Gerbils make great pets, they are lively and highly active animals that are entertaining to watch. If you are planning to keep gerbils or have some already here are some valuable simple tips towards making a happier gerbil.
1) Give them plenty of cardboard to chew. Gerbils love cardboard! It gives them both mental and physical stimulation and allows them to easily perform their natural habit of shredding stuff to bits.
2) A supply of food. Nourishment should always be available. Buy a gerbil mix if available or a hamster mix if not. You may also want to add some quality bird seed.
3) A supply of water. Even though gerbils come from a dry area it is still extremely important to provide water. As with any pet, they should be able to drink whenever they feel they may need to. Simply providing watery fruits is not enough of a source of water.
4) Enough substrate (wood shavings, cardboard shreddings etc.) to dig through. In the wild gerbils live underground and dig tunnels, so it can be very beneficial for them to have the opportunity to dig about or make an underground nest. Gerbils who grew up in a nest with a tunnel were found to have less repetitive behaviours (corner digging).
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5) Access to veterinary care. Especially as gerbils get older, problems may present themselves, so it is important to be prepared to visit a vet.
6) Wood to chew up and keep their teeth trim. Gerbils teeth grow constantly and it is important for them to keep them trimmed down to avoid any overgrowth issues or other damage. Chewing on hard surfaces such as wood is a fun and natural way for gerbils to happily keep nicely trimmed. Lots of pet stores have wood treats and even some wooden parrot toys may be suitable to hang from the tank top for even more mental stimulation.
7) Rocks to sit or lie on which helps them keep cool in the heat. Some people in hot countries live in caves because the rock keeps things cooler, rocks are a great way for gerbils to keep cool in hot summers.
8) Sand to bathe and play in. Gerbils come from the Mongolian desert and have sand baths to free their fur of grease. Bird sand may be too rough and chinchilla dust can be too fine. Aragonite sand (found in aquarium or reptile shops) is currently considered the best.
9) Plastic only as an occasional toy under supervision. Gerbils chew everything and in the case of plastic potentially swallowing the shreds can be risky. Plastic is not bio-degradable and so would not be able to be broken down by the gerbil’s body.
10) Plain tissue paper to shred and make a nice soft bed. No wool, scented materials or fabrics as these can pose some risks. Tissue paper is cheap and easy to come by and gerbils love to shred it up and make a nice soft comfortable nest with it.
11) Never pick up by the tip of the tail. In the wild gerbils are able to completely lose their tail if a predator catches them by it, gerbils can and have done such a trick in a domestic setting. Unlike lizards the tail does not grow back. If you must handle a gerbil’s tail, do it only by the base of the tail. Other types of handling such as scooping them up in your hands are preferred.
12) Gradually teach them to get used to your hand by gentle regular handling. Be patient and give them time to get used to you. You can also tempt them with treats but be careful not to overdo it as they may associate you with food.
13) Don’t quickly or roughly grab at a gerbil, in the wild their predators will pounce upon them or swoop down from above. They therefore instinctually can be afraid of such methods or even want to defend themself. Gently scoop with hand(s) to pick up. If a gerbil is particularly shy or afraid to come near your hands, try coaxing them into a jar or box first and have them exit onto your hands this way.
14) A tank is highly recommended for keeping gerbils. Unlike other habitats, tanks allow for higher levels of substrate. It also makes it less likely for them to kick bits out onto your floor. A plastic tunnel/compartment complex is usually too small and narrow an environment for gerbils, the plastic also can be unsafe or make it easy for them to escape. A wire cage often leads to a habit where the gerbil will repetitively chew the bars and wear their fur down to the point of causing a bald patch on the top of their nose.
15) Hide treats amongst their substrate for them to dig up and hunt for. Or to simply find as a nice surprise! In the wild gerbils forage for food and letting them engage in this habit can provide some mental stimulation.
16) Do not give too many fruits or other treats as this may cause some unwanted health trouble. The risk in a domestic environments, as with many pets, is that they can become exposed to too much of certain types of food that they wouldn’t normally digest as often.
17) Gerbils live in pairs. They are social animals and it is always a good idea to buy gerbils in pairs from the same litter. Be careful however when trying to introduce a new companion to an older gerbil. Often this can lead to a fight without using care and patience. Gerbils may be cute but they know how to defend themselves against an invader. Using a split-cage / split-tank method to introduce gerbils is the best tactic. In this way the gerbils are kept on separate sides of a tank split in half, then later the two are swapped over. The gerbils scents then end up mingling on both sides of the tank and it becomes ‘neutral’. The gerbils can also sniff each other through the mesh split. After considerable time the split is removed under careful supervision. Be sure to research carefully into this method and the best amount of time to allow before trying it yourself!
18) Gerbils are highly active and curious animals. Toys for mental and physical stimulation are important. The good thing about gerbils is that their highly inquisitive nature makes most things into a toy, including sticks, rocks, boxes and tubes. Many owners make their own toys out of cardboard or wood. Or use household objects made of glass or clay such as a clean flower pot. Be sure that objects from outside are thoroughly cleaned and have no sharp or broken edges. Also many pet shops stock a large range of toys suitable for gerbils.
19) Gerbils do not need water except to drink. Like cats they dislike water. They bathe in sand and so therefore do not need to bathe in water.
20) Gerbils have long tails and if an exercise wheel is used it is best if it has a solid surface to avoid their tail getting caught in large gaps between the rungs. Also if an exercise ball is used, it is best to use one that is not colored and is simply clear and transparent. Gerbils are not color-blind but they don’t see the same range of colors as humans.
Now you have some great foundations to make your gerbil very happy and feel loved. With enough fundamental care to keep them healthy.
This article was written by GerbilGoods ( http://www.gerbilgoods.com ), lovers of gerbils who provide products to animal and pet lovers worldwide.
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