Gerbils are social creatures that enjoy the company of other individuals from the same species, but, sometimes, the company can turn into a lifelong commitment. This article will teach you everything you need to know about their pregnancy and baby delivery, so you’ll only have to worry about providing more food and finding bigger, more suitable gerbil homes for sale.
How to spot a pregnancy
Unlike other animals where pregnancy is visible from the earliest stages, gerbils don’t change their behavior or look any different until a few days before delivering. This is why spotting your pet’s pregnancy is tough, but not impossible.
Keep in mind that females become fertile at a young age, around three or four months old, and they can mate a few times a year. Therefore, the first thing you should ask yourself is whether the female has been around any fertile males lately.
If you own a pair of gerbils or more but you’re not sure about the sex of each individual, all you can do is wait patiently. Eventually, you will notice if the population has doubled.
Another way to spot if the female gerbil is pregnant is to monitor her weight. Just like all other animals, gerbils gain weight during pregnancy, and their bellies turn bigger.
Also, a few days before delivering, you will see female gerbils building a nest. They will collect plenty of bedding materials to build a new nest and it’s in this place that they will give birth. It is extremely important to allow the female to do so and not interfere with her actions prior and right after she gave birth — otherwise, it could lead to stressful situations for all the family members.
Mood swings and cravings
The behavior of pregnant gerbils was closely studied by scientists and animal lovers and, although we cannot say anything about cravings, you might notice certain mood swings in your pet. Right before giving birth and soon after, all females are more territorial and might become anxious, nervous, and even bite you if you get too close.
Again, it is highly important not to disturb the female gerbil after she gave birth and not touch the babies in the first days. Otherwise, the mother might lose interest in her babies and abandon them. What you can do is try to offer her more treats, especially fresh fruits and veggies, as well as pellets that contain crude proteins.
How to care for the mother and her newborns
Don’t make any changes to the cage in the first week
Once the gerbil gave birth to her cubs, you should avoid making any changes inside the cage, as any sudden move or discomfort can trigger anxiety.
If you change the environment in which she gave birth, including the bedding, the new mother may spend all her time trying to put back everything, neglecting to look after her newborns. Thus, you shouldn’t clean, add or remove any items from the cage except food and water supplies.
Moreover, unlike other rodent breeds where the male must be separated from the cubs immediately, gerbil males will actually look after their children and assist the female in various ways. In fact, removing him from the cage will only cause additional stress and sadness to the new mother, which will eventually affect the babies, as well.
Place a blanket on the cage to cover it
Newborns are sensitive to light and shouldn’t be exposed to it directly in the first days of their lives. Therefore, you might want to consider covering the cage with a blankie to provide a more welcoming environment for the entire family. This way, the female will feel more secure and will look after her babies alongside the male gerbil.
Looking after the babies
As with other rodents and animals, it is important to avoid touching them or handling them until they are at least one week old. Baby gerbils are born without fur and should remain solely in the care of their mother until they develop their first fine line of fur called down, about one week after birth. This will give enough time for the babies to get used to the smell of their mother and vice-versa.
Once the first week is over, you can safely handle the babies and it is recommended to do so as often as possible in order to get them used to humans. However, pay attention as even the youngest babies can be very fast and try to escape.
Therefore, we suggest you handle them carefully by enclosing them in your hand and gently lifting them out of the cage. Always try to put the babies on soft surfaces so that they won’t fall and injure themselves.
Monitoring the cubs
Baby gerbils are usually strong and healthy, but this doesn’t mean they cannot get sick and require the help of a vet. Try to closely monitor their activity in the first month of life and notice any changes in their eating behaviors or health.
Baby gerbils have sensitive stomachs, meaning they can suffer from diarrhea. Respiratory problems shouldn’t be ignored either so, if you notice any concerning signs, you should take the cubs to a vet as soon as possible.
You should also look for signs of malnourishment, right after their birth. Cubs that don’t get enough milk from their mothers will be smaller than the rest of the crew and might also develop bald patches on their backs.
If you notice one of the pups may be malnourished, it is important to cater to its needs right away. Remove the other pups from their mother and allow the small fellow to feed uninterrupted. However, don’t take the other babies away from their mother for too long and handle them with care.
Take them off the cage as gently as possible and place them on a soft and warm surface. At the same time, try not to stress the mother as she might become upset and refuse to feed the other babies once they return to the cage.