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Gerbil Care

So, you have decided that a gerbil is the right pet for you? Congratulations!! We here at Four Seasons Animal Hospital want to help you every step of the way in the care of your gerbil, starting with the basics.

General Behavior

Gerbils are very active, fast and rarely bite when handled correctly. When they are excited or threatened, a gerbil might stomp his paws as a sign of alarm. These animals love to climb and explore, which makes them very entertaining and fun to watch. Unlike some small herbivores that are nocturnal, gerbils are awake during the day. Never pick up a gerbil by the tail as this can result in serious injury. Always scoop him up gently around the abdomen. Your gerbil’s food dish often will be covered in bedding material. It’s his way of hiding his food, a common trait of this lovable animal. Gerbils love to chew on just about anything. It’s a good idea to provide hay, empty toilet paper rolls or an untreated wood block to satisfy this need for chewing. Some of your gerbil’s behaviors are rather strange. You might notice him eating his own droppings, for example. This is a natural behavior and a good way for gerbils to receive extra vitamins and nutrients.

Housing

Gerbils love to burrow, climb, dig and explore. Clear glass or plastic aquariums prevent bedding from getting kicked out, as with a wire cage, and allow burrowing in deep bedding material. The clear sides allow you to watch during your gerbil’s playtime! Oxbow offers Eco-Straw, a perfect hay-based bedding for gerbils. Avoid aromatic cedar and pine shaving beddings. They contain resins that might irritate your gerbil’s skin and lungs. Be creative when setting up your gerbil’s home. Decorate with boxes, cardboard tubes, an exercise wheel and hay to provide opportunities for play and exercise. Grass hays can be an important addition to your gerbil’s home, because they are ideal nesting, digging, tunneling and burrowing materials. Gerbils love to chew on the hay and move it around during playtime.

Keep at least two of these Oxbow varieties of grass hay on hand: Western Timothy, Orchard Grass, Alfalfa Hay, Brome Hay, Botanical Hay and Oat Hay.

Make sure you have these supplies for your gerbil:

• Large glass or plastic aquarium

• Hide box such as Oxbow’s Timothy Club bungalow or tunnel

• Tubes and toys

• Exercise wheel

• Oxbow’s Eco-Straw or other litter or bedding

• Water bottle

• Heavy food bowl

• Oxbow’s Healthy Handfuls or other fortified food

• Nesting Material

Nutrition

It’s important to feed your pet correctly to keep him from getting fat and unhealthy. Gerbils are herbivores, which means they eat only plant material. Your gerbil requires a simple diet of kibble or block food, plus clean water. Gerbils drink very little water. However, fresh water always should be available in a sipper bottle. A complete fortified kibble or block form of feed is better than mixes, because they prevent your pet from picking out favorite pieces and leaving healthy pieces behind. The best kibble and block contain all-natural grass and whole grain ingredients, with a shape ideal for nibbling to promote healthy teeth. Oxbow makes Healthy Handfuls especially for gerbils. Treats and Veggies Treats are a great way to bond with your gerbil. You love giving treats and he loves eating them! However, the main purpose of a treat should be to encourage interaction between you and your pet. Offering too many treats can lead to obesity and other health problems and rob animals of nutrition. Contrary to popular belief, your gerbil doesn’t need a steady supply of carrots, honey sticks or fruit. Sunflower seeds in particular are high in fat. Offer healthy treats only after your pet eats basic foods. Gerbils may have vegetables and fruits, but these should be considered treats and not a staple in your pet’s diet. Be sure to give only very small amounts. As with any new food, introduce new vegetables slowly to avoid upsetting your gerbil’s stomach and causing diarrhea.

Last but certainly not least: When selecting your pet, make sure to ask if the gerbil is male or female. They reproduce quickly!!

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