Good gerbil food is essential if you want to ensure that your new buddy lives a long and healthy life. While pellets or lab blocks can cover for most of their nutritional needs, diversity is always good so any great owner will spice up their gerbil’s taste buds by adding some delicious treats like small amounts of carrots, broccoli, or apples.
What are gerbils?
As of late, gerbils have become one of the more popular choices of household pets around the world because they are fun, peaceful, and not very demanding companions to have around. Just like their hamster cousins, they’re also quite cheap and easy to get, making them the perfect choice if you don’t have a lot of free time on your hands.
Historically, gerbils are burrowing rodents found in places all across the African and the Asian continents. While there are more than 100 species around the world, most of the household ones come from the Mongolian gerbil species.
You can identify a small rodent as a gerbil from its long, furry tail with an easily-distinguishable tuft of fur at the end. A pro tip for any gerbil owners is that they should never pick one up by its tail if they care for it at all because this thing can severely damage them.
Gerbils also have a special type of coloration referred to as ‘agouti’ color due to each hair being streaked with different shades of gray, yellow, black, or even off-white hair if we look at the one on their belly.
Even though they are quickly gaining popularity even in the USA, it should be pointed out that gerbils are not always ideal as a young child’s first pet. They need a lot of attention and quality care and they can easily be injured if dropped or squeezed by the enthusiastic hand of a small boy or girl. When scared, gerbils are also very prone to nipping and scratching as a defense.
Their rise to fame has also caused some ‘specialized breeders’ to engage in a kind of selective breeding process in an attempt to obtain gerbils of certain colors. Therefore, you may be surprised to find gerbils in several lovely hues such as pitch-black or gold.
To be a good owner, you have to inform yourself about your new best buddy’s needs to live a long, happy life.
For starters, fresh, clean water needs to be constantly available from a drinking bottle with a metal sipper tube. You should make a habit of inspecting the water bottle daily to check for leaks and/or blockages. Furthermore, the drinking liquid must be regularly changed while the bottle and nozzle need to be properly cleaned to prevent bacteria from growing there.
It’s also recommended that you provide a balanced, good-quality diet which is designed especially for gerbils and containing all the nutrients and minerals they need. This can include a compound pelleted ration or a mixture of different seeds. Furthermore, keep in mind that commercial rations are formulated to cater to their biological needs from the get-go.
You can also use a variety of fruits like pears, melons, apples, and oranges to supplement your buddy’s rations. Vegetables like cucumbers, pumpkins, carrots, and fennels are also very good as a tasty snack, although you have to keep them away from grapes or rhubarb because these are extremely poisonous to rodents.
Scattering food directly on the surface of the bedding is a great way to help prevent squabbling and it also helps the mental state of the animals by giving them foraging opportunities. This is because out in nature, gerbils eat seeds of various grasses, bulbs, as well as a bunch of leaves and herbs.
Things to avoid
Even though we are (very, very) distantly related to gerbils, they have evolved in different ways than we did so, and as a consequence, they cannot get their metaphorical hands on certain foods which we can enjoy without any problems.
Their digestive system is adapted to a desert climate so processed things such as crisps, cakes, chocolate, and sweets can cause a world of problems for the little guys as they will upset their stomachs and bring major problems for their unaccustomed teeth.
Furthermore, excessive amounts of certain seeds, such as sunflower, are to be avoided because they are fatty and can lead to obesity pretty quick. If you are looking at seeds as an alternative healthy treat, go for the pumpkin ones.
Their gerbilarium should also be checked daily to remove any stale food items. Keep in mind that your little buddies are natural food hoarders and they get a kick out of seeing their stash grow every day. Unfortunately, that is not very healthy in the long run so you, as their owner, are responsible to keep their impulses in check.
The reason for this passion is because gerbils love to sit up and hold pieces of food they can gnaw on. Out in the wild, they may even hoard up to 3.3 pounds of grain in one store! However, you should always remember that sudden dietary changes or food that has been allowed to become stale can upset their sensitive stomachs so caution is advised here.
One more thing any good gerbil friend will do is to monitor their daily intake of food and drink as this is a great tell if something happens to be wrong with them. If their food or water consumption increases or decreases from their average levels, their hind-quarters become soiled, or their feces become moist, take the little buddies to a veterinarian at once.
Different options to feed a gerbil
When considering getting a pet gerbil, it is also very important to learn about certain combinations of food which can still be healthy and enjoyable for them.
