Gerbil - Meriones unguiculatus
Please note: These are general recommendations; they are not meant to be construed as veterinary advice, and may not be appropriate for your pet. Be sure to schedule a visit with your local veterinarian to discuss the best care for your animal!
Gerbils are active little rodents with big tails and big energy! They originate from the deserts in Mongolia, and can live up to 3-5 years at home. They are very social, and like to have a friend in their cage, but will need extra space for when they want to be alone. Adult gerbils often will reject new housemates, so be sure to find a pair that is bonded or introduce gerbils at a very young age.
Gerbils are easy to feed on gerbil pellets, which should be given along with a mix of veggies. Gerbil mixes can be a good way to add variety to the diet, but be careful your gerbil doesn’t just eat the high fat seeds and leave the nutritious parts alone! Like all animals, gerbils need fresh water every day.
Gerbils have constantly growing front teeth, so they also need plenty of chew toys to keep their teeth in shape! They will not hesitate to chew through a plastic cage!
To prevent escape from plastic cages, gerbils are often housed in Plexiglas enclosures, but this can limit air circulation. Because gerbils poop and pee in their cages (ick!), ammonia builds up in these confined spaces, and can hurt their lungs. It’s very important to clean soiled areas regularly and completely replace the bedding periodically to keep the cage and air clean! Areas with higher humidity may require more aggressive cleaning schedules. Speaking of hygiene, periodic sand baths can help gerbils regulate their oil glands and keep their coats healthy!
Gerbils love digging and tunneling, which is easy to do in a tank with deep bedding. A solid plastic running wheel can also be a good addition for a gerbil so they can exercise and stay healthy without running amok in the house. For adventurous gerbils (and very observant owners!) a plastic exercise ball can be a fun toy!
Never pick up a gerbil by the tail! Their fur can slip off (a natural defense to escape predators!) which is very harmful and can lead to tail loss!
Be sure you wash your hands well after playing with your gerbil to make sure you don’t get germs!
Dr. Chuck recommends gerbils go to the veterinarian at least once per year to make sure they are healthy and happy!