Lifespan – 3-4 Years
Gerbils can live in same-sex pairs and must not live alone as they are extremely social.
Gerbils are not nocturnal but they are crepuscular, which means they are most active during twilight hours (dawn and dusk).
To be ready for Gerbils you will need
- Large enclosure (at least 40 gallons for two gerbils)
- Quality rat/mouse blocks (Mazuri, oxbow)
- Higgins Sunburst Seed Mix
- Food Dish(es)
- Glass Water Bottle – Gerbils can chew up plastic bottles.
- Large Flat Surface Wheel (no bars, or mesh). Wooden or metal wheels, or hard-sided plastic such as nite angel.
- Hides & Toys – naturalistic huts/ nesting boxes/ houses/ hides and toys made from wood (no plastic!) grass mats and ropes are also good options!
- Chews – wooden chews to help wear down their teeth.
- Bedding – paper-based, or shredded paper
- Sandbath & sand container
- Non-dusty hay for playing and roughage
- Hard-sided Travel Carrier
- Small shop vac for cleaning up after your Gerbils -optional but useful
A 40-gallon (or larger) fish tank or bin cage for 2 gerbils. A standard “breeder tank” is recommended or an Ikea Detolf. The larger the space you can provide, the happier your gerbils will be. What’s important is giving your gerbil enough space to run, burrow, and fit an appropriate-sized wheel.
Feeding – Mazuri rat blocks and Higgin’s Sunburst seed mix for hamsters and gerbils are one of the best combinations to ensure your animal gets balanced nutrition. In addition to a shelf-stable food mix, a few fresh foods should be fed as well. A list of safe foods is found here. Great treats to offer are mealworms, small bits of dandelion greens, and apples.
Wheels – Large flat surface wheel (no metal bars, thin plastic, or mesh). It is difficult to find an appropriate wheel in pet stores. You will need a metal or wooden wheel, available online. The wheel will need to be 8 inches or larger. We strongly recommend Nite Angel wheels.
Chews – Provide wooden chews to help them wear down their teeth and reduce boredom. Untreated wood blocks and apple sticks are great options.
Bedding – Paper-based bedding is essential. You will need to provide 6-7 inches of bedding in at least half the cage to allow the gerbils to burrow. We recommend Kaytee Clean and Cozy.
Sandbaths – Essential to keep your gerbil clean and provide proper enrichment. Look for calcium-free sand (not dust). We recommend the original Reptisand or kids’ play sand. You should never bathe your gerbils as it will stress them out and can cause them to become ill. Only elderly or sick gerbils will have a problem keeping clean.
Cleaning the Enclosure
You should spot-clean the cage every day. You will need to clean out dirty bedding at least once a week. Complete cage cleanouts should happen at least once a month. When cleaning out the cage save a little bit of dirty bedding so your gerbils can have a familiar scent. Removing all the bedding can cause stress and “de-clanning”.
You will need to keep in mind that gerbils will need regular vet visits just like any other pet. gerbils are very prone to abscesses, tumors, and dental problems. We recommend that you have a savings account for vet emergencies or set up a Care Credit account that will allow you to pay for the bill in increments over a year.
Your gerbils will need a carrier for trips to the veterinarian and when they come home with you. Moves can be stressful so include some bedding for them to hide in and keep comfortable. If traveling further a larger carrier may be needed so that your gerbils have access to food and water.
Socializing and Bonding
It is important to build trust with your gerbils by letting them smell your hand, offering treats, and talking to them.
How to pick up your gerbils
It is best not to pick them up until they are comfortable with you touching them. You can do so by cupping your hands underneath them or letting them crawl onto your hand. Do not pick them up from above. Doing so may frighten them as they are prey species. Try speaking to them before you pick them up so they know you are there. Never pick up your gerbil by its tail as doing so can result in injury.
Holding your gerbils
Holding your gerbil is best held close to your body without squeezing. Please be sure you are sitting on the ground when holding them to prevent accidental falls.
Out of Cage Time
Playpens are great for socializing and mental stimulation out of the cage. They also allow you to have the gerbils closer to the ground so there is no risk of them being dropped or jumping out of your hands. A fall from your hands can mean broken bones and internal injuries.
We DO NOT recommend the following:
- Small Enclosures or ones made of plastic
- Plastic (hamster type) exercise balls aka death balls.
- Inappropriately sized wheels (under 8”), or wheels made of barred, mesh, plastic, or wire.
- Poor quality foods that contain corn, large amounts of dried fruit, or dyed pieces.
- Cedar, Softwood, unknown woods.
- Cotton or fibrous bedding
- Snak Shaks or Logs
- Harnesses or Leashes can break fragile bones
Further information on gerbils.