A gerbil is a small mammal of the subfamily Gerbillinae in the order Rodentia. Once known as desert rats, the gerbil subfamily includes about 110 species of African, Indian, and Asian rodents, including sand rats and jirds, all of which are adapted to arid habitats.
Most are primarily active during the day, making them diurnal (but some species, including the common household pet, exhibit crepuscular behavior), and almost all are omnivorous. Gerbils are related to mice and rats they all belong to the family Muridae.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Rodentia
- Family: Muridae
- Subfamily: Gerbillinae
A good diet consists of commercially available pellet-based food specifically formulated for gerbils. Because gerbils are omnivorous, the ideal diet should contain 16-20 percent protein. We recommend carefresh® Complete Hamster & Gerbil food.
You can also supplement your gerbil’s diet with carrots, leaf lettuces, turnips, broccoli and small amounts of apples or banana.
Gerbils are about the same size as a small hamster. They weigh between 2 to 4 ounces and are about 4 1/2 inches long. The tail is as long as a gerbil’s body and is covered with fur.
Gerbils are social animals, and live in groups in the wild. They rely on their sense of smell to identify other members of their clan, so it is important to use what is commonly referred to as the “split tank method” when introducing gerbils from separate litter. Gerbils are known to attack and often kill those carrying an unfamiliar scent.
Gerbils for sale
Care & Handling
Before you handle a gerbil, he may need a little time to get used to you. Start by feeding him small treats. Once you’ve earned his trust, you can pick him up by scooping him into your hand. Never pick up a gerbil by the tail.
After that, you can let your gerbil out of the cage for supervised exercise every day in a small, secured area where your pet can’t get stuck behind furniture or chew on electrical wires. Remember that gerbils do not have very good eyesight and may not recognize threats to their safety. Make sure that no other pets can enter the room and that there are no house plants in reach that could be toxic to your gerbil.
Housing in captivity
A common misunderstanding when purchasing a home for pet gerbils is they can live in housing designed for hamsters and mice. This is not correct, as they need to be able to dig tunnel systems, rather than have them created for them.
The commonly plastic structure of hamster and mouse cages is inappropriate for gerbils due to their ability to gnaw through it very quickly. Plastic can cause serious health issues for the animal if ingested, therefore many owners refrain from having any plastic in the tank and rely entirely on wooden toys.
Regardless of how experienced an owner you are, there may still be questions that crop up throughout gerbil ownership. Whether you’ve had gerbils for many years or you’re just starting out, this section can help with a number of different topics, from odd behaviour to relationship issues.
- Bedding for the bottom of the cage.
- Tunnels and tubes for playing and exploring.
- Play areas with sloping ramps and a climbing branch.
- A variety of toys that can be changed periodically.
- An exercise wheel.
- Cardboard for chewing. Paper towel and toilet paper rolls work very well.
- A nesting box and unscented toilet paper for use as nesting material.
- Stoppered water bottle.
- Heavy ceramic bowl for food.
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