Our Littlest Friends - The Gerbil
Aren’t they just adorable? The Gerbil is a small, furry, desert-dwelling mammal that is normally confused with mice or similar species of rodent. Gerbils are awfully curious and have a knack for forming great bonds with their human owners, even more so than rabbits or guinea pigs! Gerbils are a fairly inexpensive pet to care for too, but where do you start? What are a Gerbils needs? What do they eat? Do they prefer Metallica or Megadeth? These are the important questions that you need to ask yourself before you make the commitment to owning one! Without further delay, allow me to help you decide if a Gerbil is right for you!
Like every animal on Earth, Gerbils require a food, a water source, appropriate bedding and a way to stimulate their mind. Unlike most animals on Earth, however, Gerbils require a home which caters to their prey animal needs. In the wild, Gerbils naturally dig tunnels in order to hide from predators, shield themselves from the heat or cold and of course, nest. Your cage or ‘Gerbilarium’ will require a deep base in order to fill with bedding. This will help ease your Gerbil’s anxiety as well as provide a stimulant for your Gerbil’s mind while you are busy. To this end, we stock the appropriate housing, bedding and food for your Gerbil that he or she will just love! Other than that, a Gerbil will need some attention, lots of love and plenty of toys in order to occupy his mind. A Gerbil will also need a gnawing stone as their teeth are constantly growing. This is a trait shared by all small animals and if left alone it can get very painful for your pet! Feeding can help grind teeth down, however, another method of grinding will be required in order to keep growing teeth from hurting your little friend.
Of course, you can! However, there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything. A typical wrong way would be to lift your Gerbil by the tail. This causes immense pain to the Gerbil and will most certainly warrant a nip or a bite in response. The proper way to lift this animal is to treat the Gerbil as if it were your Grandmother’s fine-bone china. A light grasp led into cupped hands is more than enough. Alternatively, you can allow your Gerbil to proceed onto your hand in their own time. Gerbils are a curious animal by nature and are unusually friendly towards us humans, so it wouldn’t be long before your Gerbil is clambering all over you! However, you must be extremely vigilant that he does not fall. A fall of 5ft could seriously injure a Gerbil or even worse, so you must be aware of his location at all times. It is for this reason that a Gerbil is not suitable for children under the age of 5. They are a fragile pet compared to other animals and veterinary costs can be quite expesnive when compared to a dog or cat.
Gerbils are more than happy to plod about on their own most of the time, however, if you expect to be away for most of the day it might be worth thinking about getting two. Gerbils are naturally social animals that tend to travel in families. This is important to take into consideration as purchasing another friend later on down the road will be much harder for your original buddy to get used to, as opposed to purchasing two Gerbils from the same litter in the beginning. Ask yourself; Have I two hours a day to spend with my Gerbil in order to satisfy his social needs? If the answer to that question is no, well then you need to seriously consider getting two in the very beginning. It is generally accepted that two males are more likely to get on as opposed to two females and unless you want a metric tonne of Gerbils, you will need to get two males or two females! Gerbils love attention though they have cyclical sleeping patterns where sometimes they can sleep during the day and come out at night or vice versa. This sleeping pattern is ideal for kids who are at school, adults who are at work and for when families are home in the evenings.
Gerbils are very clean animals overall. They are well equipped to groom themselves all over and their droppings are very small. They urinate in small concentrated amounts (A couple of millilitres here and there) and they tend to keep their enclosure very tidy. It would be very surprising for a Gerbil to smell, even after a week but by that point it would be time for the enclosure to be cleaned anyway. A light cleaning of the enclosure once weekly is ideal and a big cleaning of the enclosure once monthly is sufficient to keep things in order. If you still feel that there is a smell or odour coming from your enclosure you can purchase granules that will help abate the smell. But if the enclosure is being cleaned, where will I put my Gerbils?
There are essentially two options for you to consider. The first is getting a bucket or basin and padding it out with a soft blanket so that your Gerbil doesn’t injure himself. This is ideal if your Gerbil is still quite new to his surroundings and is unsure if he wants to leave his cage at all! The second option and one which is more fun for everyone is to buy a running ball. This way, your gerbil will be able to roam your house in complete safety while you spend as long as you need to clean the enclosure. Either way is more than suitable for your Gerbil and will give you ample time to clean his enclosure. The great thing about Gerbils is their indifference to the bedding used in their cage. So if you feel that cat litter is better than wood chips, go ahead! It all depends on where you’re putting your Gerbils; A Gerbilarium in a bedroom may be better suited to cat litter as opposed to wood chips as the dust may interfere with your breathing. It’s entirely up to you!
Can I let my Gerbil down to play?
Perhaps... not straight away though. A Gerbil is a very small animal that will be very hard to catch without injuring yourself or the Gerbil. Once you build trust with your Gerbil, it is ok to let him down in a tiled room which has been suitably Gerbil-proofed. A good option is to cover the plug hole in your bath and allow him to have the run of it while you sit in one end. This can be an excellent bonding experience for both parties concerned! Eventually, you will find yourself working on your laptop while little Gerbil-dene scurries around your desk, both of you in complete harmony. The short answer to this question is: Give it some time.
So, what’s the total then?
To speak plainly:
- A Gerbil is €17.50 in all Equipet Stores.
- A Gerbilarium (Gerbil cage complete with ramps, play wheel and water bottle) can range from €50 to €60.
- Wood chips for bedding begin at €2.20 and range to €6.
- The appropriate food is €5.50.
- Multiple treats and toys can be between €5 and €9.
- A gnaw or chew for €2.
So in total, roughly speaking? €102 and only €10 of that is for bedding and food that you will need to buy every month. The initial cost is high but the costs after that are next to nothing! If you consider a decent bag of dog food to be between €40 or €50 a month? It’s really not that bad! Gerbils make excellent companions and are a fulfilling pet to own!
So if you think a Gerbil is right for you after reading this, don’t rush into it! Think about the costs, the needs of the animal, your needs as a human, whether you can stick your Gerbil liking Megadeth when you’re a Metallica fan through and through (perhaps a shared love of Fleetwood Mac will bring you closer together). Owning any animal is a huge commitment but it is one that is rewarding and fulfilling in its own right.
Until next time pet-pals!