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Gerbil Care Guide - The Best Rodents In Town.
Member Name: TommoNewton
Advantages: Very clean , Odourless , Very Rarely Bite , Very Curios , Love Humans.
Disadvantages: I dont think Gerbils have a disadvantage !
Equipped with a loving stare and cute long tail , Seeing a Gerbil makes people fall in love. But Many People dont know anything about these little creatures , so this article is going to try and teach you about Gerbil basics.
How Do Gerbils Live In The Wild ?
In the wild gerbils live in the deserts of Mongolia the habitat is a sandy grassland with little vegetation. The desert lacks rainfall and the temperatures can range enormously between seasons and parts of the day. Gerbils survive mainly in the wild due to their burrowing instincts , the burrows protects them from the extreme temperature drops and rises and will maintain the correct temperature. The Gerbils burrow contains a complex network of tunnels with separate chambers for they're food and they're nest. The Gerbil has evolved to survive on a small amount of water and food ( this is why gerbils don't drink a lot ) There long back legs help them cover large areas of space to search for food , these legs also enable them to get away from predators. Gerbils do not sweat and due to there minimal food and water intake they produce small amounts of waste , therefore being clean animals. Gerbils live in large colonies and are extremely sociable animals ( reccomended to keep them in pairs of the same sex ) They are very territorial and rarely accept outsiders. The Gerbils natural instincts tell them to forage for food and to burrow therefore they will need at least 8 inches of bedding you can bury food around they're tanks to give them something fun to do. Gerbils teeth grow constantly and can be painful if they are to long , this is why you need to provide cardboard and wooden items for them to gnaw on.
How Many Gerbils ?
Gerbils Should Be kept in pairs or groups , they are very sociable creatures and if they live on their own they will become bored and depressed.
Where Should Gerbils Be Housed ?
Tanks are a very popular option because they give the best of both worlds. If you make a mesh and wood lid for the tank like shown in the picture then it provides enough ventilation and a tank can provide adequate digging space for gerbils. A pair of gerbils will need a minimum of 20 gallons ( it is reccomended you keep them in pairs ) Unlike most animals bigger is not always better I reccomend 20-50 Gallons any smaller and they will be bored and may opt to fight to cure that boredom. Any bigger and they may split into different separate colonies and become territorial over ' they're ' space , therefore causing them to fight. New tanks can cost alot so buying second hand on ebay is a great way to keep the costs down. You can pick up 20 gallon tanks for under £20 , often you can find tanks without a lid which will be knocked down in price.
Toppers are a wooden and mesh ( or just mesh ) structure that sit on top of the tank ( hence the name topper ) They are a great way of giving your gerbil more space by expanding upwards. They have a door on one or two sides to provide easy access. Its also a great way to keep all the essential items ( bowls , bottles etc ) above the bedding so they cannot kick the bedding into the bowl. The Topper has a frame which sits inside the tank snuggle so it isn't to loose and isn't to tight , it should come of and go back in with little effort. A quick search of the Internet should provide many articles and guides on how to build a topper. Make sure you use small spaced mesh and untreated wood , also if you use glue make sure it is non toxic , you don't want your little guys getting hurt !
What Bedding ?
Gerbils are natural burrowers so to give them only a inch of bedding will make them frustrated and angry. They should have atleast 5 inches of bedding although my personal minimum is 8 inches. Its amazing watching gerbils dig to make a labyrinth under ground ! Lots of bedding helps them keep occupied and lets them fur-fill theyre instincts. So you may be wondering what bedding do i reccomend ? Well theyre is no correct answer to that question but ill provide you with some information to make your own choice.
Wood Shavings - Wood shavings are probably the least expensive bedding of all you can get huge bags for £15. It looks nice and smells pretty good. Gerbils can get sore noses from shavings so watch out for that. The Shavings are pretty absorbent but not the best absorbing substance. It can also trigger asthma but ive been fine with it , although my asthma is only mild.
CareFresh - Carefresh bedding can be expensive and very dusty and it also makes tunnelling hard for your gerbils. It can set asthma of and probably isn't worth the hastle.
MegaZorb - Megazorb can be hard to source and can be pricey. It has very little dust and is quite absorbent. It is quite ugly to look at and comes in huge sacks so if you have limited storage then it can be a problem.
Sand - Although sand is the gerbils natural bedding in the wild it isnt pratical or nessecary in captivity. Store Bought sand is very different to the sands of the mongolian desert. The sand can be cold on gerbils and is hard to dig in if it is not damp. It gets smelly pretty quickly and needs to be baked before use . Good quality sand can be expensive however it can be baked and reused a few times
Aspen - Aspen is considered the holy grail of bedding and is my personal preference. It is absorbent , nice smelling and very nice to look at. The gerbils love it and can make great tunnels out of it as it holds very well. It can be expensive but if you buy in bulk then you can make good savings. So if you want my opinion then i reccomend aspen.