These are loose mixtures of different types of seeds, sometimes combined with pellets or dried vegetables and fruits. Most of these combinations will be nutritionally balanced to their needs but only if the gerbils eat everything in the mix. However, you will see that many of the little ones will instead pick out their favorite items and leave the rest in the bowl.
Without proper care, this process can lead to a dietary imbalance if these are components which the gerbils learn to consistently avoid. This can be an often-repeating scenario especially if we are talking about sunflower seeds found in the mixture even though, as we said, they should be avoided anyway due to their fat level.
Therefore, because loose seed mixtures cannot be relied on to ensure a complete and balanced diet for your gerbil, they should seldom be used as your new companion’s sole source of regular food.
Pellets and lab blocks
This type of diet has the advantage of being nutritionally balanced from the get-go and therefore taking a load off your mind. Pellets are the smaller pieces while lab blocks are the larger chunks of food that so closely resemble small biscuits.
Both of them are good options for your buddy, even though some people like to point out to the scientific research behind the lab blocks as proper evidence in their categorization as the best food for gerbils. Unlike the loose mixtures, the sweet rodents will find it impossible to pick and choose which components they want to eat, ensuring a balanced diet with every bite they take.
However, the downside is that this type of food offers very little in terms of variety and enrichment. Therefore, while pellets and lab blocks can make up for the majority of your gerbil’s dietary needs, some supplementation will still be recommended to ensure mental health and keep things fun.
What should you go for?
Feeding pet gerbils a combination of the two types of food mentioned above as well as some delicious, healthy treats is the best way to keep them happy and with you for as long as possible.
A pelleted or lab blocks diet can form the balanced base of your gerbil’s Maslow pyramid of nutritional needs while the loose seed mix combined with other types of treats will add variety and interest in eating.
However, make sure your buddy eats enough of the base food before giving in and offering the delicious treats else they will quickly learn to use this to their advantage. Another thing you can do is keep things such as sunflower seeds to a minimum and instead use them as special rewards which can be very helpful in taming and training your new gerbil.
Can gerbils eat cheese?
Cheese is not found in the gerbils’ natural habitat, and this fact by itself can teach us a lot about this food’s compatibility with the gerbil’s digestive system. The thing is that gerbils are lactose intolerant once they’re weaned, and lactose intolerance can cause various health issues, such as bloating, diarrhea, and discomfort.
Once gerbils are weaned, they will eat solid foods just like adult gerbils do. Milk is excluded from their diet and needs. What might lead to health problems if having milk after being weaned is their gut that no longer processes lactose after this stage.
However, cheese is solid food, and the maturing process some types of cheese go through makes them digestible even for lactose-intolerant animals. For example, cheddar is one of the most common types of cheese and one of the better choices a gerbil can eat. The aging process helps lower lactose, which means it should be easier for the gerbil to digest.
Even so, cheddar and other low-lactose cheese should only be fed in small quantities or not at all. Sticking to what the vet approves as being a healthy diet is key here. What vets will most probably tell you is that cheese contains too much fat and protein and not enough carbohydrates for a gerbil.
This means that if you decide on introducing cheese into your gerbil’s regular diet, it is likely for the pet to become overweight and develop health issues. Even though cheese does come with nutrients that would benefit your gerbil’s health, foods that were specifically formulated for gerbils should cover all of their nutritional needs without the risk of them getting overweight (if fed in the right quantities).
Can gerbils eat bananas?
Even if a gerbil’s natural habitat does not include bananas as they don’t live where bananas usually grow, eating small amounts of this fruit is considered safe for a gerbil. As long as you feed it in small to moderate quantities just now and then, there shouldn’t be any problems.
The only risk that is associated with banana consumption when it comes to gerbils is diarrhea, but this usually occurs when the pet has too much of this fruit.
A gerbil’s diet should be varied, and if you don’t rely only on vegetables and fruits and you feed food mixes specifically formulated for gerbils, a small amount of banana from time to time is considered to be a safe snack. Again, make sure you ask your vet about this.
Can gerbils eat strawberries?
Gerbil won’t hold back from tasting new foods, and if provided, they will also eat strawberries. Even if they are rich in minerals and vitamins, strawberries don’t have the protein, fat, carbohydrates, and other nutrients needed to support a gerbil’s health. If fed as part of a balanced diet and in small quantities, strawberries are considered to be safe, though. Just make sure that you keep them on the low side.
It is always best to see your vet to learn more about the right diet for the pet you have. If it’s a gerbil, you will thus be able to find the answer to questions such as ‘can gerbils eat watermelon?’ and ‘can gerbils eat lettuce?’ and create a diet that is appropriate and healthy.
