Caring for your gerbils is very easy. As small desert creatures they do not require great amounts of food, and they don’t pee or poop a lot. Their poop is like a grain of brown rice – so even if they do poop on you, it is not gross!
Your gerbils need interaction – with another gerbil and you. The more you put your hand in the tank and/or hold your gerbils, the friendlier they will be.
Before you bring your gerbils home, you will need to learn about how to take care of them and get their home ready.
Here is a list of things you will need: (see our equipment and supplies page for more detailed information about the following items)
- A tank/aquarium with a mesh lid to serve as their home.
- Safe place to put their home.
- Food dish.
- Water bottle and holder.
- Chew toys (LOTS and LOTS of cardboard tubes).
- A travel carrier to bring them home.
- Running wheel (optional).
- Cage topper (optional).
Setting up your gerbils’ home
Place their tank in a safe place, away from other pets (or small children) that may think they are chew-toys and out of direct sunlight. Place about 2 inches of bedding on the bottom of their tank. Fill the water bottle and attach it to the side of the tank. Make sure water comes out of it when you tap the end of the sipper tube. Place 3 TBSP of food per gerbil in the food dish and place it in the tank (you will need to add food twice per week or more as needed). Place a cardboard tube in the tank.
When you bring your gerbils home
When you bring your gerbils home, gently place your hand in the travel case to see if they will climb onto your hand for you to pick them up. Or gently scoop them up with both hands (with some bedding if that makes it easier). Do not chase them around their cage or grab them from above. Then gently place them in their new home along with the bedding from their original home. **
If you are having a hard time picking your gerbils up, you can take the lid off the travel case and place the travel case on its side inside the larger tank. Your gerbils will run out of it to explore their new home.
Be sure to place the lid back on the tank when you are done watching them. While gerbil pups may not be able to jump very high, it is good to get in the habit of keeping the lid on whenever you walk away from the tank. Gerbils are surprisingly high jumpers!
**If you are introducing a new gerbil to your tank, you will need to use the split-cage method. See below.
Ongoing care for your gerbils
FOOD: Each gerbil needs about 6 TBSP of food per week. We recommend 3 TBSP of food per gerbil twice per week – Wednesdays and Saturdays (just to pick two days so you remember).
WATER: Your gerbils need constant access to water. Make sure their water bottle is full and working properly every day.
CARDBOARD: Gerbils teeth do not stop growing, so they need constant access to chew toys. We recommend cardboard tubes (toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls, shipping tubes – which will last longer, cereal boxes, any food boxes – the shiny, colorful cardboard will not hurt them).
Cleaning your gerbil cage
Cleaning your gerbils cage is a very simple – and quick – process! Because they are small desert creatures, they don’t make much of a mess of things. We recommend cleaning their tank once or twice a month.
- Remove your gerbils from the tank and place them in a travel case (or animal playpen). Your gerbils may be fine with you leaning their tank with them still in it but take them out at least the first time you clean the tank just to be safe.
- Remove all chew toys, wheels, food dishes, etc.
- Scoop all bedding out (a small kitty litter scooper or plastic shovel works). Save a little bit of it to put back in the tank (as it contains their scent). Throw the rest away.
- Wipe the sides of the tank down with a damp paper towel.
- Wash the food dish..
- Put fresh bedding in the tank.
- Put the exercise wheel, cardboard chew toys and food dish back in the tank.
- Put food in the food dish.
- Make sure the water bottle is full and working.
- Gently place the gerbils back in the tank.
- Put the lid back on!
“Dos and Don’ts”
Do make sure they have food, water and cardboard at all times.
Do play with them daily
Do put the lid on the tank when you are not with them
Do keep them in pairs or groups (2 -3 males OR 2 females. Females are territorial and may fight if more than two live together. Sibling sets are best)
Do NOT pick them up or pull them by the tail.
Do NOT put their tank in direct sunlight or in very warm or very cold places (best temperature is 68-78 F)
Do NOT hold them high over hard surfaces (in case they jump out of your hands)