How To Take Care Of A Gerbil (Easy Step-By-Step Guide)

Taking care of a gerbil is a simple, fun job the whole family will love getting involved in. Gerbils are small animals and are relatively low maintenance.

But if it’s your first time looking after a gerbil you might wonder what you should do. In this article, we’ve listed all of the best care instructions for adult and baby gerbils.

Check it out!

Key Takeaway:

To take care of a gerbil put it in a 20-gallon, wire cage with at least 6 inches of aspen shavings, Timothy hay, and shredded paper substrate. Feed and give your gerbil water every day. Provide it with exercise tubes and chew toys.

Not sure what to feed your gerbil, how to set up his cage, or what to give him to keep him entertained?

Then take a look at our complete care guide for first-time gerbil owners coming up next.

hand holding a gerbil

How to Take Care of a Gerbil

Your gerbil is so small and sweet! You want this innocent animal to live a happy, healthy, and comfortable life.

Gerbils are easy animals to take care of, but there is more to gerbil care than meets the eye. Follow these instructions that explain how to take care of a gerbil for beginners.

#1 Get the Best Gerbil Cage

One of the most important things you will need to tend to the needs of your pet gerbil is the right cage.

Gerbils are active animals that need to have plenty of space to exercise throughout the day and night. Here are the minimum cage measurement requirements for these pets.

  • A cage for one gerbil must be at least 20 gallons
  • A cage for two gerbils must be at least 40 gallons
  • To give your pet gerbil the best care, get the largest cage you have space for

It’s good to remember that gerbils are very social animals and like to live in groups and pairs. So, if you have just one gerbil at the moment, consider getting two gerbils or more so they will be cage mates.

#2 Choose the Ideal Cage Material

Ok, now you know which size cage is best, but you need to match that with the right materials. Here’s what you must look for when choosing a cage:

  • A deep base. Gerbils are burrowing rodents that need a deep cage that will allow them to dig and burrow as they would in the wild.
  • Wire. Wire cages are made of metal and are chew-proof. These are best at preventing your gerbil from escaping from his cage.
  • A secure opening. Gerbils love climbing, so your cage needs to facilitate climbing in a safe and secure environment. Your gerbil must not be able to escape from the opening at the top.
  • Avoid mice and hamster cages. The cages built for hamsters and mice tend to be made up of plastic pieces. Gerbils have very strong teeth and like to gnaw on things. They would easily gnaw on plastic cages and swallow pieces of plastic. This would be very dangerous for these animals.

#3 Buy Top Quality Substrate

So you’ve just finished getting your gerbil’s cage home from the pet store. But it’s just an empty cage at the moment.

Now, you need to kit it out and make it cozy enough for your furry pet. Here’s what you must put inside it.

  • Timothy hay. This is great for digging in and for snacking on.
  • Aspen shavings. Do not use pine, cedar, or any similar wood shavings as these are harmful to your pet.
  • Recycled paper shredding. (Guinea pigs love shredded paper bedding too!)

Lay the substrate with a mixture of the materials so your gerbil can make firm tunnels and burrow into it like he would in the wild. There must be at least 6 inches of substrate in the cage to give your pet enough to burrow in.

You will be able to get the best substrate materials from good pet stores.

#4 Find the Prime Cage Location

So you’ve brought the best cage and kitted it out with everything it needs to be nice and comfy for your gerbil. Now let’s find out where you must put it.

Here are some things to bear in mind when choosing a location for the cage.

  • Put the gerbil in a room where you will see him often. It is easy for a gerbil to be out of sight and out of mind and suffer neglect. Keep him in a room where you will be able to keep an eye on him rather than in a garage or yard. Gerbils like human interaction and you must supervise younger children when they handle them.
  • Keep it out of direct sunlight. Gerbils can overheat so do not put them near a window.
  • Keep it away from a fan or an air vent. Your gerbils can quickly begin to feel too cold. Do not put them in a drafty place.
  • Gerbils do not like loud noises. Keep them away from noisy sound systems. The room they are in must not back onto a busy street.
  • Keep it away from other pets. Cats and dogs might frighten your gerbils or attempt to harm them.

#5 Supply the Right Diet for Pet Gerbils

gerbil eating a flower

Your gerbil loves to chow down on the tastiest grub. You’ll need to provide him with enough food that is nutritious, full of the vitamins he needs.

