How to clean out gerbils
Always remember that gerbils are clean animals and will appreciate your efforts to keep their enclosures clean. Gerbils produce urine and droppings in small amounts, which harks back to their desert descent. Gerbils are unlike Hamsters, Mice and Rats, because their enclosures should not produce large amounts of unsavoury odours.
Cleaning out your gerbils is a job that should be done every 1-2 weeks and first involves carefully removing your gerbils and putting them into another temporary enclosure. We use the clear plastic Hagen "Pet Pens" and we put a little of the bedding material from their home in with them. Next remove all of the furnishings, including food bowls, from the enclosure and put these to one side ready to be cleaned.
Now remove all the bedding material and wood shavings and place these into a black plastic bag or another form of waste disposal media. Carefully checking this material while you are discarding it will ensure that you do not discard enclosure furnishings that may be buried - like vitamin blocks. We like to put this bag of waste material into another bag to make sure that it does not split and spill its contents over everything. You may find that a hand brush will help you remove all the dust that accumulates in the enclosure.
Next soak the base of the enclosure with boiling water to take away waste items that your gerbils have produced. Boiling water will also remove any harmful bacteria which may be building up. If you are using a cage soak this in boiling water too. Furthermore, if you have a "Habitrail" type system you may find that the build up of waste can collect in the corner of the enclosure and this can be very difficult to remove. We have found that warm water soaking works best here also.
Finally, after removing the excess moisture with a dry clean cloth, leave these enclosure items to dry out thoroughly. Using a pet safe detergent spray or wipes clean the upper layer of the enclosure, taking care as you do to look for signs of damage or chewing.
From long experience we know the merits of mending enclosures before things get serious. For example, if you fix an area that has a small hole today you will be saving yourself the frustration of finding an escaped gerbil tomorrow and the expense of purchasing a new enclosure at the same time.
It is very important that you do not use any household detergents when cleaning out your gerbils. Such materials may well prove fatal to your gerbils. If you really want to use a disinfectant, make sure it is a pet safe one and even then use it as directed. It should be stressed though that boiling water should prove more than sufficient.
Now you need to turn your attention to the enclosure furnishings. The ceramic items can be soaked in boiling water to remove waste. Plastic items should be cleaned using warm water or pet safe wipes. If you have a "Habitrail" type tubes use a bottle cleaning brush to get at those hard to reach corners. Indeed some carefully chosen tools will help you clean out the many difficult areas of this type of enclosure. Wooden items can simply be dusted off and returned to the enclosure.
It is always best to avoid cleaning out an enclosure when new pups have just arrived. Disturbances like this will stress out the parents and could result in the pups being totally abandoned.
If you do need to clean out a breeding enclosure, due to an emergency for example, leave the parents in the enclosure as you clean, make sure the nest area is left intact, and put the furnishings back in exactly the same positions as they were prior to the cleaning.
Water bottles should be cleaned regularly to ensure that harmful build ups of bacteria and algae are removed. First wash the bottle out to remove any rubbish and debris.
Next, put a length of fairly robust chain into the bottle, along with some warm water and then replace the lid. When you shake this around vigorously, the length of chain will help to remove the algae.
Some people like to give their gerbils vitamin supplements in their drinking water and you should remember to do this when refilling their water after cleaning.
Now, after everything has been left to thoroughly dry out, replace the wood shavings and the "Safe-Bed" nesting material. Make sure that you put enough shavings in to not only cover the base of the enclosure, but also to enable your gerbils to burrow around. We also like to put cardboard boxes into the enclosure at this time, because this helps to take your gerbils minds away from the upheaval cleaning causes.
Replace the enclosure furnishings, in relatively the same positions as they were before. Replace the food, in their ceramic bowl and the water bottle. Finally, check everything prior to returning the gerbils, because many carers have inadvertently left an escape hole somewhere and then had the heartache of finding the gerbils after they have escaped. And that's it - gerbils cleaned and you can take a break!