Everyone should own a gerbil: A guide to caring for a new pet rodent

By Maggie Deller

Common household pets are dogs and cats, but exotic animals such as gerbils are often overlooked. There are many reasons why gerbils make great pets. Here is a basic guide for gerbils and how to care for them.

They are cute, loving companions

Gerbils are small, cute, and friendly creatures. They can be loveable pets and can give owners lots of joy. Gerbils can come in colors ranging from black to brown to white. They are small in stature and have endearingly large feet.  They also don’t mind if they’re called silly names, like Cheddar or Kanye West.

They are cheap

According to CostHelper Pets and Pet Care, “Gerbils cost between $5 and $10.” They also stated that “feeding a gerbil for one month will cost between $2.50 and $6.” They said that a bag of bedding material costs around $15, which “should last approximately four to six weeks.” The price of cages and other accessories can vary.

How to tame

A tame gerbil is a happy gerbil. “Leave them alone to get used to the activity in the house initially,” Gerbils as Pets said. “Don’t immediately start teaching them how to behave.” While gerbils are social animals, do not frighten them with commotion during the early stages of their welcoming. A good way to be introduced to a new gerbil friend is to place a hand in its cage for a period of time to let it become familiar with its owner’s scent.

“While they certainly need attention, gerbils can become distressed by too much handling,” My Smelly Animal Community said. They added, “When handling a gerbil, never pick it up by the tail!”

Basic needs

According to Pet Gerbils, “A glass aquarium tank with wire mesh cover, small animal cage, or tube cage like CritterTrail can all make an excellent home for gerbils.” As for food, gerbils can eat a variety of seeds such as pumpkin and sunflower, some fruits such as apples, pears, and oranges, some vegetables such as carrots and cucumbers, and bagged gerbil food. Gerbils also need fresh water, ideally in a sipper water bottle, though they do not drink much since they are native to the desert. Gerbils are social animals, and in most cases are happiest living with one or more other gerbils.


Purchasing a ball for a gerbil to play in is a great way for it to exercise and entertain as it runs all around the floor and into furniture. Another great way for a gerbil to get a taste of freedom is by buying it a play pen. However, it’s important to keep an eye on the pet since some gerbils find ways to outsmart their owners and jump the fence. Another way to help a gerbil burn off some extra sunflower seeds is to place a wheel in its cage.

Another toy for gerbils is paper, especially empty toilet paper rolls. Gerbils love chewing and shredding paper for more bedding. Gerbil tip: don’t give them paper at night as gerbils can be rather loud chewers. Hard toys made from wood also make great chewing accessories, since gerbils need to chew on hard objects to shave down those ever-growing teeth.

Other information

Gerbils typically live between two to five years. The intelligence of gerbils may also be surprising. According to Omlet, “Gerbils are usually very inquisitive little animals.” The breed of gerbil will determine whether or not it is nocturnal, which is useful information if owners care about being awakened in the middle of the night by various gerbil noises, like the noise of their wheel spinning. Omlet also said, “There’ll be a lot of things about your pets that surprise you.”

fancy gerbils
Pet Valu offers Fancy Gerbils for $11.99 each. Gerbils are normally more content when sharing a cage with a companion.
one level habitat
There are multiple sizes and styles of cages for gerbils, an example habitat being the Kaytee CritterTrail One-Level Habitat. Kaytee CritterTrail Fun-nels Value Pack Assorted Tubes are sold separately to connect to the cage.
Gerbils require certain water bottles that can dribble. Kaytee Flat-Bac Water Bottle fits the rodents’ needs.
formulated diet
Gerbils have a varying diet, from fruits to vegetables to seeds. An example of gerbil-approved food is Sunseed Vita Prima Sunscription Critter Cubes Formulated Diet.
Gerbils’ teeth never stop growing. To help gerbils shave their teeth down, Prevue Hendryx Hamsteroids Small Animal Chews and other treats and toys are designed to help file the teeth when they chew on them.
recycled paper
Bedding should be put on the floor of a gerbil’s cage. FRESH 4 LIFE Ultra Soft Recycled Paper Litter is one example of bedding that can be placed in a gerbil’s habitat.
Gerbils need a healthy amount of exercise. The Kaytee Run-About Ball 7″ allows gerbils to run around and explore.

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