Gerbils As Pets – The Lively Little Companions

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Have you considered gerbils as pets?

Gerbils as pets can be very entertaining and cute little companions. But they aren’t ideal for every family.

They are small and fun, and it is tempting to want to get one for the child in your life or even for yourself!

But do gerbils make good pets for everyone, and what should you be taking into account when making your pet purchasing decision?

What Are Gerbils?

Hailing from Africa and Asia, gerbils are burrowing rodents that are very comparable to mice in size and shape.

Once upon a time, these little mammals were called desert rats. In fact, they belong to the mouse and rat family known as Muridae.

While there are many species of gerbil, the most common domesticated gerbil is the Mongolian Gerbil.

Their scientific name, Meriones Unguiculateus, crudely translates to something along the lines of “Clawed Warrior.”

This name comes from the likely exaggerated story about Emperor Genghis Khan, whose pet gerbil bit the foot of his would-be assassin, alerting the Emperor to the danger he was in.

Legend says that from that day forth, the Emperor never went anywhere without his gerbil bodyguard.

Still, regardless of his heroic accolades, the gerbil’s popularity did not catch on in America for another hundred years or so, where their potential as pets was discovered in laboratories.

Do Gerbils Make Good Pets?

So, do gerbils make good pets?

Scientists surely thought so! Back in 1954, during studies done in laboratories, scientists began to take notice of how excited their gerbil subjects became when it was time for a walk.

Gerbils were also able to fetch papers and learn other tricks.

Soon, they were being sold in pet stores all across America, eventually making their way to the UK in 1964.

Today, gerbils are considered to be some of the most popular rodent pets worldwide.

They are compact, easy to care for, and do not produce the same stinky odors as their rat, mouse, or hamster counterparts.

But why else are gerbils good pets? Is it their compact size? Their trainability? The low-maintenance care?

Perhaps it is all of the above. Keep reading to learn more.

Do Gerbils Bite?

Gerbils may be long domesticated now, but they are still rodents. While gerbils as pets are wildly popular these days, potential owners should keep in mind that yes, once in a while, a gerbil will bite.

But why do they bite? Most of the time, gerbils will bite out of fear or pain.

Gerbils are typically shy creatures, but they can be very affectionate.

If you take the time to properly bond with and tame your gerbil, you will likely not have any problems with him being aggressive.

Do gerbils make good pets?

How Many Gerbils Should I Get?

These tiny rodents are known to bond with their human family members, but potential owners should keep in mind that these are social creatures who naturally live in groups. So they do best with a gerbil companion in captivity as well.

Having more than one gerbil is good for not only your gerbils but also for you! Multiple gerbils will play with each other and it can be very entertaining to watch.

Aside from having multiple gerbils, a potential owner should also keep in mind that gerbils do not like being isolated or left alone for too long. They are inquisitive and enjoy being in the presence of their family.

Are Gerbils Good with Kids?

When looking at getting gerbils as pets for youngsters, it’s important to consider the age of the child or children.

Are gerbils good pets for two-year-olds? Probably not. Are gerbils good pets for 10 year olds? Yes!

Getting gerbils as pets for kids is a great first-time pet introduction choice for families looking to instill some responsibility in their kiddos.

As previously mentioned, gerbils bond quickly and are fun to watch.

Gerbils needs vs children

They are also not very difficult to care for.

However, when asking yourself “Are gerbils good pets for kids?” also keep in mind the kind of child you have.

Is your child gentle and respectful? Is your child patient and responsible?

An important thing to consider when deciding on the right first-time pet for your child is lifespan.

While gerbils bond with their human family and are entertaining to watch, they also have a very short lifespan.

Also, gerbils are small creatures who can be harmed very easily if dropped, fed something they shouldn’t be fed, or neglected.

So, are gerbils good pets for children?

For the most part, yes, but the age and nature of the child should be considered.

Are Gerbils Nocturnal?

When considering gerbils as pets, it’s important to consider their sleep patterns and where their cages will be kept.

Luckily, Mongolian gerbils, the most common pet gerbils sold in pet stores and by breeders, are diurnal, meaning they are most active during the day.

However, that doesn’t mean they are not active at night. A gerbil may find a burst of energy and want to run in his wheel, chew on his food, or get some water from his bottle at 2 AM.

On the other hand, he may sleep on and off during the day.

It is recommended that if you catch your gerbil snoozing during the day, let him be. It won’t make a difference to how often or how little he gets up in the night.

Gerbil Health

When looking at the facts about gerbils as pets, it’s always a good idea to look into the health of gerbils.

Gerbils are relatively healthy and the most common issues with a pet gerbil will be an injury. Look for signs of lethargy, weight loss or weight gain, and unusual aggression.

If you see any of these signs in your gerbil, it is best to contact your veterinarian.

Pet Gerbil Lifespan

How long do gerbils live as pets? Unfortunately, gerbils have a very short lifespan. Still, gerbils lifespan as pets is still much longer than if they were to live in the wild.

So, how long do gerbils live as pets? About two to four years.

General Care of a Pet Gerbil

When asking yourself, “Is a gerbil a good pet?” you must also ask yourself, “Am I prepared to care for a gerbil?”

Luckily, gerbil pet care is not all that complicated. For the happiest and healthiest gerbils, purchase more than one. Be sure you seek gerbils that are friendly off the bat and that seem to like one another, as well.

Provide them proper caging and give them access to fresh water, healthy gerbil food, and toys such as exercise wheels.

Also, be sure to clean their cages regularly.

So, Are Gerbils Good Pets?

Are gerbils good pets? While it will depend on your unique situation, for the most part, yes, gerbils are good pets.

They are easy to care for, relatively odorless, playful, and affectionate.

And now you know why gerbils make good pets!

References

D.B. Sorensen, T. Krohn, H.N. Hansen, J.L. Ottensen, A.K. Hansen, An Ethological Approach to Housing Requirements of Golden Hamsters, Mongolian Gerbils and Fat Sand Rats in the Laboratory—A Review, Applied Animal Behavior Science

Lippman, Louis G., Galosy, Richard A., Thompson, Richard W., Passive-Avoidance Learning in Gerbils and Rats, Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology

D. McGivern, Joan Longbottom, D. Davies, Allergy To Gerbils, Clinical & Experimental Allergy, Volume 15, Issue 2, Pages 163-165

Motzel SL, Gibson SV, Tyzzer Disease in Hamsters and Gerbils from a Pet Store Supplier, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Rain Newcomb, Rose McLarney, Is My Hamster Wild?: The Secret Lives of Hamsters, Gerbils & Guinea Pigs, Pages 30-42

Clark, Mertice M., Galef, Bennett G., Effects of Rearing Environment on Adrenal Weights, Sexual Development, and Behavior in Gerbils: An Examination of Richter’s Domestication Hypothesis, Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology

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