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How to Care for a Pet Gerbil

A gerbil makes a great “starter pet” for a child. Gerbils are friendly, fun to watch, quiet, and clean little guys whose cages don’t get smelly as fast as some animals’.


  • Step 1: Set up home Keep your gerbil in a large wire cage or 20-gallon glass aquarium, away from direct sunlight and drafts.
  • TIP: Gerbils are very social animals, so why not get two? A pair of male gerbils will live together happily if they’re introduced at an early age. A pair of females will get along great. Male and female gerbils should live together only if you’re prepared for the consequences.
  • Step 2: Line cage Line your gerbil’s cage with bedding—hay, aspen shavings, or recycled shredded paper are best. Gerbils love to dig and burrow, so make their bedding several inches deep.
  • TIP: Never line your gerbil’s cage with cedar or pine shavings; these contain chemicals that could harm your pet.
  • Step 3: Feed gerbil Feed your gerbil 'gerbil mix,' which is specially formulated for his needs and is available at pet stores. As a treat, give your gerbil small amounts of fresh vegetables and greens. Try small pieces of lettuce, broccoli, and carrots.
  • TIP: Keep your pet’s home clean by removing uneaten fresh food daily.
  • Step 4: Fill water bottle Every day, fill your gerbil’s bottle with fresh, clean water.
  • Step 5: Use chew toys Gerbils’ teeth grow continuously throughout their lives, so they need hard stuff to chew on and wear their teeth down. Give your gerbil plenty of untreated wood to chew—or even the occasional dog biscuit.
  • Step 6: Offer hiding places Gerbils love lots of hiding places to play in and to sleep in. Try shoeboxes, overturned flowerpots, and cardboard tubes.
  • Step 7: Exercise your gerbil Put a large exercise wheel or two in your gerbil’s cage and make sure he can get at them easily. Even rodents need to work out!
  • Step 8: Let the gerbil out Get your gerbil used to you by handling him every day and letting him run around in a safe, enclosed area.
  • TIP: Never pick your gerbil up by the tail. The skin is very delicate, and might slip right off!
  • Step 9: Close the cage When you put your gerbil back in his cage, make sure the door is locked. The little guys love to escape!
  • Step 10: Enjoy Enjoy yourself. With just a little care, gerbils return a ton of fun for you and your family.
  • FACT: Gerbils communicate with each other by thumping their feet.

You Will Need

  • A gerbil
  • A large wire cage or 20-gallon glass aquarium
  • Hay
  • aspen shavings
  • or recycled shredded paper
  • Gerbil food
  • Fresh greens and vegetables
  • A water bottle
  • Untreated wood blocks
  • Cardboard boxes
  • tubes
  • or flowerpots
  • An exercise wheel

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