How to feed gerbils
Now that you know about the foods gerbils can eat, you might wonder how to feed your new furry buddy. It is not enough to choose the right gerbil diet and find the answers to questions such as ‘what do gerbils like to eat?’ in order to cover your gerbil’s food-related needs completely. The way you feed them holds great importance as well.
First of all, make sure you don’t overdo it when it comes to the amount of food you feed your gerbil. A gerbil eating too much can lead to various health issues, so moderation is key. Plus, the label on gerbil foods should include info regarding the quantity of food that should be fed.
Before choosing the recommended amount of food, though, make sure that you have the right items for your gerbil’s meals. Remember that gerbils chew on things, so opting for a food bowl that the little ones won’t be able to destroy with their teeth and cannot be tipped over is preferable. A heavy ceramic crock is an option worth considering as it checks both boxes.
If you don’t want to scatter the food directly on the bedding, place the food of choice, whether you go for pellets or lab blocks, into this dish; you can even add a few seeds to make it more varied. Once you know how much your gerbils eat, select the needed amount of food the pet(s) would eat within 24 hours and place it in the dish.
It is important to keep the dish clean and remove any soiled or damp leftovers before placing fresh food. Plus, try to establish a regular eating pattern and feed the gerbil at about the same time every day. Knowing what to feed gerbils should be coupled with a regular eating schedule for the best results.
If your gerbil’s diet includes treats as well, it is best to feed them in a separate bowl and remove anything left after a couple of hours or so in order to prevent them from spoiling. You can seize this moment to feed such foods by hand to bond with your furry friends, earn their trust, and train them.
Gerbil food list – what to give your gerbil to chew on
Keeping gerbils as pets is a rewarding experience, and taking good care of them is not complicated. However, what makes it challenging when it comes to gerbils is that they will chew on many things, which means that if you don’t want them to end up chewing on harmful materials the cage is made of, you’ll have to provide them with healthy alternatives in order to help them wear their teeth down.
Chewing is essential and a must for gerbils as it helps them grind their teeth down. Unfortunately, this need often makes gerbils chew on anything they find within reach. What makes this dangerous is that some of the materials they might end up chewing on are poisonous and can cause serious health issues. Plus, if they chew on the cage bars, they might also escape.
For example, some gerbil cages feature plastics and other materials that are detrimental to a gerbil’s health. It is highly likely for the gerbils to ingest some of the materials they chew on. That’s why choosing a cage that is built with safe materials for gerbils is of great importance. Also, the bowls you use to feed them should feature a glass or ceramic construction.
Gerbils are rodents, and it is only natural for them to chew on bars of the cage or other items they find when left out of their enclosure. Plastic cages are thus to be avoided as plastics will make your gerbil sick.
Also, when taking the gerbils out of their cage, make sure you keep an eye on them to prevent them from chewing on electrical wires or other things that could harm them in one way or another. Instead, you can choose the items the gerbils will chew on to make sure that they wear their teeth down and do so safely.
You’ll see that most foods in the what-can-gerbils-eat list are ideal for chewing on. They are not only specifically formulated to cover a gerbil’s nutritional needs but also perfect for helping these rodents grind their teeth down. Many mixes in the recommended gerbil food list include hay pellets that are solid, sunflower seeds, soybean hulls, as well as various kinds of nuts.
Introducing such foods is essential when it comes to both nutrition and gnawing. Can gerbils eat carrots for gnawing, though? Yes, they can. Not only will these vegetables provide the gerbils with a tasty and nutritious experience, but they will also help them wear their teeth down since fresh carrots are solid.
The market also offers toys that are specially designed to meet this need. Make sure that the materials used for their construction are safe for your gerbil, though. Read the label carefully and steer clear of any toy, no matter how cute it is, if it features any dangerous material.
Woods are a good alternative when it comes to items to chew on, but not all types of wood are suitable and safe for gerbils. Since these rodents are likely to chew on branches in the wild, they will likely find it quite entertaining and rewarding to chew on wood when in a cage. However, avoid woods that have been treated, glued, or sprayed.
Many pet stores sell wood blocks for rodents, such as hamsters and gerbils. Opt for such a product to avoid any unwanted side effects or health issues.
Gerbils will chew on almost anything they find within reach if they need to grind down their teeth, and you are the only one who can control what gets in the gerbil’s cage. Selecting the toys you put in the cage and the food your gerbil gets based on their safety and compatibility with your pet will help you cover your pet’s needs and avoid unpleasant outcomes.