Getting a new pet is always an exciting thing. Once you decided, that your new best friend is going to be a gerbil, you can prepare everything for your new pet, in order to make it happy. There are plenty of fun activities that you can do with your gerbil. Be patient with your pet, it might take some time until a gerbil trusts you and becomes tame.
As a whole, before picking up a gerbil, a cage and some food should be prepared, and a transport box should be ready to pick up the gerbils. After giving the gerbil some rest, it is possible to start interacting and bonding with the new pet.
Don’t try to pick up the gerbil right away. Some gerbils might not be used to being handled and get scared by a hand trying to grab them.
You should have your own solid transport box like this one with you for the pickup. It should be prepared with some bedding for the gerbil to hide in. You can also put some cardboard or toilet paper rolls inside the box. The gerbils will chew on it and it will help to reduce the stress.
In pet stores, small rodents are usually put in cardboard boxes, but depending on the stress level of the pet, and the duration of the drive home, a gerbil might chew through the box.
In the following, you will find all the information on how to equip a cage, and how to start interacting, playing, and bonding with your new pet gerbil.
How to Equip the Cage for a Pet Gerbil
Before you bring your gerbil home, you will have to prepare a home for your new pet. It is an exciting activity to prepare a new cage for a pet. Imagine how your gerbil will enjoy its new home. Equip it with all the things a gerbil needs to give your pet the best home possible.
As a whole, a gerbil cage needs a deep glass bottom part filled with bedding for digging, a sandbath, a wheel, a water bottle or bowl, some hay or straw, and wood and cardboard to chew on and play with.
The cage should be located in a room with natural light, but not directly in sunlight. Glass containers heat up very quickly and you do not want to grill your pet. You can keep your gerbils in your bedroom, or in the living room.
You can buy a special gerbil cage with two floors, one for digging, and one for the sand bath, food, and the wheel. Here is an example of these kinds of enclosures:
But if you want to start with a lower budget, you can also go for a second-hand aquarium. Gerbils don’t necessarily need two floors and will be happy as long as they have plenty of room to dig around.
You can use a mesh or wired lid to close off the cage.
The required size of the cage depends on the number of gerbils you own. An aquarium with a minimum of 10 gallons per gerbil is a good size.
Make sure that heavy items such as the sand bath, the wheel, or a water bowl stand on some kind of elevation so that they cannot drop down if gerbils build their tunnels and nests right under it.
Gerbils do not need a food bowl. You can spread the gerbil food from the local pet store around the cage and the gerbils will enjoy searching for food everywhere.
How to Keep a Gerbil Happy
In order to survive, gerbils need food, water, and shelter. A happy gerbil is a well-fed, healthy, active gerbil that lives together with other gerbils.
Gerbils Have to be Kept With Other Gerbils
The most important thing (besides food, water, and shelter) is companionship. Gerbils are highly social animals and need other gerbils to live with. A lonely gerbil will get sick after a while. Humans cannot be the companionship a gerbil needs.
Most people keep gerbils in pairs but it is also possible to keep three gerbils together. It is normal for gerbils to chase each other, play-fight, and mount each other. They cuddle with each other and sleep together.
It can sometimes happen, that gerbils get along well, and all of a sudden they start fighting and biting each other. If you see that your gerbils might or have already hurt each other, they have to be separated and you will have to seek out another company for your gerbils.
Healthy Food for Gerbils
Gerbils need a well-balanced diet to live a happy, healthy, and long life. You can acquire gerbil food from the pet store. Every rodent needs a different diet and gerbil food contains all the nutrition a gerbil needs. Try to avoid artificial colors or flavors in pet food.
In addition to the dry pet food from the pet store, you should also offer your gerbils small amounts of vegetables and fruits every day. Make sure that you don’t overfeed your gerbils with vegetables and fruits because the moisture can cause diarrhea.
Gerbils are omnivores and eat both plants and meat. In nature, they eat insects to get some protein. You should also give your gerbils some insects such as dried mealworms or waxworms as a treat.
Best Toys for Gerbils
Gerbils are very energetic and active pets. They run around a lot, dig tunnels, and jump. This is why a running wheel is a great option for your pets. You should also let your gerbils run free in a closed room without the possibility to escape.
They need things to chew on, in order to trim down their teeth. Gerbil teeth grow all their lives and if they don’t have anything to chew on regularly, the teeth will get too long and they will have trouble eating.
Great things to chew on are wooden toys, cardboard, twigs, and branches.
In addition to the spinning wheel for exercise and the toys to chew on, gerbils love things to climb on and things to hide in.
What do You do With a New Gerbil?
You brought your first gerbils home from a breeder or a pet store and you cannot wait for all the fun activities together. Gerbils have so much energy and look so adorable, that you would like to pick them up and play with them all the time. But what exactly can you do with a new gerbil?
