By Donna Anastasi
Can their cage be in a bedroom? Do they stink a lot? Do they require a lot of effort to look after? Are they aggressive? Can humans catch diseases from gerbils? If so, what diseases are common? Do they make good family pets?
Great questions on gerbil care! The best place for the gerbils’ housing is in a central location where you can see them and they can watch you. Gerbils are crepuscular, which means active in the day and night with naps every few hours. This means that they will be scurrying, digging and running during the night. If gerbils are kept in your bedroom, you may want to move the cage to another location at night while you sleep.
Gerbils are the least stinky of any small animal pets. They are desert animals that drink only a teaspoonful of water a day, so they produce very little waste. This also makes them easy to take care of. Recommended housing is a 10 to 20 gallon tank with a mesh wire lid and about 2 inches of bedding. Their housing only needs to be cleaned out every two weeks.
The best place to get your gerbils are from a family or breeder who has home-raised them and given them plenty of attention. This will insure that your gerbils are super tame and friendly right from the start. Gerbils bond closely with their cagemates and a pair of females or males raised together should get along splendidly.
Never just put together two adult, stranger gerbils together. Their Latin name means “clawed warrior,” and they will likely fight a stranger gerbil to the death.
As long as the gerbils are adopted from a reputable source and are healthy, it would be extremely rare for a gerbil to pass on a disease to people.
Gerbils make wonderful family pets. They are bold and curious and, unlike most rodent pets, are awake in the daytime hours. Gerbils love coming out to play and also are very fun to watch in their environment as they groom, play and sleep in a pile. They appreciate any little gift you offer them to climb through or gnaw on — a simple paper towel tube is a huge favorite.
Go to the American Gerbil Society website for more information on gerbil care and for a listing of breeders.
Note from editor: Gerbils are illegal to own in some states and cities, so check on this before bringing any home.