What Else should i mix in with my bedding ?
So you may ask , what else should i mix in ? The answer is hay and toilet paper tissue. They hay can be used as nesting material and is a great chew toy. The tissue is shredded up and used as nesting materials your gerbils will often run through the tissue and then tear it up. You can buy hay in bluk for around £10 a big bale and you can pick up 6 toilet paper tubes from a 99p shop.
What Toys Should Gerbils Have ?
So you may see coloured plastic toys in a shop and think ' aw thats cute i will buy it ' STOP , gerbils are chewers and it inevitable that they will chew it , now this is not an issue with cardboard and untreated wood but plastic is dangerous , it can clog in the digestive system and can seriously injure or kill a gerbil so bare that in mind while buying toys.
You can buy your gerbils all fancy toys but all they ever want is cardboard ! So lets have a look at some good ideas.
Cardboard - Cardboard is the cheapest and best toy for gerbils. With toilet paper tubes they can run through it , chew it and even use it to hold up tunnels. Small cardboard boxes can also be stuffed with toilet paper , hay and bedding with treats so that they can dig to find them , they will also demolish the box ! Gerbils can demolish a toilet paper tube in 5 minutes so be sure to ask friends and family to collect for you so you dont run out , the best thing about cardboard is it is free , Result !
Wheels - I only reccomend leaving a wheel in for a hour a day max. If you leave it in to long it will become addictive and the gerbils will need to run on it to get its fix. The wheel should be mesh with small spaces between each square of mesh. The bigger the space the bigger the risk of your gerbils breaking a leg or toe. A good wheel like this can cost from £10-£20.
What Does My Gerbils Behaviour Mean ?
Play Fighting - This shouldnt not be confused with proper fighting , play fighting sorts of dominance in young gerbils without full fighting , play fighting should not draw blood.
Boxing - Gerbils Stand on their hind legs and push eachother , this is boxing. It sorts out dominance without needing to fight.
Kissing - Gerbils kiss when they meet for the first time and sometimes when they meet in the middle of the tank. Gerbils transmit messages such as gender and dominance through theyre saliva , this is perfectly normal.
Hiding Food From Friend - Gerbils will often take a tasty treat from you and run into a hiding place and turn its back to its friend. Its a natural instinct to keep the food safe from other gerbils , its a survival tactic but it can be amusing to watch them try to steal eachothers food.
Scent Marking - Scent marking is whe gerbils drag their stomach along the floor or on new items. This is letting other gerbil clans know that they shouldnt not go there. It is usually done by the dominant gerbil
Storing Food - When cleaning out your tank you may find a storage chamber with your gerbils favourite snacks in it. This is a natural thing for the gerbils to do in the wild , its what helps them get through winter by storing it for a later date.
Licking The Glass of the tank - Gerbils lick the tank when they need to get water or if they havent worked out how to use the bottle , if you see this then check if the water bottle is still working.
Thumping - Gerbils will stamp their feet very quickly in a few short sharp bursts , this is to warn other gerbils that there may be danger.
What Food Should i Feed ?
Gerri Gerbil is a great food because it balances out all the the nutritional needs of a gerbil However ,
I make my own gerbil food because i have local wholesalers where i can make 1.5kg of feed for £4. I make my own mixes because not only is it cheaper for me its better for the gerbils overall health. I personally use all of the below ingredients and try to make sure all of the values are right. If youd like to make your own mix , id enquire about it on the gerbil forum. I start of with a base mix with the right values ( eg gerri gerbil ) i then filter out the corn ( it is a filler and has no nutritonal value ) i then add in all the ingerdients and serve ! i feed 2-3 handfuls every 2-3 days. Gerbils are generally good and wont over eat. Id replace food only once it has all been eaten.
I Personally Use :
For a full list on Ok and Not Ok foods , visit my Gerbil website ( link at the bottom of the page )
Buying Gerbils , The Where The What And The Who.
Before you go to a breeder or a pet shop you should pop down to 2 or 3 local rescues , if there are any gerbils their then they should be your first option. By adopting from a rescue you are helping a worthy cause and the majority of rescues give you reliable advice and will give them a full health check before they go. Before they adopt them out to you they will normally treat them for any illnesses or diseases they may have. The Shelter will normally ask for a minimum donation ( normally around £8 ) However id personally give them more as its going to a good cause.
