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Gerbil Care

Updated on January 6, 2018

When you first get your gerbils work out a regular routine that fits in with your lifestyle and that ensures that the animals are well cared for. These gerbils are going to be your responsibility for the next three to five years so finding a effective routine is definitely important.

Gerbils require normal care as you would give to any animals and this involves removing old food and replacing it regularly, cleaning them out and refilling the water container. Watching for signs of illness is important too as is the location of an effective veterinary practice.

Cleaning out the gerbils should be done regularly and in a way that ensures the removal of harmful bacteria. The enclosure should be disinfected with a pet-safe product and then allowed to dry regularly.

Replace the shavings or other material used in the enclosure each week, along with the bedding material. Use boiling water on the food utensils and allow them to stand in a pet-safe disinfectant, after which more boiling water should be used.

Water should be replaced often to ensure that it remains fresh and safe for the gerbils to drink. Again this container should be cleaned with boiling water to destroy harmful bacteria. Sometimes you will find that the nozzle will be chewed and in this case it is better to replace it than risk the chance of your gerbils getting cuts in their mouths.

If you get algae growing in your water container put a length of chain into the bottle, along with some water and shake the bottle. The length of chain will help to remove the algae and thus provide you with a clean bottle, which you can now fill with clean water.

One odd thing that you will find, is the way that gerbils treat their food containers and there are a number of ways that you can approach the situation. The moment that you put your nicely disinfected food bowl, filled with new food, into the enclosure the gerbils will promptly urinate the bowl!

This may seem unhygienic to us but it is perfectly natural to the gerbils and quite frankly there is no answer, because they will always mark the food as theirs in this way. I have found that cleaning the bowl with boiling water each day and then disinfecting it each week helps ensure that harmful bacteria does not have the chance to build up.

If you have chosen wooden enclosures you will find that the base in particular will need regular replacing because in time this area will start to smell. Other parts of wooden enclosures will need to be replaced when the Gerbils gnawing and scratching activities leave their mark. Previously we have suggested that glass and hard plastic enclosures are the most ideal and when it comes to cleaning and maintenance the wisdom of this guidance becomes clear!

Gerbils love a good run around so if you have the space, and it is safe, let them "find their legs". I use a long hall for this purpose with all the doors closed and some of the furniture from their enclosure to make them feel at home dotted around the floor. Make sure that other pets are kept well out of the way - especially dogs and cats, who may act upon their natural instincts. Your feet are also very dangerous to gerbils scampering around, so just stay still and watch their fun. Be warned also that some gerbils hate wide open spaces and will retreat to a corner and virtually refuse to come out.

If this happens to one or more of your gerbils, return them to their enclosures and avoid repeat performances because gerbils with this tendency usually stay that way during their lives. When wanting to return your gerbils to their enclosures after a good run around, your enthusiasm to end the routine may not be matched by the gerbils. Use of a large tropical fish net may prove a practical aid for this task. Gerbils respond well to care and consideration, both in the short and long terms. Without doubt the efforts you make on behalf of your gerbils to care for them, will be repaid many times by their ultimate happiness.


Gerbil FAQ

Q. How Often Should I Clean Out My Gerbil Enclosure?

A. This depends upon the number of gerbils and the size of the enclosure. A good rule of thumb is that you should never allow more than a week to go by before carrying out this important task.

Q. How Should I Pick Up My Gerbils?

A. It is not a good idea to pick up gerbils by their tails, because of the gentle tissues in this area. The best way is to gain their trust, so that they do not view you or your hand as dangerous, and use always use two hands to pick them up.

Q. Should I Give My Gerbils Something To Chew?

A. All rodents need something to ensure that their incisor teeth do not grow too long. Wooden blocks or other furnishings placed into the enclosure are a good way to fulfil this need.

Q. How Often Should I Replace Food & Water In The Enclosure?

A. Fresh fruit and vegetables should be replaced every day. Dried food can remain for about three days before replacement becomes necessary. Replace water every day to make sure that it is fresh and clean.

Q. Can I Put Adult Gerbils In To Each Others Enclosures?

A. Gerbils are very territorial and caution should be exercised. Use the methods explained in this hub on this very subject and most of your unions should prove to be happy ones!

Q. I Have Heard That Gerbils Eat Their Young, Is That True?

A. Sadly, there are some cases where this does happen, which is heartbreaking. But this needs to be placed in perspective. The vast majority of gerbils are model parents and take wonderful care of their young. Chances are that your pups, as gerbil young are known, will grow to be strong and energetic adult gerbils that you will be very proud of.

Q. Should I Give Vitamin Blocks To My Gerbils?

A.
I have regularly used vitamin blocks in our enclosures and trained my gerbils on them from the early stages of their lives. My experience has proved that gerbils love these blocks and will demolish them in no time.

Q. What Form Of Floor Covering Should I Use - Wood Shavings or Sawdust?

A. Sawdust allows your gerbils to dig good tunnels and absorbs moisture well, but the dust that comes from sawdust can irritate your gerbils respiratory tracts. Wood shavings, while not so good for tunnelling, has a fair absorbing ability and does not produce so much dust. If you add some hay to the shavings, your gerbils will be able to tunnel much more effectively as the hay helps to bind such tunnels together.

Q. Should I Put Sand In My Gerbils Enclosure?


A. Put a bowl of non-toxic "children's play-pit" sand in your gerbil enclosure! This is a must, because your gerbils will be able - GLEEFULLY - to roll over in it and this will help their fur no end.

Q. Are Gerbils Affectionate With Each Other?

A. Gerbils that are part of the same community will show a lot of affection to each other including grooming and cleaning etc. But that affection is lacking towards gerbils that are strangers and fights will almost certainly take place.

Q. Should I Provide My Gerbils With a Water Bottle?

A. Fruit and vegetables, with a high water content, will not provide all the water that your gerbils require. Providing a dish of water is not practical because it will be full of shavings and food in no time, so a water bottle is very important and should be provided in your enclosure.


Any tips or questions about gerbil here? Share them here

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    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      5 years ago from USA

      I don't have gerbils, but I still enjoyed your very comprehensive article on their care and feeding. Well done! Voted up!

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