The following foods make up a balanced diet for your gerbils:

  • Gerbil food pellets. These are the staple of their diet. You will find good-quality pellets at your local pet store.
  • Protein. 16% of a gerbil’s diet needs to be protein. This includes boiled and scrambled eggs and small insects such as mealworms and crickets.
  • Fresh fruits. Administer fruit once a week to ensure they get the vitamins they need. Your gerbils will eat pieces of apples, pears, and melons.
  • Fresh vegetables. Fresh foods like vegetables also supplement food pellets. About once a week, give your gerbils pieces of cucumbers, carrots, and pumpkins.
  • Seeds and grains. Give occasional treats of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, oats, and linseed.
  • Herbs. Gerbils eat parsley, coriander, and basil.
  • Timothy hay. Gerbils tend to use hay for burrowing in and for snacking on.
  • Freshwater. Put fresh water in a water bottle for him each day.

You must give your gerbil food every day.

Gerbils like to bury the food they eat in their cage but they soon forget where they have hidden it. If they do this with the fresh food you give them, the food in the cage will begin to rot.

To prevent this from happening, remove the fresh, uneaten food from their food bowls after your gerbil becomes disinterested in it. Check the bedding of the cage for stale food that your gerbil may be hiding.

#6 Provide Enough Exercise Tools

Gerbil owners do well to provide their pets with everything they need to exercise throughout the day and night.

Here is some of the best exercise equipment for your pets. You’ll find these items at any good pet shop.

  • Exercise balls. The exercise ball is a great way for you to allow your gerbil to spend some time outside of his cage while you keep an eye on him.
  • Exercise wheels. Your gerbils will love it if you put an exercise wheel in the cage. The wheel must be big enough for the gerbil to run without arching its back to avoid injuries. The wheel must not have open rungs as your gerbil’s tail or feet could easily get stuck between the rungs and he could hurt himself. A fully enclosed wheel is much safer.
  • Cardboard tubes. Your gerbil will love keeping himself occupied running through cardboard tubes all day. Why not make these out of simple materials like toilet rolls?

#7 Tend to Their Chewing Habits

A gerbil’s teeth will continue to grow throughout its life. That’s why it’ll spend so much time in the day chewing.

To take care of your pet gerbils, ensure they have what they need to file their teeth down. Here are some ideas:

  • Wooden chew toys. Gerbils have such strong teeth that they will quickly nibble through plastic toys. Never give them plastic toys as they could swallow the plastic. Wooden toys are a lot safer. You will be able to find some of the best from good pet stores.
  • Hard food. Foods such as seeds and grains can help to keep your gerbil’s teeth down. Only give them these foods to nibble on occasionally. Coconut shells, cardboard from a cardboard box, and untreated softwood are also great for them to grind their teeth on.
gerbil chewing a toy

What Do I Need to Take Care of a Gerbil?

Taking good care of a Mongolian gerbil is a rewarding job that will bring joy to the entire family.

What do you need to take care of a gerbil?

Here is a list of everything you must have.

  • A good-sized wire cage. 20 gallons is the minimum size for one lone gerbil. It must have a deep bottom for you to fill with digging materials.
  • The right substrate materials. Aspen shavings and shredded paper will give your gerbil something to dig into.
  • The best food. He’ll need a mix of commercial gerbil food and fresh food, seeds, grains, and hay.
  • A food bowl. You will need more than one food bowl if you have multiple gerbils.
  • A water bottle. You need to change the water in the bottle each day.
  • Exercise tools. Gerbil balls, wheels, and toys are all essential for keeping your gerbil happy and fit.
  • Chew toys. Toys will help your gerbils keep their teeth down.
  • A small container for a sand bath. This will help the gerbil stay clean.
  • A pet plan for small rodents. You must take your gerbil to the vet when he looks sick or for an annual checkup. A basic pet plan should cover the cost of any veterinary medicine.

Are Gerbils Easy to Take Care Of?

Not sure how to care for a gerbil?

Then you might wonder how high-maintenance these animals are and whether they will make good pets for you and your family.

Most people consider gerbils to be easy pets to take care of. Check out some of the reasons why.

