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Care of your Gerbil



     The Mongolian gerbil is an animal native to China and Mongolia.  The gerbil is adapted to the desert climate, which is why it produces very little urine (their floor’s litter is rarely very wet).  Agouti, a pattern of a light stomach and dark back, is the most common color.  Most gerbils weighs 2?4 ounces (65?120 grams), with the males being larger than the females.  This pet is very adapted to jumping, which needs to be considered when housing the gerbil.

     The average gerbil lives 2?4 years.  It is a very curious animal that likes to try and get out and explore.  Rarely does a gerbil bite.  The adult gerbils will fight each other if they are not used to being together.  The gerbils are a rare type of rodent; they have monogamous pairing (male and female will mate and stay together).  Should you desire to breed the gerbils, you will want to pair up the pups before 2 months of age.

     It is best to house a gerbil in an aquarium or similar container with a lid.  The height should be at least 12 inches, and a solid floor is advised.  Cedar, redwood, other aromatic wood shavings and pine shavings from non-kiln dried lumber can cause pneumonia problems and are not recommended for bedding, although aspen shavings are fine to use.  Like hamsters, they like toys and exploring different items in their pen.  Feed a rodent food, and you can just leave it out all the time.  A normal gerbil eats 5?7 grams of food daily.  Daily look to ensure that there are some new stools and that the water is being consumed, especially if using a water bottle.  Feeding raisins is not recommended at all.  Fermentable items, such as raisins and seeds can contribute to bacterial overgrowths of toxin-producing bacteria; raisins and grapes are also toxic to dogs.  As a general rule gerbils and other pocket pets should not have seeds or especially fruit as over 5% of their diet.  Water should always be provided.  When excited or threatened, a gerbil will stomp its foot (as if to warn others).  It can be common to see a gerbil so scarred that they will go into a seizure.

     A gerbil is a spontaneous ovulator, which means that the female does not ovulate till after breeding.  Occasionally, a false pregnancy can occur at 13?18 days after breeding.  Pregnancy lasts usually 24?26 days.  Four to six pups are a normal litter size.  You can wean the babies at around 3 weeks of age.  Remember to pair up the young, and that adults and growing pups can fight if still kept together as a “family”.

     Gerbils are interesting pets that do not take much time.  There are no vaccines, although we do advise a fecal examination for internal parasites for most all animals, including gerbils.  Overall the diseases of Bordetella pneumonias, Strep. lymphadenitis, bumble foot, tapeworms, epilepsy, demodex and sarcoptic mange are fairly rare.


The Staff at the Nelson Road Veterinary Clinic







  Product     1         2         3         4*  

Protein        16%       16        15        15% 

Fat            5         6         6         4.5%

Fiber         10        10        13        10-15%

Moisture      –         13%       –         –

Vitamin A  3,000 IU/kg  8,300     15,000    19,000 IU/kg

Calcium,      0.8-1.3%  0.8-1.3   –         0.6-1%   

Phosphorus    0.5%      0.45      –         0.5%

Salt           0.4-0.9%  0.5-1     –         –

Sodium      0.15-0.65%  0.2-0.7   –         –   

Potassium     –         –         –         –

Vitamin C      –    Vitamin C is not required –

Vitamin D3    –         –         –      1,500 IU/kg

Vitamin E     –         –         –       100 IUI/kg

Copper (sulfate)-       –       15 mg/kg   20 ppm        

Ash           –         –         10%       10%


1 kg = 2.2#


Product and 1st 4 ingredients

#1 = Little Wonders (Purina) for hamsters & gerbils – wheat middlings,

     whole corn, striped sunflower seeds, whole red wheat

#2 = Garden Recipe (Purina) for hamsters & gerbils – dehulled soybean

     meal, whole red wheat, wheat middlings, whole milo

#3 = Pretty Pets –

#4 = Oxbow’s Hamster & Gerbil, Essentials – timothy meal, pearled barley

     (rolled), oat groats, flax seed meal


* A product we recommend


Diets with seeds; not recommended:

     Carefresh Complete for hamsters and gerbils

     Wild Harvest


We recommend a pelleted diet because they are complete diets.  If you look at any dog, cat or even poultry diets they take that extra step to pelletize the diet for a very good reason.  Gerbils eating a diet with seeds in it will only eat specific seeds and not always the whole selection of seeds, let alone the vitamins or minerals which have been sprayed onto the outside of a seed hull that thus needs to be eaten.