Gerbils, Meet Our Pets & Things you might want to know
A Little Background
The summer of 2009 we decided to get two gerbils from a chain pet store (I think Petco, but it could have been PetSmart). We didn't really know too much about them so we read library books and some things online. We thought we had purchased two boy gerbils. We actually purchased two female gerbils. No big deal... until one died.
Here is a picture of Scurry, the one who passed away.
We replaced Scurry with a male gerbil, and ended up with babies.
The following talks about the best bedding, how to split cage, and resources we used when we found out we actually had a male and a female.
Start Your Engines
Meet the gang of the SS ExpressClick thumbnail to view full-size
Know the Gender of your Gerbil
As I mentioned in my first paragraph, we thought we bought two male gerbils because that is what the paperwork said. When Scurry died we decided to get a new gerbil from a breeder. We told her we had a male, so wanted to buy another male. We ended up creating a couple and they had babies.
So how can you prevent this. Simple. If you buy gerbils from a pet store, learn how to tell the difference between males and females.
The distance between the urinary and anal openings is greater in males than females. Here is a great website that shows pictures. It's where I went to figure out the sexes of our gerbils. Now I have a male cage and a female cage.
Introducing New Gerbils
Gerbils by nature like company so when Scurry died we wanted a companion for Spinny. (note: Hamsters are the ones that like living alone)
The method I used to introduce Spinny and Skittles was a split cage method. This is where you divide the cage that they will share into to sections, separated by a screen. It must be secure because gerbils will attack and kill each other if they don't know each other. So one gerbil is on one side and the other gerbil on the opposite. Each day you switch sides that the gerbil is in. They start smelling each other's scent and see each other through the screen. It takes about 3-5 days for the gerbils to recognize each other and then you can try putting them together. Wear gloves though, because if they are still in attack mode they may bite you by accident.
When Spinny first met Skittles all she wanted to do is attack the poor little thing. She kept digging near the screen trying to get to the little guy. But after 4 days when it appeared she had calmed down, we introduced them & they liked each other. Below is a link with tips on split caging and how to make a tank
What to do if your gerbil is expecting?
The great thing is that I didn't really have to do anything at all. I cleaned the cage out a few days before I thought she'd be due (The gestation period for a gerbil is 24-28 days).
With gerbils both parents help raise the pups so you don't have to take the male gerbil out of the cage. The problem is they mate again the same day the mom gives birth. So you need to be committed to having two litters. The mom can get stressed out if she's left to care for her pups by herself & may even kill them. So I left the dad in, and once the pups were old enough (about six weeks) I took the dad and his son out of the cage and put them in their own cage. This is where they live now.
When Spinny had her second litter of two, the daughters helped raise them. We left Sushi in the cage and gave her brother Spike away. I was not comfortable trying to introduce a single pup to the two male gerbils in the other cage. So now the four females are living happily together.
Here are some websites I found helpful when Spinny was pregnant
Proper Care and Bedding
.I use Aspen bedding from PetCo. Some like the Carefresh too. But never use pine. Not all gerbils are allergic to it, but you never know. I think that is why Scurry died. I mistakenly bought some pine bedding which was not a problem for Spinny, but Scurry seemed to get sick and never recovered. This website link has some great tips for the dos and don't of owning gerbils. This is also the breeder I got Skittles from.