Thursday, June 6, 2013

Gerbil: Mindless-Chewing-Machine? Or Awesome Pet?

In my previous post I introduced you to my friend's gerbils who I am taking care of for a couple weeks while he goes out of state. I also promised a post about gerbil care. Here it is! :))

What Is A Gerbil?
A gerbil is a hamster with a tail! Just kidding. Gerbils are rodents. They have relatively short fur that varies in colors and patterns. Gerbils can be either crepuscular or nocturnal. Their body is usually 5-6 inches, 12, including the tail. They typically live around 4-5 years and are a rather hardy pet. The average adult gerbil weighs around 2.5 ounces. The thing that most sets them apart from hamsters is their tails! Gerbils have long, fur covered tails which most people either adore, or are disgusted by.

Gerbils are curious little creatures that will chew anything and everything they can get their teeth on! They are very active and love to run on a wheel and dig through bedding. They are also rather smart little creatures. Gerbils can be trained to do tricks and run obstacle courses. They are best kept in same sex pairs. (Never keep a male and female gerbil together as they are ridiculously fast breeders)

Many people think gerbils are dirty creatures. But there actually very clean! They do not have an odor and their urine does not smell. They are very good at keeping their fur cleaned as well. If kept in same sex pairs, you will probably notice them grooming each other!

There are even Gerbil Shows! You know....Like Dog Shows? People raise and enter gerbils in these shows to show the world just how amazing their furry little friends are! Sounds awesome right?
Is a Gerbil the right pet for me?
There are many questions to answer before you decide to adopt a Gerbil!
*Do you live in a rent house or an apartment where you have a landlord? If so, check with them first to make sure small animals are allowed in your home. There may be a security deposit and/or additional rent required. Make sure your budget will allow for this.
*Do you have time in your schedule to properly care for this little bundle of joy? Do you have room in your budget for all of it's expenses?*Do you have a safe area in your home for a roomy cage?*Do you have any other pets or small children that may harm or scare the gerbil?
*It is illegal to own gerbils in some states and countries due to their quick reproducing rate. Make sure you do not live where it is illegal to own a gerbil before getting one!

Gerbil Must Haves!
Gerbils are very popular little pets! To properly care for a Gerbil, you will need these things!

Cage/Habitat: Gerbils seems similar to hamsters right? Can't I put a gerbil in a hamster cage? NO. Hamster and mouse cages are not gerbil friendly. Gerbils chew much more than hamsters and mice and are more likely to completely destroy a cage designed with hamsters and mice in mind. They also need to create their own tunnels instead of playing in human made plastic tunnels that they will chew to pieces. Your best bet for a gerbil cage is to get a tank (around 10 gallons) and put a wire high rise on top of it. You can fill the bottom of the cage with bedding for burrowing and place food, water and a wheel at the top on the high rise. There are also specially designed gerbil cages you can buy. Just make sure the cage is roomy and chew proof. You will need to put a large amount of bedding in your cage. (If using a tank with a high rise, it is a good idea to fill the tank at least half way with bedding for them to burrow and make tunnels in.) Aspen wood and paper bedding work best.

Food: Gerbils gotta eat! Feed them gerbil food! You can purchase gerbil food at almost any pet store. The best is a mixture of seeds and pellets. They should get fresh gerbil food every day. You can also feed them Timothy Hay, Millet Snips, Wood Chews, certain fresh fruits, certain fresh vegetables, and a variety of treats.

Food Bowl and Water Bottle:  I would recommend a small ceramic bowl for your gerbil's food. Ceramic bowls are chew proof and are heavy so they won't be turned over easily. Gerbils should be given fresh water daily and it should be offered from a water bottle, never a bowl. Gerbils should never get wet or be allowed to drink dirty water and a bowl of water will make both of these possible. Glass, chew proof bottles work best.

Running Wheel/flying saucer: Since gerbils have a lot of energy to burn they need a wheel to run on. The wheel should not have openings as the gerbil can get his/her tail and feet caught in it. Chew proof wheels are available, though a bit harder to find and often more pricey, but they are worth it.

House: Chew proof houses can be purchased for little hide outs. They are often made of ceramic. Wooden houses work well too, though not entirely chew proof. The house should be big enough to allow each gerbil (if keeping more than one) to fit in comfortably together.

Baths: Gerbils enjoy sand baths once in a while! Not only do sand baths make your furry pet super soft, they are also fun to watch! You will need bath sand and a bath house or small bowl. Simply place the sand in the house/bowl and let your gerbil dig and roll around! It's actually really cute. Just remember you should never bathe a gerbil with water.

In a nutshell, gerbils are hardy pets that aren't that hard to take care of. They make wonderful companions and are smart to boot! So the next time your considering adding a new member to the family, think of the gerbils! Later guys!

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