Gerbils

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Gerbils

Post by CallaLily on Mon Apr 24, 2017 6:40 pm

I'm considering keeping gerbils - not anytime soon but maybe a few years down the road.  Of course I'm going to do my own research but I know there are a few gerbil parents here, so I thought I'd start a thread.

Things like:

  • What size/type enclosure is recommended?

  • How are they as pets in comparison to mice or hamsters?

  • How many recommended to a group?

  • Any difference between males and females, personality-wise?  Smell?

  • Any nutrition/care info or websites you'd like to share would be great!


Thanks!

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Re: Gerbils

Post by AnonymousMouseOwner on Mon Apr 24, 2017 6:50 pm

I don't know much about gerbils because they are illegal here, but I do know one thing - They are strongly recommended to be kept in pairs that were raised together from birth. From what I've heard, they are social, but very hard to introduce. Introductions take time and patience. But don't take my word for it, that's just what I've gotten from reading posts on various pet forums.

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Re: Gerbils

Post by River on Mon Apr 24, 2017 7:41 pm

Anon is correct! They do great in pairs but are incredibly hard to introduce. Siblings work best.

I've heard a ton of forums say a 10 gallon works, but they're so energetic, it looks so small! I would go no smaller than 20 gallons, but bigger is better.

I have only had females...I know Rodents Rock has/had males, so maybe they can give a tip about it! I don't remember much smell, maybe equal to the mice.

That's all I can offer, though. Its been a while...RR will have some advice, surely.
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Re: Gerbils

Post by Rodents rock! on Mon Apr 24, 2017 8:42 pm

Hi, I've kept gerbils on and off for years. I prefer males as I feel they are friendlier than the females. Although that isn't 100%. Years ago I did have a female that was very sweet. The two gerbils I've recently had/have are males. Pip and Pup. Pip passed away this past December (of old age). I still have Pup, he is an old man but still doing good. I had gotten Pip from the Humane Society. I didn't want him to be alone, so I did some research on introducing hamsters. Believe it or not, it's easier to introduce a male to a male then a female to a female. And it's easier to introduce a young male gerbil. So I contacted a breeder and arranged to get a baby boy for Pip. I named the baby Pup, since that's what baby gerbils are called and because it went good with the name Pip! Pup was about 8 weeks old when I got him. To introduce gerbils, it's recommended to do the split cage method. Which is putting a barrier down the center of the cage that allows the gerbils to see and smell each other, but they can't get at each other. This can take anywhere from a couple of days, to weeks, to months. Or it can end up to where they may never be able to be put together. Pip was very interested in Pup, and didn't show any signs of aggression at all. So the following day I removed the divider and Pip immediately started grooming Pup, that was his little baby! Pip so enjoyed grooming Pup that I think Pup was getting a little tired of it! LOL LOL they were inseparable from the get go and continued that way till Pip passed away. Pip was always the nest maker, as he continued his role as caretaker of Pup the rest of their time together. After Pip passed away, Pup had to start making his own nests, and the were really sloppy to begin with, but he figured it out and now makes nice nests. Pip was such a wonderfully sweet little man with a heart of gold and I miss him very much. Two gerbils can live in a 10 gallon tank, but I've had them in a bin cage and I've had them in a twenty gallon long tank. They did well in both. They are active, so the more room the better in my opinion. And they like deep substrate as they love to dig. I feed the National Geographic Gerbil/Hamster food and mix in some Organic "rice crispies". As far as smell, they don't smell at all. They are similar to Hamsters in that respect, that they only need to be cleaned out about every 3 weeks. They love to run on wheels and they love to chew. They are wonderful pets!

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Re: Gerbils

Post by Peachy on Mon Apr 24, 2017 10:00 pm

I did most of my gerbil studying at The Gerbil Forum. They have a lot of informative stickies throughout all the sections.

My girls were friendly, enjoyed getting treats (pumpkin seeds and Cheerios were their favorites) and appreciated free ranging in the bathroom. They didn't like to be picked up, and that seems pretty typical for gerbils... they're similar to mice in that they're not the super-cuddly, sit-still-for-pets type of pets. That makes them lots of fun to try to catch! Teehee The first time I tried to scoop up a gerbil, she simply walked right out of my hands.

