Food and housing
The typical small animal cage is a very good home for gerbils. The plastic base is tough and easy to clean and the bars provide a good exercise area for climbing. They also ensure good ventilation. Since the base is separate from the bars, it is very easy to clean out.
Alternatively, an aquarium can be used to make a 'gerbilarium'. This provides a natural environment for your gerbils to live in. If it is filled with a deep enough layer of bedding material, gerbils can build a network of tunnels and burrows. The tank should be at least 60cm x 38cm x 30cm (24in x 15in x 12 in). To make tunneling easy, a mixture of equal parts sterilized potting compost, straw and shavings can be used. The tank should be topped with a lid made of wire mesh to prevent escape.
Rotastak units can be used for gerbils, but anti-gnawing rings should always be fitted to stop the gerbils from chewing out an escape route.
Cages on the market: -
"Gimmy Hamster Cage"
Not ideal, since the plastic platforms will be chewed to pieces in no time
L59 x D38.5 x H46cm
"Lil' Paw 3 level Hamster Cage"
Complete with 2 exercise wheels, 3 ladders & platforms, water bottle, house, dish, removable wire grating and 1" deep slide out tray.
( Avoid exercise wheels which are not solid. They are dangerous for gerbils since they can trap their tails )
Ware 24" Small Animal Cage
The cage sides and top are 16 gauge wire and the entire cage is powder coated.
The cage should have a deep layer of shavings on the bottom, to allow the gerbils to dig. Bedding should be provided at all times. The best type of paper bedding comes in plastic bags as long strips. These are better than the tiny shreds, since a proper nest can be built from them. They are also better than the bedding which looks like cotton wool, I don't like to use that bedding because if it is chewed it could get stuck in the gerbil's mouth. The cage should be cleaned out every week, with fresh shavings and new bedding. About every month, the cage should be washed in hot soapy water and scrubbed clean.
Your gerbils will need either a water bottle or a water pot. Bottle is best, since it cannot tip over and the water remains clean. If you have a water pot, it must be heavy so as not to tip over. Gerbils don't drink very much, being desert creatures. They will drink about 5ml water each day. You will also need a food pot, again heavy; a salt or mineral lick and lots of things to chew. Gerbils will destroy the cardboard inner tube of a toilet roll in 2 minutes flat. They love to chew! Toilet roll tubes are ideal, but anything at all can be put in for them to play with. Cardboard boxes, washed apple branches, wooden cotton-reels, the cardboard ring from a roll of sellotape and shop-bought toys. Plastic toys will get chewed to pieces and may not last very long but wooden ones last longer.
It is best to feed your gerbils a ready-mixed food supplemented by greens. Foods on the market include:-
Gerri Gerbil: a complete gerbil food. A blend of pumpkin seeds & raisins, rich in protein and minerals to keep your gerbils in top condition. 1kg £1.69
Supa hamster pellet free: a complete nutritionally balanced mix (for hamsters and gerbils). 1.75 kg £1.89
Each gerbil will eat about 10-20g (1/3 - 2/3 oz) of food each day. You could always mix your own food, using flaked maize, wheat, sunflower seeds and millet. This will lack the calcium and other added minerals and vitamins found in pre-mixed foods. Gerbils only need feeding once a day. It is a good idea to scatter the food around the cage to encourage natural foraging instincts. This provides stimulation and makes the gerbils work for their food.
Gerbils need fresh green food as well as dried food. Gerbils will eat lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, chicory, brussel sprouts, spinach, parsley, clover, carrots, turnips, swede, broccoli, raspberries, blackberries, apple, grapes, raisins and sultanas. There are also some wild plants that you can find in your garden which are good for gerbils, including dock leaves, dandelion leaves, groundsel and grass. IMPORTANT! Please be very careful what you pick - the following are poisonous to gerbils and must not be fed to them:- tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinth, anenomes, bluebells, deadly nightshade, poppies, bindweed (poison ivy), lobelia, rhubarb, privet, yew, larkspur. Some of these plants can kill.