|Gerbils are social, athletic, active, curious, bold, and extremely cute little rodents. Gerbils live in "clans" or family units of two or more. They are ready to come out and play any time day or night and can take a lot of handling. They like to gnaw cardboard and dig tunnels.
Gerbils handled gently and from a young age enjoy people and handling and will beg to come out. If you don't have the time to play every day, that's okay too. Although people are fun, great playgrounds, and fine food dispensers, gerbils have their cagemate for company too. If your gerbils are handled too infrequently, they will become less tame. Gerbils appreciate a run outside their tank in a gerbil-proofed room at least once a week.
It is best to get your gerbil pair very young (5-7 weeks), ideally from a breeder who has been handling the gerbil since birth, to get the most friendly and people-oriented pet. A young gerbil is about 75% the size of an adult and is not filled out (skinny and light weight).
Gerbils are easy to care for and inexpensive to house (a 10 gallon tank with cover, water bottle, and plenty of cardboard and home made toys is the perfect setup for a pair).They are practically odorless and being desert animals produce very little liquid waste -- they can easily go two weeks or three between tank cleaning.
Gerbils are amusing to watch and make for plenty of great photo opportunities.
|Questions & Answers:
Q: Do gerbils smell?
A: Smell -- The fur has an extremely faint hay/kennel smell, similar to bunny fur. They are the least smelly of the pet rodents and quite kissable. They urinate infrequently and the smell of the urine is mild (less than a dog, no sign of the amonia like a cat or hamster). Solid waste is small and hard and is usually restricted to one area.
Q: How hard are gerbils to take care of?
A: Very easy. They are clean, produce little wastes, and being social animals that live in clans they enjoy, but do not demand a great deal of human attention. You give them a seed mix in a bowl every other day and throw in something for them to gnaw up. You only need to clean out the tank every 2-3 weeks (put them in a run-around ball, dump the whole contents in the trash and refill with 3'' of bedding and new cardboard); even at the three week cleaning the cage is mild smelling -- it is equivalent to a 5 day old hamster cage. You do need to check the water bottle every day; if they kick all the litter in a pile under the water bottle, the water bottle will run dry. If you need to leave your gerbils home alone overnight or for a weekend, give them a piece of apple as a backup water source. If you are breeding gerbils or have several clans, maintenance shoots up.
Q: Do gerbils bite?
A: Biting -- If you get a young, healthy, nice gerbil, you shouldn't have to worry about this. You need to get a gerbil with a good temperament. When you put your hand in the tank, the gerbils should come over and sniff and investigate. If you have to pursue the gerbil he should willingly allow you to corner him and pick him up without racing around the tank or flinching or leaping when touched. He certainly should not nip or bite you.
There are three main reason a nice gerbil will bite. Biting #1 An extreme stress/fear reaction -- leave your gerbil alone during and after transport/shipping. To recapture your gerbil do not grab him from behind (this kicks off a preditor-prey fear reaction), place your hands, a box, tube or a towel in front of him so he sees it coming and runs into in. Biting #2 Repeated rough handling (dropping, swinging, grabbing, squeezing, etc.) can lead to a gerbil that nips. Biting #3 Breaking up a gerbil fight. Never mix gerbils from different tanks/clans! They will violently attack the stranger gerbil and you could get bit (badly) in the fight. It is a good habit to wash your hands between playing with gerbils housed in different tanks. Finally, if your gerbil is showing signs of distress -- squeaking, butting your hand, or struggling -- respect this and stop whatever you are doing to him. Baby gerbils often mouth or taste you which is exploratory behavior not aggression.
Q: How do you "hold" a gerbil?
A: Handling -- Let the gerbil see your hands coming when you take him out of the tank; rest your hand in the tank for several minutes and see if he'll climb onto it. Otherwise, the two handed scoop up works best. Once he's out, let him run/explore your hands, arms (hold them in a craddling position up tight against your body), chest, shoulders, and climb right into your (tucked in) shirt to run around inside for a while. Don't hold your gerbil still. When you are learning to handle gerbils, you might want to sit with them in a tub lined with a big towel (but no water of course!) Never hold or pull the tail; it will break off.
Q: Should I get girls or boys?
A:That is a personal perference. Females are dominant in the species. So they are "more" -- more curious, more bold, more gerbil-agressive. Males are more subdued. I have a personal preference for females. If you want to keep a large clan (more than 2-3), males are strongly recommended so that fighting does not break out. It is much easier to introduce a pup to a solitary male. Many people like boys better.
Need more information? Go to http://www.rodent.demon.co.uk/gerbils/gerbfaq.htm
And find out whether your gerbil is a boy or a girl -- 2.4 How do you sex gerbils?
How to introduce two gerbils -- 2.7 How do I introduce a new gerbil to my old one?
What to feed your gerbils -- 4.1 What do I feed my gerbils? And many, many other important gerbil facts.