A 10 gallon for two (and two is most often recommended, though I've seen three together also) is okay, but a lot of owners use toppers with 10 gallons because of how much gerbils like to dig and rearrange their stuff... a topper makes it much easier to keep basics like wheels, bottles, and dishes clean while allowing the gerbils to have deep enough substrate. My girls LOVED when I put boxes, egg cartons, drink holders and TP tubes (cut them length wise so they don't get stuck) at the bottom and then added 6-8 inches of bedding (they preferred aspen) on top.

I used a bin cage their whole lives, and added a homemade topper after about a year. This thread at The Gerbil Forum has a lot of examples of environments, with and without toppers (both store bought and homemade):
http://gerbilforum.proboards.com/thread/19030/gerbil-housing-pictures-ii

I never really noticed any smell. Cleaning them every 3-4 weeks is typically recommended because they don't make much of a mess, and they don't smell much, and they don't like it when you ruin their hardwork. Razz


The only thing that really makes me hesitate to get more gerbils is that they linger so long when they're dying. My first gerbil death, it was the mother in my mother-daughter pair, and she wanted to be held, but not out of the cage... so I sat next to their cage for four hours and she sat in my hand at the bottom of her bin. When I tried to put her to bed with her daughter, she freaked out and started running around the cage, then ran into a wall and passed. Sad When Polly passed a couple years later, it was just as slow and heartbreaking.
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Re: Gerbils

Post by Rodents rock! on Mon Apr 24, 2017 10:32 pm

Hi Peachy,

Sorry your gerbils lingered when passing, that is very sad and I'm sure very difficult to watch.

I had a single make gerbil that had passed before I got Pip and Pup. His name was Buddy. He was about 3 years old when he passed. He had slowed down as he aged. One evening he looked like he was having a seizure, but he came out of it. He passed that night, overnight, as I found him that way the next morning. So I was relieved it wasn't too long.

Pip seemed to have what looked like multiple seizures and passed within an hour or so. I was glad he didn't linger either.

Pip loved to come out and sit on my shoulder. Pup doesn't really like being picked up but he loves attention and when I talk to him he sits up on his hind legs, looks up at me and listens to what I have to say. Very Happy

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Re: Gerbils

Post by River on Mon Apr 24, 2017 11:42 pm

Oddly enough, the majority of my rodents (Graham less so) have been super cuddly, though from what I've gathered that's not the norm. I guess I've just been lucky, but you might just happen across a cuddly gerbil. Who knows!


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Re: Gerbils

Post by CallaLily on Tue Apr 25, 2017 7:19 am

Thank you for all the tips and stories!

Peachy, you mentioned they prefer aspen. But they'd be ok with a paper bedding, right? We can't do aspen because of allergies.

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Re: Gerbils

Post by Rodents rock! on Tue Apr 25, 2017 9:13 am

@River wrote:Oddly enough, the majority of my rodents (Graham less so) have been super cuddly, though from what I've gathered that's not the norm. I guess I've just been lucky,  but you might just happen across a cuddly gerbil. Who knows!


Pip was the only cuddly gerbil I ever had. Smile

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Re: Gerbils

Post by Rodents rock! on Tue Apr 25, 2017 9:14 am

@CallaLily wrote:Thank you for all the tips and stories!  

Peachy, you mentioned they prefer aspen. But they'd be ok with a paper bedding, right?   We can't do aspen because of allergies.  

I use Carefresh paper bedding for my gerbil. Very Happy

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Re: Gerbils

Post by Peachy on Tue Apr 25, 2017 10:26 am

My girls liked aspen because it held deep tunnels well. I didn't find that was true with Carefresh or shredded paper bedding, but I bet if you added enough cardboard (and perhaps hay?) it would be plenty supportive. Boxes and stuff under the bedding will help, too.


Somehow the aspen always ended up in much smaller pieces than what it started. But that was true of everything. They completely shredded everything, into teensy pieces. Made for a fun guessing game at cleaning time. Razz
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Re: Gerbils

Post by CallaLily on Tue Apr 25, 2017 10:41 am

Thanks again!

