Gerbils are incredibly curious and busy animals. They work all day at building bigger and better nests. They love to chew up things and make comfy nests with them. If you give a gerbil plenty of material to chew on, they will build intricate networks of tunnels and nests
The Busy Bees of Small Mammals
Gerbils are always on the move and as a consequence, this makes them hard to handle at times. If you are looking for a small mammal that will love to be held and sit in your lap, then gerbils are probably are not your best bet.
Gerbils can either be housed in a wire cage or a glass aquarium. Either way, there should be several different levels for her to climb on and investigate. Gerbils are very active and would appreciate multiple levels to run, climb, and play upon. Most glass aquariums do not have second levels, so you will need to make one yourself. A simple wooden platform with an access ramp will do nicely. Make sure you have a secure top for a glass aquarium or your gerbil may escape.
NEVER house your gerbil in a habitrail. Gerbils can easily chew through plastic and escape. Also, habitrails do not provide enough ventilation or sanitation for any small mammal. The tubes are too hard to keep clean and there are not enough openings for air to pass through.
Busy, Busy, Busy!
Gerbils love to chew, so it is important to add plenty of “stuff” for your gerbil to chew on. The best items to add are: shredded paper, hay, pieces of cardboard, toilet paper rolls, tissues, paper towels, pieces of paper bags, shoeboxes, wooden boxes, empty oatmeal containers, or branches from oak, cherry, or apple trees. Wicker baskets are the most fun for gerbils to chew on. They will chew up a small size basket in about an hour. You just need to make sure that the basket was not treated with any dyes, chemicals, or glues.
It is also important to add houses for the gerbils to build some of their nests inside of. Some excellent houses are: shoeboxes, wooden boxes, empty oatmeal containers, and empty tissue boxes. They will chew on these for fun as well. The best house to offer a gerbil is a hollowed out coconut shell. Gerbils love them! If you use a coconut, make a small hole at one end and dry out the inside. Then you can make a little house for your gerbil friend.
NEVER provide an exercise wheel for your gerbil. They are not designed for small mammals with long tails. A gerbil’s tail can get caught in an exercise wheel and he will get injured. The best way to set up a gerbil cage is to line the bottom of the cage with a layer of newspaper, then add shredded paper, timothy hay and other fun materials for bedding.
NEVER use cedar shavings because they can cause liver disease and respiratory problems in all small mammals. Also, pine shavings can contain a high amount of oils that can cause skin problems. It is best to avoid any shavings if at all possible.
The best type of food that we have found for gerbils is Fiesta commercial mix. This food has a nice mixture of dried fruits, dried vegetables, and grains. If you decide not to use this brand, make sure the brand you use does not have a lot of sunflower seeds or corn in it. Sunflower seeds have a lot of fats and oils that can do damage to your gerbil. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also important for your gerbil’s diet.
The best treats are strawberries, bananas, romaine lettuce, carrots, papaya, mango, pineapple, kiwi fruit, apples (no seeds, because they contain arsenic), and coarse cut oatmeal. Timothy hay is also important in your gerbil’s diet. Timothy hay keeps his digestive system running smoothly, as well as the rest of his body.
Gerbils are unique in the sense that they produce very little urine since they drink very little water. This means that a gerbil cage only needs to be cleaned twice a week. However, you need to make sure that you add more chewing materials to your gerbil’s cage every day so that she does not get bored.
Holding your Gerbil
Gerbils do not normally like to be held, but it is important to handle them a little so they will be socialized. Every so often, you should take them out of their cage and hold them.
NEVER pick up a gerbil by his tail because you can injure him. The best way to pick up a gerbil is to cup your hands around him and lift him that way.