By Domingo García
Gerbils are clean animals that are relatively odourless with a natural curiosity and easy to handle.
They are very friendly and will climb onto your hand without any problem to take food even though you don’t have to handle them too much.
Their livers are mainly nocturnal but they do leave their nests if they hear a noise that worries them.
Gerbils are able to retain water but this does not mean that you do not have to give them water on a regular basis.
An important factor in caring for gerbils is the temperature they are kept at. Although they can survive at 30C, the ideal ambient temperature for them is between 17-22C with a humidity level of not more than 50% otherwise their fur will turn greasy.
They are able to live together, especially if they have been brought up together but they are known to fight and females are more aggressive than males.
It is advised to house gerbils in either metal cages or fish tank-style containers that have plenty of ventilation. If a metal cage is to be used make sure the space between the bars is not too wide because gerbils are very agile and can squeeze through small gaps.
The flooring of the cage should be of an earthy-type material because gerbils like to burrow and their nest should ideally be made of paper. Avoid using materials with artificial fibres as these can be ingested and cause respiratory or digestive problems.
The use of sand is also not recommended as this can cause abrasions to the animals face.
Feeding gerbils is straight forward. You can use a mix of seeds that contain protein granules and the diet can be supplemented with fresh vegetables.
Gerbils also like oily seeds such as sunflower as well as dried fruits which can be given as treats rather than as part of their regular diet because this could cause osteoporosis if their calcium intake levels drop, which in turn could lead to bone fractures or deformities.