If there is no gerbils available then your next stop should be a reputable breeder look at the accommodation they are kept in , look below to see the health check and also test the breeder on the information that you have already gained. If they refuse to let you see the accommodation , don't know enough about gerbils or haven't got healthy gerbils then avoid them. If Neither of them options reveal anything then your last option should be the pet shop. Make sure you choose a pet shop that gives you the best advice and advises that you keep them in big tanks. With all three of these options you should health check the gerbils before buying. So how do you health check gerbils ? well lets have a look. ( Health Check From eGerbil , all credit goes to egerbil )
Is the Gerbil's coat smooth and glossy with no patches of hair missing?
Patches of fur missing could indicate problems with mites, infection, or bullying from other Gerbils. Feel under the fur for any tell tale signs such as bites or scabs. Blowing gently against the fur can also show signs of bites and scabs. Providing chinchilla sand once a week for bathing will help keep the coat in good condition.
Are the eyes bright and shiny?
Excessive red coloured discharge from the eyes usually indicates the Gerbil or Jird is stressed for one reason or another, or has an underlying health problem. Excessive discharge may indicate an eye infection and excessive tears may lead to nasal dermatitis. Cataracts can form in older animals and can be recognised as cloudiness in the eye, although cloudiness in the eye can also indicate an injury so should be checked by a vet to obtain a correct diagnosis.
Can you see discharge or missing hairs?
The nose should be clear of discharge and there should be no hair loss around it. Discharge can indicate an infection and hair loss could indicate mites, allergies, infection or excessive grooming.
Are the teeth ok?
Check to see if the teeth are growing straight and are not mis-aligned or overgrown. Because rodent teeth grow continuously all their life, checking the length and alignment of the teeth often is very important. If teeth grow too long the gerbil will starve. The top incisors should meet the bottom incisors but be slightly forward. They should not overlap or grow at different angles.
The gerbil should be able to eat easily, and be able to chew and hold things in its mouth. Providing wood and good gerbil food should maintain a gerbil's teeth for most of its life. Checking the teeth is fairly simple, some gerbils will let you open their mouth to examine them, and less tolerant ones will usually allow you to apply slight pressure to their cheeks, which makes their teeth visible. If you are unsure, ask a vet to check, and if they are ever too long, get your vet to clip them carefully, do not attempt to do so yourself unless you have the proper equipment and have been shown how to do so.
If you notice your gerbil is losing weight, test if they can successfully nibble a piece of cardboard, and if it has difficulty in doing so, a vet trip is in order.
Healthy gerbil teeth should be coloured yellow and not white
Does the head tilt?
Usually the first sign you will notice that indicates there is something wrong with a gerbil's ear will be a head tilt or spinning in circles. Many ear infections are in the inner ear, nevertheless the ears should always be checked for any visible blockage, mites, infection or cuts from scratching.
Middle ear infections due to staphylococcus can be problematic too and can sometimes be caused by mites. If a Gerbil or Jird is seen excessively shaking its head or yawning, there may be an infection in the middle ear or eustachian tube. Seek the advice of a vet for a correct diadnosis.
Are the nails overgrown?
Gerbil and Jird nails also grow continuously throughout their life and wooden toys or a few clean rocks will help keep their length down. Sometimes for one reason or another, nails become overgrown and need to be trimmed down. Again a vet can do this simple procedure, but if you decide on doing it yourself be careful just to trim them and never cut into the 'quick' of the nail, or the pink medial line where there are blood vessels and nerve endings, as this area is very sensitive to pain. If this should happen it's wise to have a styptic pen or powder on hand to stem any bleeding.
Can you see missing hairs?
Always check the tail to make sure it is fully furred, if fur is missing it can be an indication of mites but it is far more likely to be due to over grooming by the gerbil. This is an indication that the gerbil is bored. Often by simply adding toys and tunnels etc into their environment can alleviate boredom.
Can you see evidence of injury or tumours?
The scent gland is located on a gerbil's abdomen, and is a bald, yellow, oval patch, which the gerbil rub against objects to mark their territory. It should be inspected for cuts caused by marking something sharp, and particularly in males scent gland tumours, which start off small but grow rapidly, and if caught early enough, should be removed via surgery by a competent vet. If it is inoperable, the tumour will need to be cleaned regularly as it will bleed when the gerbil marks its territory. Sometimes the gerbil will also try and bite off the external growth itself and this may cause excessive bleeding.
Is the anus/genital area clean?
Staining around this area on young Gerbils or Jirds could indicate that they have been living in poor dirty conditions or that the Gerbil or Jird may have recently recovered from a bout of diarrhoea.
