Gerbils can be amazing additions to both your family and your home. They are intelligent, placid, and a lot of fun, and they also make great pets, especially for older kids, although they do have to be careful when taking them out of their gerbil cages.
They can be quite frail in comparison with other rodents, and their tiny little bodies can be damaged easily. However, most gerbils actually like being handled, which is a great plus for those people who would enjoy interacting with their pets but don’t have enough space available for a cat or a dog.
But is a gerbil the right kind of pet for you? Let’s look at five things that you should take into consideration before going to the pet store and getting one.
They need quite a bit of space
One thing where most new gerbil parents make a mistake is that they think that, since their pet is so small, he or she wouldn’t possibly need that much space, right? Wrong. The truth is that gerbils like large cages. Since the wire at the bottom of most commercial cages can hurt their little feet, it’s actually a better idea to use an aquarium or a cage equipped with a full plastic or glass bottom with adequate ventilation.
They like to dig and burrow, so you’ll have to use plenty of bedding for them to get nice and comfortable. You can fill up the gerbilarium with toilet paper rolls, gerbil-approved toys, as well as sawdust or wood shavings. They are also quite sensitive to the light, so they appreciate having a safe spot where they can retreat in the dark.
They like to get a little messy
Actually, it’s not like they do it on purpose. But since they are part of the great rodent family, they share a lot of their behavior patterns with hamsters, in particular. As we said before, they like to burrow, so they will inadvertently throw out wood shavings or sawdust out of the cage. That’s why it’s a good idea either to go for a high-walled aquarium or a cage whose side walls you can cover with something.
One thing that we feel compelled to make clear is that this particular type of behavior shouldn’t deter you from buying a gerbil as it’s pretty much the only ‘inconvenience’ you might experience with this animal.
Getting them from the right seller can make a difference
It is absolutely vital for you to get your pair of gerbils from a reputable seller or pet store where you know that animals are treated with the right amount of care that they need.
By the way, don’t think that you can get just one gerbil as he or she will get bored out of their mind. You should try to understand that gerbils are extremely friendly and social creatures and that’s why it’s imperative that you keep them in pairs. If you decide to ignore this piece of advice, your gerbil will become lonely and depressed and you’ll notice that he or she will barely even have an interest in eating.
It goes without saying that you should get two gerbils of the same sex if you do not want to end up with a litter of gerbil pups regularly.
But if that’s what you plan to do, feel free to get a different sex pair. Just make sure that you can provide attention and care to the family once it grows, and grows, and grows. And believe us, since gerbils are rodents, they will reproduce at an impressive rate.
They need lots of exercise
Since taking the gerbil out of the cage and leaving him or her to run around through your house is out of the question as you will lose him or her without a doubt, you need to make sure that you provide your pet with plenty of space and bedding to burrow in, but also other exercise opportunities.
For example, you could get your pets some gerbil exercise balls, and these are an ideal way of letting your animals run around indoors. You can also get stationary exercise balls — look them up on the Internet and you’ll be amazed by their design if you haven’t seen any before.
The truth is that, because they are so fragile, gerbils should never use the same types of running wheels as hamsters. They could fall off of them and get hurt. You can also try to construct your own gerbil run.
However, if you do that, you need to make sure that the sides of the run are quite high. In case you didn’t know gerbils are excellent climbers and they’ll put their mind to escaping if they even notice an opportunity to get outside of the gerbilarium and see the world.
Also in terms of exercise, you might notice that your pair of gerbils will engage in some play fighting now and then. It should look like two miniature people boxing. They do that normally. But sometimes, they might get upset and start to fight seriously, in which case you’ll notice behaviors such as biting and scratching. If this happens, separate the two gerbils since they can get hurt.
Their teeth grow continuously
Gnawing is a necessity of any gerbil, and that’s because he or she is a rodent and their teeth grow continuously. In order to maintain the correct teeth length, the animal has to gnaw at a variety of things. You could get some chew toys from the store to make sure that your pet’s teeth are kept in great condition.
However, sometimes you might find that apple chew sticks can be better in this respect since they are completely natural and you can even make sure that you’re sourcing them organically and that they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides. The point is that natural wood makes a great gnawing material for most rodents.