil their natural instincts for burrowing. Recommended tanks include the Ikea Detolf, Skyline Falco, Skyline Marrakesh, Jungle Pets Gerbilariums, Diversa Tanks or DIY adapted aquariums with a topper.

See Gerbil Housing: Which Gerbilarium, Gerbil Cage or Gerbil Tank? Reviewed – Gerbil Care for more information.

Click here to download our PDF all about IKEA Detolf Setups

Enrichment

Scattering additional food and forage mixes into your Gerbils' tank will further encourage natural foraging and provide more enrichment.

Gerbils will appreciate a solid wooden or metal wheel, 28cm+ in size. They need wooden chew items to keep their teeth worn down and love chewing cardboard and grassy toys. They need regular daily free-roam time. Never use Exercise Balls as they disorientate and stress animals.​

Gerbils require Bathing Sand (not dust) in a dish (approx. 20cm x 15cm like a kitchen pyrex dish) and a few inches deep to keep their fur clean and healthy. 

Refer to Enrichment, Wheels & Sandbaths – Gerbil Care and Gerbils – Free roaming & exercise – Gerbil Care for more information.

Bedding

Gerbils must be able to fulfil their natural instincts to burrow, so need at least 25cm deep of dust extracted, or paper/hemp-based substrate eg Finacard, Auboise, Megazorb etc mixed with Timothy Hay and shredded paper to bind their tunnels. Sawdust and wood shavings are not suitable for Gerbils as they can cause skin irritations and respiratory issues.​

You can use unbleached, plastic free toilet paper sheets, like Naked Sprout, so Gerbils can collect, shred and make their own nesting and bedding material. IMPORTANT: When cleaning a Gerbil tank, replace 25% of the old substrate to keep a familiar scent.

Refer to Substrate, bedding & nest boxes – Gerbil Care for more information.

Company

Gerbils should never be kept alone, and should always live in pairs, or small groups of up to 3 or 4. When introducing Gerbils, always use the split cage method. Do not introduce more than two adult (over 8 weeks) Gerbils at any one time, unless very experienced.

 For complete Gerbil care information refer to www.gerbilcare.co.uk

Refer to Bonding & Split Cage – Gerbil Care and Company – Gerbil Care for more information.

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.

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