Caring for Gerbils

March 30, 2006
Description: Gerbils are friendly and inquisitive. They make lively, active pets that are easy and relatively inexpensive to keep and interesting to watch. Most domesticated gerbils are Mongolian gerbils. They have large middle ears, which gives them the ability to detect the soft beat of bird wings, their natural predators in the wild, and they have a long tail that acts like a stabilizer when jumping. Gerbils have large dark eyes and come in many colors or combinations of colors.

Size: Gerbils weigh between 2.5 and 3.5 oz. The males are slightly heavier than the females.

Compatibility: Gerbils should be kept in groups as they are highly social animals. They are prolific reproducers and should be kept in groups of the same sex unless you want LOTS of babies.

Appeal: Gerbils are lively, friendly, and relatively clean and odor-free. They are low maintenance and inexpensive to keep. They make better pets than cats and dogs for people with allergies. They are active during the day and evening and rarely bite.

Drawbacks: They are not as keen as some rodents are about being handled and can be hard to catch. They are delicate and can be seriously injured if not handled properly. If not properly housed they can scatter bedding and make a mess. They are also escape artists and will try to chew or gnaw their way out of enclosures.

Diet: Gerbils should be fed a seed mix or pellets that are designed for gerbils. They should not be fed oily seeds like sunflower seeds in large quantities.

Problems & Health Issues: Gerbils are susceptible to epileptic seizures. If given an improper diet, they can suffer from digestive upsets. The tips of their tails are fragile and easily damaged.

Lifespan: Healthy Gerbils can live an average of 4-5 years.

Interesting Facts: Gerbils are prolific breeders and can produce three litters a year of up to 12 young.

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April 24, 2019

After my son's gerbil chewed up every toy, exercise wheel, and bowl in his cage I decided maybe some junk mail could occupy him. Then it occurred to me, I don't need to purchase bedding for him any more! The junk mail, unwanted credit cards, and anything else with personal information we wanted to dispose of could be shredded by our beloved Herbie.

Using Shredded Junk Mail as Gerbil Bedding - gerbil nibbling junk mail

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11 Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

December 20, 2010

Is it OK to have gerbils even if you have cats?

By jc from Greenvillie, SC


December 21, 20100 found this helpful

Well you can but I wouldn't recommend it, you would need to be very vigilant, cats are predatory and a gerbil would make a tasty meal.

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December 21, 20100 found this helpful

Ditto to mrs.flowerpot! Even when you are diligent, and especially if you have children, the gerbils and hamsters seem to escape their cages once in a while. Some house cats may not intend to kill them, but they could easily "play" them to death, by accident. :-(

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January 28, 2012

What happens if a gerbil turns gray by the time you have had it not even a year?

By Leeanna


January 28, 20120 found this helpful

It could be under stress, I don't know. Every animal is different. My dog had a few grey hairs after the first year I had him. I wouldn't worry about it unless it's hair is falling out.

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January 29, 20120 found this helpful

Gerbils live for 3-5 years. It's getting older.

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January 30, 20120 found this helpful

Daisey is right. Your gerbil may have been more than a few months old when you got it, so if you've had it a year, then yes it's getting old. Like people and other animals, many mammals do turn grey with age.

I have 2 dachshunds. One will be 12 years old ths April. She barely has any of her red coloring left on her. It started turning grey a couple of years ago and now her whole face and all four paws are grey.
My other dog will be 9 this March and he's beginning to turn too around his lips.

So don't worry, just make his life as easy and as happy as you can for the time you have left with him.

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December 6, 2006

Will mother gerbils bury their babies? I'm afraid the pups will suffocate.

Colleen from MI


January 6, 20070 found this helpful

I don't think mother gerbil will harm her babies. If she is burying her babies it is most likely she is protecting them from preditors. Keep an eye on them and make sure they are all nursing. Depending on their ages i would not touch them because of human scent on the babies. When you are cleaning the cage maybe add a little less shavings until their bigger.

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By Tiffany (Guest Post)
June 16, 20070 found this helpful

can you touch the baby gerbils when they have no fur will they die or get no fur where you touch them?

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June 16, 20070 found this helpful

Whatever you do don't touch them until they are old enough to move to another cage. Once the mother gerbil is done nursing she wont want them around and will try to harm them. When they are old enough to stop nursing move them to another cage immediately. Watch to make sure they are drinking on their own that is how you will know when the time is to change cages.

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November 23, 2013

Today I randomly chose to buy a gerbil. I've had mice in the past so I figured they were similar. After buying Aspen I read a little on gerbils and everything I read said to buy two or more at a time for companionship. I really just want to have one because that way I don't have to clean the cage as much and it's just all around easier. Is having just one okay? or should I go buy another?

By Cass


January 23, 20180 found this helpful

Its better to have them in pairs. Gerbils are very social creatures by nature, they like to communicate. If your gerbil doesnt have a companion, it can get depressed and can die. You said your worried about more to clean up? Don't worry, gerbils aren't very messy

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December 9, 2010

I had 2 female gerbils of about 6 months old. One of them died suddenly today, with no obvious signs of illness, in fact, she was fine just yesterday evening. I had to move them to a friend's for a couple of days as my heating broke down and I didn't want them to freeze. So I was wondering if the trauma of moving could have been a reason?

The remaining one seems fine. She is the bigger and more dominant of the pair. Will she be OK on her own, or should I try to introduce a companion for her? I have read that females can be very territorial, but if she needs a "friend" I am aware of the split cage method.
Would be grateful of any advice.

By Mitch from UK


December 9, 20100 found this helpful

I'm sorry your pet gerbil died, Mitch. I know nothing about gerbils but if it is in your surviving gerbils best interest I would certainly get another one. Have you talked to the pet store where you got the girls to ask what they recommend? I've always had pets in pairs, just 'cuz I'm a softy and feel sorry for them if they are alone. Again, I've never had gerbils, but if it's okay for your surviving pet I'd say go for it and find her a roommate! :-)

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

December 9, 2010

How does a gerbil lose part of a tail? Will it regrow again ?

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August 17, 2010

I separated the boy gerbils from the girl gerbils. The mother had more pups and proceeded to chase her daughter around the cage and bite her.

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July 12, 2010

My gerbils are multiplying. I need to separate the boys from the girls. I don't have much money. Any ideas for a homemade gerbil home? I am handy with tools, etc. Thanks!

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June 25, 2010

Do all gerbils have to live in pairs or can I have just one gerbil? Please somebody answer ASAP.

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Pets Gerbils InformationFebruary 6, 2013
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