The basics of gerbil care

January 17, 2024

Gerbils are captivating petite creatures that have won the hearts of many as favored pets. Their playful nature and small size make them excellent pets, particularly for individuals with limited living space. Despite their small size, these little mammals require a proportionate amount of care and attention to keep them happy and healthy. When it comes to gerbil care, there are vital considerations to factor in, including their enclosures, feeding, bedding, and general maintenance. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the essentials of gerbil care to ensure that your small furry friends have the best possible home environment.

Selecting the Perfect Gerbil Enclosure

When considering a habitat for your gerbil, it is crucial to provide an enclosure that is safe, secure, and spacious. Gerbils are active pets that love to dig, so a cage with multiple levels and tunnels is ideal. Glass aquariums with mesh tops are also an excellent choice as they prevent escapes and keep predators out.

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Avoid choosing wire cages as their bar spacing could potentially trap your gerbil or cause injuries. The cage’s floor should be solid and not wire to prevent foot injuries. Ensure the enclosure is large enough to accommodate at least a pair of gerbils, as they are socially inclined animals that thrive in pairs or groups.

A gerbil’s enclosure should also be kept in a quiet, temperature-controlled location within your home. Abrupt changes in temperature or loud noises can cause unnecessary stress to your pet gerbil. Remember, a well-chosen and appropriately positioned cage is the first step in providing the best care for your pet gerbil.

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Choosing and Maintaining Gerbil Bedding

Bedding is an essential part of a gerbil’s habitat. It serves as a comfortable layer for your gerbil to walk on, acts as absorbent for waste and gives them material to dig and burrow. When considering bedding, it is crucial to choose non-toxic and dust-free products. Paper-based or aspen wood shavings are good choices. Avoid cedar or pine shavings as they contain oils that can harm small pets.

A sufficient amount of bedding is necessary for your gerbil to dig tunnels and make nests. Aim for a depth of at least 5 to 6 inches. However, it’s not just about providing bedding, you must keep it clean too. Gerbils are clean animals, and a dirty enclosure can lead to sickness. Plan to change the bedding at least once a week, and spot clean areas where your pet eliminates daily to maintain cleanliness in the habitat.

The Essentials of Gerbil Nutrition

Gerbils are omnivores, which means they eat both plant-based foods and meat. A balanced diet is crucial to ensure that your pet gerbil remains healthy and vibrant. Commercially available gerbil food usually includes a mix of seeds, grains, and pellets and provides a good nutritional base.

However, supplementing this diet with fresh foods is beneficial. Veggies, fruits, and occasional bits of hard-boiled egg or mealworms can add variety and extra nutrients. However, fresh foods should only constitute about 10% of a gerbil’s diet, and not all fruits and vegetables are safe for gerbils. Therefore, it’s vital to research before feeding something new.

It’s also important to provide fresh, clean water daily. Water bottles that attach to the cage are a good choice as they keep the water clean and are easy for your gerbil to drink from. Food and water dishes should also be cleaned regularly to maintain hygiene.

General Gerbil Care and Maintenance

In addition to their habitat, bedding, and food, gerbils need some general care. They are social animals and enjoy interaction with their human caregivers. Regular, gentle handling helps tame your gerbil and develop a bond.

Gerbils also love to chew, so providing chew toys can help keep their teeth in good shape. Additionally, gerbils enjoy an occasional dust bath, which helps maintain their coat’s health. Use a special dust made for small animals, not water, as gerbils are desert animals and can become ill if they get wet.

Lastly, observe your gerbil’s behavior and physical condition regularly. Any noticeable changes could be a sign of illness, requiring immediate veterinary attention. Some signs to watch out for include lack of appetite, lethargy, weight loss, or changes in their coat or droppings.

In conclusion, providing the best care for your gerbil involves creating a secure and comfortable habitat, maintaining cleanliness, ensuring a well-balanced diet, and offering plenty of social interaction. With these essentials in place, you can enjoy the company of your small pet and help them live a happy, healthy life. Remember, the key to good gerbil care is attention to detail and commitment.

The Importance of Nesting Material for Gerbils

A comfortable and secure nest is paramount for your pet gerbil’s wellbeing. Providing a nest box or a hideaway within your gerbil’s habitat will give them a safe and private place to rest and sleep. The addition of suitable nesting material promotes natural burrowing behavior and also adds a layer of comfort for your gerbil.

When choosing nesting material, it is pivotal to consider safety first. Shredded paper, hay, or non-toxic tissues are ideal choices. However, avoid materials such as cotton wool or fluffy bedding as these can be dangerous if ingested and can cause blockages in your gerbil’s digestive system. Always remove any soiled or damp nesting material promptly to prevent the growth of bacteria and maintain cleanliness in the nest box.

Just like with bedding, frequent checks should be done to ensure the nesting material is in good condition. Dirty or damp material should be replaced immediately. This simple but significant aspect of gerbil care encourages your small pet to engage in natural behaviors and contributes to a sense of security and comfort.

Understanding and Responding to Gerbil Behavior

Understanding your gerbil’s behavior is a vital aspect of gerbil care and can help identify any potential problems early. Gerbils are generally active and curious creatures. If your gerbil seems lethargic, unresponsive, or displays unusual behavior, it may be a sign of illness or distress.

Similarly, changes in eating habits, such as loss of appetite or overeating, should be noted. Regular weight checks can also help monitor your pet’s health. Sudden weight loss or gain could indicate an underlying health issue.

Gerbils communicate using a range of sounds, movements, and behaviors. For instance, thumping their hind legs is a common behavior to express excitement, fright, or to warn other gerbils. Gentle handling, social interaction, and observing your gerbil’s behavior can help you understand your gerbil better and respond to their needs more effectively.


In essence, gerbil care is about understanding and meeting the essential needs of these small animals. A secure and comfortable habitat, frequent cleaning, a balanced diet, and plenty of interaction are the fundamental aspects of gerbil care. By providing nesting material and understanding your gerbil’s behavior, you can further enhance your pet’s wellbeing.

Whether you’re a seasoned gerbil owner or a new pet parent, the tips shared in this guide will help you offer the best possible care for your gerbil. Remember, caring for a gerbil requires consistency, attention to detail, and a commitment to their wellbeing. These delightful creatures, with their playful antics and charming personalities, will undoubtedly bring much joy to your life in return.