They Entertain Themselves and Exercise Alone

Gerbils do not need to wait on you to get the entertainment they need. If their cage has tunnels, bars, and chew toys, they will have enough to keep them occupied throughout the day and night.

Gerbils do not rely on their owners to get enough exercise. Tunnels, an exercise wheel, and a large running space are like a mini gym for this small pet.

They Do Not Need Much Medical Attention

When you first pick up your gerbils, you must take them for a veterinary examination. There, the vet will take a fecal sample and check your pet is free from parasites.

After the initial examination, you only need to take your pet to the vet once a year. Your gerbil will not need any vaccinations and if he remains healthy, he will not require any veterinary medicine.

You will need to take an older gerbil to the vet once every 6 months.

They Do Not Need Bathing

Gerbils are clean animals and do their own grooming. You must not bathe them.

Provide your gerbil access to a sand bath with chinchilla sand so he can clean himself whenever he feels necessary.

The Cage Is Easy to Clean

You must clean a gerbil's cage once every 2 to 3 weeks depending on the number of gerbils that live in it and how dirty the bedding is.

To clean it, you will only have to remove the soiled bedding and then wash the cage with warm soapy water, rinse, and then dry it. You will then be able to put clean substrate inside it and return your pets to the cage.

gerbil big enclosure

They Are Docile

Gerbils tend to be placid animals that enjoy the company of their owners. They rarely bite unless you provoke them or they are under stress.

How to Care For Newborn Gerbils

If there’s anything cuter than a gerbil, it’s a baby gerbil. They are blind, hairless, and their ears are closed.

What must you do to take care of such defenseless creatures?

Use the following newborn gerbil care guide to help you.

Feeding the Pups

If your adult gerbils have a litter larger than 7, the mother might struggle to keep all of the pups well-fed. To avoid malnutrition, feed some of the baby pups bread soaked in evaporated milk which they can suck on.

By 3 weeks of age, the pups will be keen on adding a lot of solid food to their milk diet. But the baby gerbils may still struggle to eat large food items like sunflower seeds (which you must not give them too many of as they are high in fat).

Millet seeds are ideal for the pups as they are not too big for them to eat.

Giving the Pups Water

Mother gerbils will drink a lot more water while they are nursing their pups. Make sure you always keep her bottle topped up with fresh water.

If your female gerbil does not have enough water, her pup’s health will suffer.

A young gerbil’s legs are wobbly and unstable. They can climb into a bowl of water and drown in it.

Never put water in a bowl in the cage where the baby gerbils live, always use a bottle.

Handling the Pups

You can handle the pups at any age, but you must watch the parents’ temperament while you do so. If they seem agitated, return the pup to the cage with the other gerbils.

When handling the pups, hold them gently but securely and close to the floor. If a baby pup were to fall from a height, it would seriously hurt itself and may not recover.

Young gerbils are very active so you have to keep a close eye on them while you handle them.

Choosing the Bedding

To avoid respiratory illnesses, keep the baby pups off of potent pine and cedar shavings. Only use aspen shavings, hay, and shredded paper as bedding.

Common Pup Illnesses

If one of the pups looks less active than the others, it might have a respiratory illness. Take it to the vet immediately.

If one of the pups has diarrhea, take him to the vet as soon as possible. A course of antibiotics might save the pup’s life.

Weaning the Pups

The gerbils will be fully weaned by 4 weeks of age. But when the gerbils live an extra week with their mothers, they tend to benefit.

If you do not want the pups to get pregnant, you just separate them from pups of the opposite sex before they reach 8 weeks old.

Gerbil housing is simple, if you don’t want to neuter them, they can continue living with their family members of the same sex. A same-sex pair from the same litter will get on well.

Love Caring For Your Mongolian Gerbil

Gerbils are active animals that love running around, playing, and eating all day long. They are only small animals, but they still need personalized care and attention.

Thankfully, this article has helped us to see exactly what you need to look after a gerbil.

You need a 20-gallon wire cage with a deep base. You must fill the cage with bedding and provide the gerbil with a drinking bottle, food bowl, exercise tools, chew toys, and a sand bath.

Did you find this article interesting?

At Oddly Cute Pets, always strive to provide you with the best gerbil facts and information that will help you look after your small pet. For more help looking after gerbils, hamsters, and other rodents, check out our website.

Thanks for reading!

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