Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The Pet Gerbil!
Gerbils are a fairly well-known small pet – particularly for children. Often considered “pocket pets” due to their size, pet gerbils are very friendly, quiet, and clean little animals! Most people believe they make even better pets than other small animals such as hamsters, mice, and rats. Gerbils do not have the same reputation as hamsters do when it comes to biting. Pet gerbils very rarely bite! And many people prefer gerbils over mice and rats because they have furry tails, rather than scaly naked tails. Another plus of these little creatures over other rodents is that they are much less prone to some respiratory illnesses. Gerbils are illegal in some areas, such as in the state of California, because of the fear that if they escape they could be a hazard to crops due to their very fast breeding times.
There are many, many different types of gerbils throughout Africa and Asia. However, the type that has become popular as a pet in the United States and Europe is specifically the Mongolian gerbil from Eastern Mongolia. They were first discovered in 1867 and brought into captivity for the sole purpose of using them as laboratory animals. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that they started to become widely available as pets.
Pet gerbils can live 3 to 4 years – which is longer than most mice, rats, and hamsters. They are easy to care for and demand little of your time. They should be housed with at least one other gerbil because they are very social creatures. They must have another companion of their kind to thrive and not become lonely, and humans don’t fit this bill. They will become quite friendly with a human friend, but require other gerbils as well.
Because of their small size, they don’t need a huge enclosure, but their space should be large enough that they can run around and get plenty of exercise. Providing them with a bedding that they can burrow in and toys they can climb on will also help keep them healthy and happy.
Of course they should have clean water everyday as well as fresh food. Pellets or a small animal food mix bought in a pet store should be sufficient and include all of their needed nutrients. Giving small amounts of fresh vegetables and a little fruit occasionally is good for their diet and also a nice change for their pallets. Because their teeth continually grow throughout their lives, they need things to chew on. Offering them chew sticks and other toys meant to chew on will help keep their teeth in shape.
Gerbils make excellent pets for children for several reasons. First of course, is that they are easy to care for and don’t have many specialized needs – which makes it easier for a child to take on the responsibility of their care. They also are diurnal, meaning they sleep at night. This makes them awake and available to play during the day when kids have the time! Because of their sweet nature and reputation as non-biters, they are generally easy to handle and will tame down as they get to know a child.
Pet gerbils are very hardy animals and very rarely become sick. When they do become sick, it is often due to lack of care and not keeping their environment clean. As I stated earlier, they are much less prone to respiratory illnesses than can often kill mice and rats. Some illnesses to watch out for would be external parasites (particularly if their cage is not cleaned very often), hair loss, and fungal infections. If you do notice your pet becoming ill, make sure to completely clean out their cage and food/water dishes. If it continues to get worse you may want to consult a veterinarian.
If you would like to learn more about gerbils as pets, check out Animal-World’s page on Pet Gerbils!
Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.