Gerbil Care Guide for Beginners

Getting your gerbil off to the best start in their new home is important to help them feel settled and contented as quickly as possible, so this gerbil care guide is the best place to start if you are new to looking after gerbils.

Gerbils are amazing pets. They are terrific social animals that have an inquisitive yet affectionate and gentle character. They can be taught to climb up on your shoulder or even to sit on your head. They are lots of fun and they will entertain you with their antics.

Some basic facts about Gerbils

They take up minimal space in need only a negligible amount of time spent feeding them and cleaning their home. They tend to grow to about 15-25cm including its tail and it will be about half its overall body length.

They weigh around 70g so they are very light to pick up and handle. So you need to be careful with picking them up as they don’t like being squeezed roughly.

This means that they are great for people who are looking for a pet but don’t have a great amount of time to look after it and don’t have a lot of space in their home.

They live between 2-3 years which is not that long for a rodent but typical of an animal of thier size but can live longer if they are given good care and they are happy and contented.

Gerbils love to explore and will enquire into everything in their habitat. They really enjoy digging and burrowing tunnels, jumping, climbing and chewing anything that they can.

They do not scare easily so do not mind you getting close to them as it wont easily intimidate them.

Gerbil Care Guide: The basics

So to start our gerbil care guide, here are some basics for looking after your gerbil.

What do I need to buy for my gerbil?

Here is a list of what you will need to get for your gerbils. A good pet store will have all of these items. Below this list we go into depth as to why they are needed.

  • A large cage
  • bedding
  • food
  • water bottle
  • food dish
  • hidey home
  • tunnels
  • exercise wheel
  • tunnel block
  • chinchilla dust
  • dust bowl
  • animal cage cleaning wipes

Should I get one Gerbil or two?

Gerbils like other types of rodent are very social animals. This means they love the company of their own species. In the wild, they live in groups but having two together is just fine.

If you are looking to get a gerbil, then get two and not just one as they will be much happier. The two will need to be of the same family and be together when you get them as they don’t take kindly to gerbils with a different scent and this can cause fights and injuries.

Male gerbils are more vicious fighters than females, where as females tend to quarrel more.

Don’t put a male and a female together. Get two males or two females.

What kind of home should I get for my gerbil?

There are different kinds of home for a gerbil.

Gerbilariums have a plastic base and a rigid wire top.

The wire top of the cage can be easily taken off from the plastic base  which makes it far easier to get the gerbil our of the plastic base.

The deep plastic base means you can fill it up with lots of lovely material for them to dig their beloved tunnels. You can also watch them through the clear plastic and wire cage.

Make sure you have lots for them to chew on as they do love to chew the wire cage and plastic as well which is not good at all for their teeth. Also, think carefully before buying plastic tunnels and play things as they will chew those as well.

If you don’t want your gerbil chewing the sides of their home, then an Aquarium is best.

Aquariums are draft proof and don’t cost a lot of money and are great for filling up with lots of material for them to dig in.

Aquariums need to have a lid though otherwise your gerbils will jump out. A wire mesh lid is the best type so it allows plenty of air to get into the aquarium.

They also need to be big enough for them to run around and get exercise.

What do i feed my gerbil?

For the complete food list for what they can and can’t eat, check out our list here.

Start with getting good premixed gerbil food. This will give them a good combination of minerals, protein, and vitamins for their dietary needs.

They also enjoy vegetables, fruit and nuts but these need to be fed sparingly to them as they are high in fat, acids, water and sugar. Feeding as a staple food will not do them good.

Two portions of vegetables, fruit or nuts a week should be enough for them.

New foods should be fed gradually to them as they need time to become accustomed to them and must be fed one at a time.

What do i give my gerbil to drink?

They need fresh water from a water bottle. A water bowl can get spilt very easily whereas a waterbottle contains the water well for them.

They need fresh water daily and it needs to be topped up regularly.

How do i keep my gerbil active?

Gerbils are always moving around, they rarely stay still when they are awake and so always need to be stimulated in some way.

  • They need a way to use their natural energy and the more they exercise, the happier and healthier they will be, so the following will be good to have in their home;
  • An exercise wheel. Where they can run all day and all night if they way. Take care to get a silent wheel though and avoid wire mesh wheels.
  • Tunnel blocks that they can jump in and out of.
  • Cardboard tubes. They love to run in and out of them, not to mention chew them.
  • A runner ball that they can run around a room in.

Where will my gerbil sleep?

You will need to get them a hiding house where they can retreat to sleep. They don’t sleep for long lengths of time but when they do sleep they don’t like to be in the open. They are also known to burrow down and create their own sleeping spaces as well.

What bedding should I get?

They need bedding that absorbs urine as well as being good tunneling material. They don’t urinate much so it doesn’t have to be perfumed bedding.

Wood shavings (not cedar) or carefresh bedding is the best type of bedding to get them. Shredded paper also works well as well as good quality herbage hay and kitchen roll.


Gerbil Care Guide: The next steps

How often should I clean a gerbils cage?

Everyday make sure any left over food is removed and the water bottle is refreshed.

A few times a week, provided a dust bath for them with chinchilla dust will give them the opportunity to get rid of any grease on thier bodies.

Every week, check for and remove dirty bedding

Every month change all bedding. Give the cage a thorough clean with animal cage cleaning wipes.

Don’t use household cleaning detergents or wipes as they are toxic to gerbils. Instead, purchase wipes or animal cleaning house cleaning fluids from your pet store which are not toxic to them. There are a variety of cleaning materials available, but the best for cleaning gerbil cages are animal cleaning wipes which can be purchased from good pet stores.

Cleaning your gerbils cage regularly will prevent it from smelling as if it is left alone, it will begin to stink. Gerbils do not smell themselves, they are odorless creatures but their homes will smell if you let them deteriorate.

When should i pick up my gerbil?

A gerbil should be held regularly so that they retain their trust in you. It takes time to build their trust and you will know that you have earned their trust when they feel comfortable sitting on you without restraint.

There are some posts here that will guide you through how to do this.

When picking them up, remember the following;

  • Take care not to make sudden movements. Be considerate and gentle. Be slow.
  • Make sure you don’t pick them up when they are asleep.
  • Talk gently to them, they will love to hear your voice.
  • Make sure you wash your hands after you have picked them up.
  • If they bite you it means that they are frightened, so doing the above will hopefully prevent the gerbil biting.

Are gerbils suitable for children?

Gerbils are very light and fragile animals and do not like being held roughly. They like their owners to be calm, considerate and gentle with them with slow movements. This means they are not good pets for children to look after alone. They need a responsible person to the main carer and then they can assist.

This is the method which works the best, and then the main carer can oversee the children feeding the gerbils, looking after them and handling them.

So in summary, here is that list of items you will need to get for your gerbil to ensure that they are happy and contented. These items can be purchased from a good pet store. A good pet store will be considerate of what type of home they are going into and what care they will receive and will give good advice on how to look after your gerbils.

A reminder of that list;

  • A large cage
  • bedding
  • food
  • water bottle
  • food dish
  • hidey home
  • tunnels
  • exercise wheel
  • tunnel block
  • chinchilla dust
  • dust bowl
  • animal cage cleaning wipes