A pet gerbil is an attractive option for those looking for a small animal companion. Gerbils are small, weighing only about 2.5 ounces, and their care is relatively inexpensive. But a pet gerbil does come with some special needs.

There are over 100 species of gerbils in the world today. They were originally called “desert rats” because they are adapted to arid climates in the wild. Gerbils back legs are much longer than their front legs, making them great jumpers. They love to dig and make tunnels. They are intelligent, curious about their surroundings and very social. Gerbils hate being alone and wild gerbils live in groups. Male gerbils make very good fathers and help to raise their offspring. A pet gerbil is typically non-aggressive and rarely bites unless provoked.

What is Needed

gerbil in cage

  • A 10 gallon glass aquarium because you’re going to have more than one pet gerbil, right? And an escape-proof wire lid to cover the top. An aquarium is less messy than than a wire cage as your gerbil will kick up a lot of bedding while digging. The aquarium needs to be kept away from direct sunlight. If you prefer a wire cage, consider one with a solid wall on the bottom like the cage on the right.
  • The bedding material can be hay, soil or peat. You can buy bedding at your local pet supply store or on Chewy.com.
  • A water bottle needs to be available at all times. Change the water daily and clean the inside of the bottle once a week to avoid slime build up.
  • A heavy, ceramic food dish.
  • Commercial gerbil chow along with limited amounts of vegetables and fruits. Your pet gerbil can chomp happily on apples, oranges, cucumbers, broccoli, carrots, melon, cauliflower and pumpkin. Some things gerbils CANNOT eat are grapes, raisins and potatoes. This is not by any means a complete list. For more check MyGerbil.
  • An exercise wheel – for fun and exercise!
  • Sand – in a wide, flat container. Try a clay flower pot bottom.
  • Chew toys – gerbils are voracious chewers, so buy acceptable chew sticks to satisfy this desire.

Do You Have Time for Your Pet Gerbil?

As mentioned before, your pet gerbil is a very social creature. So you should make time to interact with it daily. Also, consider getting another gerbil for company (of the same gender, of course, unless you want a population explosion). Introduce them slowly and carefully to make sure they get along.

Your pet gerbil’s home requires a weekly cleaning and change of bedding. Use a solution of water and 3% bleach to wipe the entire inside walls and floor, then dry completely before adding fresh bedding. You will need to remove any wet spots daily.

One final note: Gerbils are illegal to own in California, Hawaii and New Zealand where they are considered to be a potentially invasive species.

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