As a whole, gerbils are shy in the beginning and need some time to settle in. After gaining the trust of a pet gerbil, it is possible to hold it in the hand, play together, train the gerbil, and watch it dig, play, and run around. Gerbils are not particularly cuddly with humans.
Gerbils are prey animals and are rather shy and timid but can become tame when you spend some time with your pets. It is normal for gerbils to need a few weeks to get used to the new environment and learn that the owners are friends and not a threat.
The best thing you can do with your pets is to spend time together. The cage should be located in a room where you spend a lot of time in. You can talk to your pets and feed them every day directly from your hand.
The way to a gerbil’s heart goes through the stomach. After a while, the gerbils will get used to your hand and become more and more curious. It won’t take long until the gerbils will try to explore your hand and even climb on it.
Be patient with your new pets. Every gerbil comes with a different character. Some might be very brave and super curious, while others tend to stay in the back.
It’s totally normal that it can take a while for new pets to recognize you as a friend.
But once your gerbils and you have bonded, you can pick them up, hold them in your hand, let them run free in your room (with closed doors!), build mazes and labyrinths for them, and enjoy their company.
How do You Hold a Gerbil for the First Time?
It’s important to let the gerbil come to you. Do not grab the gerbil because they can easily get scared.
Put one hand slightly scooped on the ground of the cage, with your palm facing up. If you want to encourage your gerbils a bit more to come to you, you can remove other toys from the cage. Gerbils are very curious and if your hand is the only exciting thing in the cage, they will quickly come to you.
Let the gerbils sniff your hand and climb on it, before picking it up. Some gerbils might nibble on your hand. They are not trying to bite you, they just want to see if you are eatable or not.
It is possible to hold a gerbil in one hand or in both hands. Make sure that you stay above the cage while you hold your pet gerbils for the first time. They might try to jump off and you want to make sure that they don’t escape or fall to the ground.
You can form your hands like a scoop and gently pet the gerbil behind the ears when you hold it.
Always allow the gerbil to get off the hand if it wants to. Don’t force anything and be patient with your pets.
How Long Does it Take for Gerbils to Settle in?
When you just got your new pet gerbils from the pet store or from a local breeder, you might be wondering, how long it takes for the gerbils to settle in, because you cannot wait to play with your gerbils.
As a whole, it can take anything between a few days up to a few months for gerbils to settle in and start trusting their new owner. It highly depends on their age, and if they were used to being handled before.
Gerbils from pet stores usually need more time to settle in because they are not used to being handled and might be more scared than gerbils from a local breeder.
Young gerbils of up to 2 months of age are also more likely to settle in within only one or two weeks, while older gerbils need more time to become tame.
The sooner a gerbil owner starts to tame a gerbil, and the more time he or she spends with the pets, the quicker they will settle in and become tame.
How do You Get a Gerbil to Trust You?
Gerbils make great pets, but in nature, they are prey animals. That means that they are constantly aware of any potential predators. This makes them shy pets in the beginning before they learn that there is nothing to be afraid of in their new home.
Gaining a gerbil’s trust is not too hard. They are curious animals that love to explore, play, and exercise.
You can bond with a gerbil by feeding it from the hand, letting it explore your hand, and letting it climb up on your shoulder. Make sure that the gerbils don’t slip on your clothes.
They have furry paws and cannot climb as rats or mice can.
Let your gerbils run free in a closed area and sit in that area, too, if that is possible. Make sure that the gerbils learn that you are a friend they can play with and who brings the food.
Do Gerbils Like to Cuddle With Humans?
Gerbils are highly social animals that need company and love to play and cuddle with other gerbils.
They are very energetic and even though they like to show their affection they won’t stick around on your hand or on your lap to cuddle. Some gerbils do cuddle for a short time, but this is rather rare.
What Snacks do Gerbils Eat?
Gerbils love to snack. In addition to their regular gerbil pet food, they enjoy a few treats here and there, but since gerbils are very small animals, it’s easy to overfeed them.
Fruits, vegetables, and some nuts can make great treats, as well as some insects such as mealworms, waxworms, or crickets.
As a whole, gerbils can be offered various snacks such as fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, insects, and some other things such as sugar-free cereals, unflavoured popcorn, and gerbil treats from the pet store.
If you want to give your gerbils some treats, make sure that their diet is still balanced. Too much moist food such as fruits and vegetables can lead to diarrhea. Too much food can lead to overweight.
As long as the gerbil’s diet is balanced and they don’t eat too much, it is safe to give them a variety of treats.
Treat that your gerbils will love are for example bananas, apples, unflavored cereals, mealworms, nuts, cooked eggs (don’t give them an entire egg, that’s way too much), and bread.
Lisa is one of the two founders of Animal-Knowledge. She has been very interested in animals and insects from a very young age and has owned different kinds of pets such as snails, ants, fish, turtles, mice, rats, hamsters, rabbits, a dog, … you get the idea 🙂