It is said that rodents make perfect first pets, especially for those who don’t have too much time on their hands, or for children. However, creating the perfect gerbil habitats for your pets to live a long and happy life is not always an easy thing, and this is why you must think twice before adopting any rodent as a pet.
Do you have what it takes to look after a rodent, especially a gerbil? Read our list of pros and cons for owning such a pet, and decide whether or not you’re fit for the job.
These small mammals are part of the subfamily Gerbillinae, in the order of rodents. They originate from arid habitats, and this is why they were formally known as desert rats. There are over 110 species in the order and, while some of them are diurnal, most species are more active during the night.
Gerbils are related to rats and mice and are mainly omnivorous, meaning they can pretty much eat anything. However, before getting all excited and adopting one for yourself, you need to know that they are illegal as pets in New Zealand and California.
As for its physical characteristics, the gerbil measures between 6 and 12 inches in length and has a long tail, usually about half of its size. Some species of gerbils can grow up to 16 inches in length. An average adult gerbil weighs around 2.5 ounces and has a lifespan of 2-4 years.
They are low-maintenance
As with almost all rodents, gerbils, too, are quite easy to look after. They don’t require your attention 24/7 and their living costs are reduced. Moreover, they won’t cost more than $50 each if you choose a pet shop or a professional breeder.
There are certain costs you’ll have to consider, including bedding, toys, an exercise wheel, food and water bowls, as well as nutritious food and fresh water. They don’t require walking or expensive grooming products and baths are also optional.
Gerbils make great pets for everyone, including small children. Unlike many other rodents, they actually enjoy being held and pet, meaning you can create a special bond with your furry little friend.
However, each pet needs a certain period to adjust to its new home and family, so you may want to take things slow. Don’t expect your gerbil to be jumping on you anytime soon but, the more time you spend with it, the easier you will gain its confidence and establish a relationship.
They get along well with other members of the same species
Unlike other rodents that cannot be kept together in the same cage, gerbils love companionship. They enjoy living in pairs so you should never keep just one individual as they can easily get lonely, which leads to sadness and depression.
If you don’t want to be throwing too many baby showers in the future, it would be best to keep members of the opposite sex in separate cages, but never alone. Since gerbils enjoy living in pairs and big groups, they won’t require too much of your attention, meaning you can go to work or skip town for the weekend without your pet missing you too much.
Active during the day
Another particularity of gerbils is that they are mainly active during the day so that they won’t interfere with your child’s schedule and keep him or her awake at night. Therefore, you can easily place your pet’s cage in your child’s room and help them bond faster.
They are also hearty rodents and rarely bite, another reason why they make such great first pets for children.
Although gerbils have relatively long lifespans for rodents, you shouldn’t expect them to live more than 4-5 years in rare cases. Unlike chinchillas that can easily reach 10-15 years in captivity, gerbils won’t see too many winters, which is definitely a downside if you have kids because they can easily get attached to the rodents and suffer for their loss.
A short lifespan also means that you won’t get to create a strong bond with your pet as you would do with a cat, a dog or even a rabbit that lives for 7-9 years. Thus, we don’t suggest you adopt gerbils if you have small children unless you have explained to them that their pets won’t be around forever.
Yes, your pet is alive so, as low-maintenance as its existence is, you still need to properly look after it daily. This means your gerbil needs to be fed, given water, and checked regularly for any health problems or special needs it may have.
We don’t recommend adopting any pet if you cannot commit to it in the long term. It is true, unlike other larger pets, rodents are usually easier to look after, but they still require your love and attention.
Apart from offering the best food and a source of freshwater daily, your gerbil will also require entertainment that usually comes in the form of toys. Keep in mind that rodents grow their teeth constantly, so you’ll have to purchase chewing toys and treats to help them with this problem.
Unfortunately, these cute and furry animals also deal with plenty of health problems, which means regular visits to the vet in your calendar. Bad food leads to a series of complications, including bladder problems, diarrhea, nausea, and constipation.
Eating too much also means your pet can easily get overweight and obese, in which case you need to change its diet and help it exercise more often.
Gerbils have poor eyesight, meaning you’ll have to look after them whenever you take them out of their cage. Keep an eye on them to prevent them from hurting and injuring themselves or bumping into things.