What sparked my interest is there was this adorable little guy at a Petco that's around 40 minutes away from me.  I don't know what varieties they come in but he was almost like a champagne color with ruby eyes. He was all by himself, and very busy digging in his ceramic acorn until he noticed me watching. He seemed a little skittish but eventually came over to the glass to check me out. I was walking around, just looking. I needed bedding but for whatever reason my usual bag was more expensive at this store than the one closer to me. But anyway, I kept coming back around to him and he'd poke his head out of the acorn and look at me, then slowly creep out to get a better look.  He was such a curious little guy. I never paid much attention to gerbils before,  but this little guy makes me think I've been missing out on another great rodent. Love

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Re: Gerbils

Post by Rodents rock! on Tue Apr 25, 2017 1:27 pm

I have a soft spot in my heart for gerbils. When I was in my twenties, I had a male and a female gerbil and of course ended up with babies! It was a fun experience to see the babies being born and growing up.  My Tasha was such a good mommy!

After a few litters, I didn't breed them anymore.  I kept the original Mom and Dad (in separate tanks of course!) and I kept the 1st three boys from Tasha's first litter.  So I had the Dad, Charlie, and the three kids, Frick, Frack, and Runt together in a tank. The other offspring I gave to a friend, I worked with at the time, for her kids.

After they had all passed away, I had taken a break from gerbils and started back up with just males when I was in my forties - and now I'm 52 and still have Pup Love

Back in my twenties when I had my gerbils - I used the corn cobb bedding - as there was no such thing as Carefresh back then - LOL LOL

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Re: Gerbils

Post by Colors on Tue May 23, 2017 7:07 pm

I'm new to gerbil care, but I'm always researching ways to be a better gerbil mommy Smile I have two female gerbils named Amber and Bailey. They live in a ten gallon aquarium with a mesh lid (made for reptiles) Of course it's better to have a larger enclosure than I have. I hope to upgrade sometime in the future to a twenty gallon or bin cage. I wanted to get males because I read they are so much more calm than females are (which I could totally believe, my females are so hyper), but the pet store didn't have any. With females, you have to give them lots of things to do or they'll become extremely bored and destructive of their tank. (If there's plastic on the rim of your aquariums, they'll chew it if they get bored.) Diet is pretty much the same as a mouse or hamster, a commercial mix is perfectly fine if you check the ingredients. I actually feed them guinea pig food and supplements. Females require so much mind stimulation that you need to give them time out of the cage if it's not very spacious. I give my females lots of time out of their tank several times a week, but it's better to let them out daily for 30-60 mins of supervised playtime. Cardboard tubes are their absolute favorite thing and they'll demolish them in minutes. Stock up on cardboard tubes and boxes if you plan on getting them, they'll be too bored without them XD People say wheels aren't necessary, but for my energetic females... it's a must. The problem with a 10g aquarium filled halfway full of boxes and critter care bedding is that there isn't room for one unless you take out stuff. That's where free-range time comes in Smile

In the wild gerbils like to tunnel, their natural instinct is to dig, dig, dig! So make sure the bedding is somewhat deep. You can create one side of the tank as a burrow and the other as a exercise/feeding station. A dust bath is also necessary occasionally (every week or so, depending on how often you clean the tank) to keep their coats clean from oil. Don't keep dust baths inside the tank though because they can cause respiratory disease with prolonged exposure. **edit: I forgot to add bedding! I used to use Aspen shavings but then Amber developed a respiratory infection. I couldn't take her to the vet, so I tried something else. I sprinkled Oregano on the bottom of her tank, and she got better in three days. She kept getting the symptoms back for a while but I was consistent with my 'treatment' and changed her bedding to Critter Care (like carefresh but is grayish brown) Now both of my gerbils haven't gotten any URI symptoms in weeks, and I haven't changed the bedding for about a month.

Pm me if you'd like me to send some website links and give you some more things that I've learned, this post is already too long XD


Last edited by Gimme_Cheese on Tue May 23, 2017 7:12 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : BEDDING!)
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Re: Gerbils

Post by Rodents rock! on Tue May 23, 2017 9:09 pm

Only one of my gerbils didn't care for a wheel, but all my other gerbils loved their wheels. Pup, being an old man, will still run on his wheel though not as much as he did in his younger days. Make sure to use Chinchilla sand, not Chinchilla dust. The dust is too fine for gerbils and can cause respiratory problems. With gerbils, though a ten gallon tank is fine, I believe the bigger the better for gerbils as the are very active and love to dig. So it's nice to be able to section off part of the enclosure for extra deep bedding.

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