Is the animal alert, active, and friendly?
Only purchase the animal if it is. A listless animal is often accompanied by an underlying illness. A nippy animal makes both a poor pet and/or poor breeding stock.
The gerbil itself should be observed behaving in its environment. Limping, reluctance to come out or exercise, and hiding away in a corner would indicate the gerbil has an ailment. If you feel your gerbil is unwell and you are unsure of the cause, or if you know the cause and it needs treatment, do not hesitate to bring the gerbil to your vet for the appropriate care, and ask the vet to check the gerbil over.
Are there any deformities?
Kinks in the tail or fixed wrists could indicate close inbreeding or genetic problems within the stock
Taming Your Gerbils
When you first get your gerbils back to your house you will automatically think ' i want to play with my new companions ' Unfortunatly many people get them out straight away and don't realise why they shouldn't. Your gerbils will be stressed by the sudden change in environment and handling them at this point will be extremely uncomfortable for them. Many people presume that they're gerbils are ' evil ' because they bite their new owner within a day of being home. The gerbil is not evil , it just needs time to settle in before big hands are invading their tank. They will need a day or two to settle in before handling , this is the essential first tip.
.Before handling new gerbils thoroughly wash your hands , this is very important , if gerbils can smell food on your hands they may nip you to test if your edible or not !
.Offer them a open palm gerbils are very inquisitive creatures and will more often than not come and explore you. To them you are a big thing that needs investigating , your also a very good climbing frame ! Gerbils normally wont climb up your arm until they trust you.
.Try placing some treats in your hands , gerbils will never normally turn down a tasty snack ( see food section to see what snacks are suitable ) Once you have a gerbil eating out of your hand , they are on the road to trusting you.
. Once your gerbils will eat out of your hand you can try giving them ' elevator lifts ' a elevator lift is slowly lifting a gerbil about 6 inches of the surface of whatever they are on. Wait untill they are fully in your hand then slowly lift them too a height of 6 inches before letting them get of. Slowly increase this height until you are near to the top of your tank.
. Once your gerbils are comfortable with you lifts its time to propley lift them out the tank , keep them close to a surface ( eg your bed , a sofa , a play pen etc ) once there fully on your hand cup your other hand over their lower body , grip it so its not to tight but you have control over the gerbil. Once you are at your ' desired ' destination ( your place of handling eg the sofa ) then over lap hand and slowly let your gerbils explore ! Make sure you have some houses and toys out on the sofa to keep them occupied. They will often come over to you climb up you before running of to carry on playing. Gerbils wont cuddle with you , they're a ' its go play ' kind of pet so they dont hang around for long !If your gerbils fails with one step , then take a step back ! your negotiating on your gerbils terms so respect what they want to do.Happy Taming and youll be best freinds with your gerbils in no time !
Top 10 Gerbil Tips
1 - Remember that gerbils come from a sandy environment , a chinchilla sand bath should be provided once or twice a week to keep their coats shiny and clean. Chinchilla dust should not be used as it can cause breathing problems.
2 - Gerbils are very sociable creatures , they should always be bought in pairs. Females normally do best in pairs and males normally do best in groups of 2-6. Females seem to have dominance problems in groups of 3 or over.
3 - Gerbils will love to have at least one hour free range time a couple of times a week. Seal of any small gaps and cover all cables , gerbils are master chewers ! Also remove any plastic items that could be chewed on. Give them plenty of toys and activity's to do when out of cage to avoid them getting bored.
4 -NEVER Pick a gerbil up by its tail. It will deglove and can cause your gerbil serious damage and pain.
5 - Give gerbils some hay - they love it ! Chewing it and making nests with it ! Freeze all hay for 24 hours to kill of all the mites that may be in their.
6 - Try to find a glass water bottle , this will stop your gerbil from chewing harmful plastic.
7 - Be creative ! Any cardboard or wooden toys ( untreated ) can be made into a gerbil toy !
8 - Use the bath tub as a play ground, you can sit in it and interact with the gerbils !
9 - Look in £ shops. They often have cheap items like toilet roll for your gerbils to have fun with !
10- Ask freinds and family to collect cardboard for you , gerbils can never have to much of the stuff !
I Hope this long guide has helped you , i would very much appreciate it if you could leave me a rating.
If you would like to visit my website you can find it at http://curiougerbils.weebly.com/ it has more detail on gerbils , has lots of pictures and a DIY section.
Thank you , and happy gerbil owning.
Summary: Probably the best pet rodent out their , a very underrated and overlooked pet.
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