Gerbils: housing

In the wild gerbils live in burrows and spend the most of their time foraging for food, so you should try to mimic this environment for your gerbil when creating a home for him. Your gerbil will need plenty of room to eat, sleep and run around.

Gerbils should be kept in pairs or groups. Depending on the number of gerbils you have, you must make sure that the housing you choose is big enough for all of them.

Keeping a same sex pair (litter mates usually do well together) is much preferred. If you have a single older gerbil, it can be difficult to introduce a new one though as they can be quite territorial.

Gerbils go through several sleep/active cycles in a 24 hours period, although they do tend to be more active at night. They are very curious and will explore anything, and can be quite entertaining. Gerbils are social animals, living in colonies in the wild, so do not do well as a solitary pet.

Gerbils need to be kept indoors and careful thought must be given to where the cage will be kept. The temperature in the room should be constant, away from direct sunlight and draughts, and out of reach of any other pets.

Coming from a dry natural habitat gerbils are designed to conserve water, so produce small amounts of urine and dry droppings, making it fairly easy to keep their cage fresh and clean.

A pair of gerbils don’t require a huge amount of space, but a tank of approximately 75 x 40 x 30cm will give them enough room to run about in and plenty of space to put in lots of toys.

The larger the tank the nicer it will be for your gerbils, allowing them more space to run around in and for creativity with furnishings and toys. If an aquarium is used, a ventilated lid will be necessary because gerbils can jump very well!

A wire cage with fairly narrow wire spacing will also work well. Plastic and wooden cages do not hold up very well to the gerbils’ chewing habits.

Ideally the cage will have two levels and two compartments so they can use one for the day and one to nest and hide in at night-time. Gerbils prefer to sleep separately at night, so you need to make sure each gerbil has their own nesting areas.

You could also provide an extra run for your gerbil so he can get extra exercise when you are about. However gerbils tend to be frightened of large open spaces, but once they get used to it they will love playing in a run that contains lots of toys, such as boxes, flowerpots, drain pipes and logs.

A wheel should be provided for exercise, but the wheel should be modified or wrapped, e.g. with duct tape, to provide a solid surface for them to run on and to prevent their tails from getting caught and injured in the open rungs of a typical hamster wheel.

Gerbils will explore and enjoy a variety of toys, such as empty toilet paper rolls, small boxes and nests. Keep in mind the gerbil will chew everything you put in its cage so make sure toys are non toxic and not harmful if accidentally ingested.