Gerbils

Housing

There are many different types of housing to choose from for your pet gerbils. Gerbils are very active creatures that also like to chew and burrow a lot. Wire cages come in all shapes and sizes, however it’s worth remembering that a lot of shavings will be flicked out through the bars on to worktops or carpets. ROTASTAKS are very good, however it is inadequate to start with just one unit as this would be too small. It is better to start with a couple of units and add extra tubes and chambers later. ROTASTAK also provides metal chew strips to go on the ends of tunnels to prevent the gerbils from chewing them. Converted aquariums are also very good, but make sure it has a good fitting secure lid, as gerbils are excellent jumpers. A minimum size of two feet is ideal.

Position of Cage

Sit your gerbils’ cage out of direct sunlight and cold draughts. Cats and dogs should be discouraged. When alarmed, gerbils will be heard stamping their feet - place their cage in a quiet room especially when you have just taken it home and allow the gerbils a couple of days to settle in to the new sights and sounds.

Feeding

Give gerbils a hamster/gerbil mixture as a staple diet and an occasional treat of washed fruit and vegetables, perhaps twice a week. Make sure fresh food is removed if not eaten, as it will go mouldy. Peanuts and sunflower seeds should also be treated as a treat as too many will make the gerbils fat. A mineral lick and various treats will be enjoyed and can also be used as a bribe for taming. Supply fresh water daily in a water bottle.

Excercise

Gerbils love exploring and are constantly on the go. They love to run up and down tubes, save old toilet and kitchen towel tubes for them to chew. Toys made of safe wood will also provide hours of gnawing, you can also provide apple wood from fruit trees, but ensure this is washed first. Wheels that are solid will also sometimes be used, (wheels with bars are not suitable as tails and feet can get caught) but more often you’ll find it is used more for chewing. It is wise not to be tempted to spend too much money on homes and toys to save yourself the disappointment of finding it chewed. Small terracotta pots make good nest boxes, but whatever you choose try not to overcrowd the cage.

Cleaning

A thick layer of wood shavings on the floor provides good litter. A couple or so inches of shavings can be put in aquariums so gerbils can enjoy burrowing. Don’t use too fine shavings as this can get into their eyes and irritate them. A jam jar placed in the corner makes a good easy to clean toilet. Bedding placed in a corner or nest box makes a warm safe place for sleeping. Clean the cage twice a week and use an animal disinfectant to keep the cage smelling sweet and disease free.

Company

Gerbils are best housed as single sex pairs or colonies. However you must buy all animals at the same time from the same litter. Trying to introduce a stranger at a later date will often prove fatal. A male and female kept together will result in many offspring, so be sure you are able to home them before embarking on this project.

Settling in and Handling

When taking your new friend home it will feel very scared after being moved around and removed from friends. It’s best to leave it in peace with food and water for a couple of days. A good way to get your new friend tamed is to place some food on your hand and let the gerbil help itself. Gradually it will gain confidence and quite happily jump on your hand whenever you put it in the cage. Never pick a gerbil up by the tail. If you do handle it this way make sure you grasp the tail right by his bottom as gently as possible. For the first couple of handling sessions place the gerbil on top of the cage and gently stroke it. Then you can place the gerbil on your arm and let it explore. Once it is used to its new home and owner the gerbil will enjoy handling and coming out of its cage. Handle your new pet close to the ground or over a bed so if it jumps it will not be injured.

Problems

Any problems are always best dealt with by a qualified vet.

Important information

Gerbils live on average for 1.5 – 3.5 years.

If the gerbil becomes ill, veterinary treatment may be needed. Although many gerbil will never need veterinary treatment during their life, you should be prepared for the possibility when taking on the commitment of a pet.

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