Pet Care Guides Small Pet




Approximate Size

4 to 5 inches & 2 to 4 oz.

Approximate Lifespan

3 to 5 years

Gerbils & Children

Gerbils are good pets for older children when cared for properly.


Having a gerbil can be a very rewarding experience! Before purchasing, do plenty of research to understand their behaviors, proper handling, and care requirements. Help them live a long and healthy life in your care.

Gerbils are active, curious rodents that have been kept as pets in the US since the 1960s. Their small size, friendly temperament, and easy maintenance make them an ideal pet for anyone willing to earn their trust. Add to this their size and minimal odor, and it is easy to see why they are popular pets.

Gerbils are social animals, and they prefer to be kept in groups. Usually, they can coexist peacefully with other gerbils provided they have been housed together since they were about six weeks old. Gerbil communities are female dominant, and females are generally more aggressive. Males are generally easy going, but every gerbil is different-just like us. That Pet Place cannot guarantee the sex of any animal of any age, especially young rodents, since they are very difficult to sex.

When you purchase your pets, we recommend that you choose two gerbils from the same tank where they already “know” each other. That Pet Place cannot guarantee that any animal will get along with any other animal, even if they are purchased from the same cage.

Once they are adults, you cannot add another to their home. They will fight to the death. You need to pair them young. A new addition will be bullied until death.

Housing Your Gerbil

There are a variety of housing options for gerbils: wire cages, plastic cages, or a basic glass tank with a screen lid. Be aware that a gerbil may chew through the plastic bottom of a wire cage or the plastic habitat. We recommend a 10 gallon glass tank with a metal screen lid (secured by clips) for one gerbil. 2 gerbils require a larger cage, a minimum of 20 gallons (30”x12”). Solid bottom wire cages are also acceptable if the wire spacing is a ¼” or less to prevent escape.

Ideal indoor conditions for your gerbil are 65-75 degrees, normal household humidity of 30 to 50%, and away from drafts. Temperatures above 8o degrees are too high. If it is too hot, provide your gerbil with a frozen water bottle, fan or “chinchiller” to lie next to and cool off.

We recommend lining the tray or bottom of your cage with a 3-6 inches of small pet paper bedding to absorb waste and odors. Do not use cedar chips or pine bedding, as they can be harmful to your pet.

Spot clean their bedding weekly and replace every 1-2 weeks or as necessary. Soiled, wet bedding can lead to health issues with breathing and sore feet. Also, the cage itself must be cleaned with pet friendly disinfectant.

In the wild, gerbils live underground in a maze of tunnels. Captive gerbils feel much safer with some sort of refuge. That is why they love to burrow in their bedding. So you can provide basic wood hiding place as it is vital to their health and well-being. Also gerbils love to chew so provide chewable items like wooden chew toys or cardboard tubes in the cage. Gerbils' teeth grow constantly and need to be worn down by gnawing on wood blocks. A variety of enrichment items & toys, switched out frequently, are recommended to keep your pet gerbil busy and prevent boredom.

We recommend a 10” enclosed exercise wheel to make your habitat complete.

Provide unlimited spring water in both a bottle and bowl. A ceramic food dish is recommended, as plastic dishes will be chewed and possibly ingested.

Feeding Your Gerbil

Your gerbil’s diet should be:
• 75% Gerbil pelleted food
• 20% Greens
• 2-5% Treats

Your gerbil is an omnivore, which means they eat both plant and animal material. Gerbils do best on a varied diet. Gerbil pelleted food or blocks should be used as the staple of the diet, but other things can be added to make sure the animals are receiving the optimal nutrition. Feed a basic diet of pelleted food for the first 2-3 weeks, until your gerbil has adjusted to their new home. After the first 2-3 weeks, you can offer small amounts of vegetables like romaine, kale, parsley, and peas. Introduce greens gradually and in small amounts to avoid upsetting their stomachs. After several more weeks, greens can make up to 20% of their diet. Treats can be offered occasionally a few times a week. If a vegetable or treat causes digestive issues, discontinue its use.

Habitat Maintenance & Care for Your Gerbil

Gerbils require attention and care every day. You will need to:
• Provide fresh food, and water daily.
• Spot clean their bedding twice a week
• Replace bedding once a week.
• Wash dishes and bottles once a week or more if necessary.
• Clean the cage itself weekly or as necessary with pet friendly disinfectant.
• Replace toys and chews as needed.

Grooming Your Gerbil:
Gerbils do not need to be groomed. They should not be bathed unless it is medically necessary. Most gerbils enjoy a sand bath to maintain their coat. This can be provided a few times a week in a ceramic container. Remove the sand bath after the gerbil is finished.

Enrichment for Your Gerbil:
Gerbils love to chew. Enrichment, exercise, and fun are required! Provide hides, toys, chews, and mats in their cage to encourage natural behaviors essential to your gerbil’s health and happiness. Create different levels for them in their habitat to enjoy climbing on and provide tunnels for them to run through or hide in

Supply grass hay to stimulate natural foraging and nesting, which helps in the prevention of obesity. Gerbils enjoy Oat Hay, which often contains tasty immature seed heads.

Rather than handling, gerbils can better explore from the safety of small pet exercise ball, which allows them the freedom to go where they want without getting lost or injured. Limit "ball time" to no more than 15 minutes. Wash ball thoroughly in between uses.

Bringing Your Gerbil Home

In a new environment, your new furry friend may be rather nervous. Allow your gerbil time to get used to their new surroundings. Put their cage in a quiet area for the first few weeks and limit handling for the first 2-3 days. Check on them often for signs of illness. Their eyes, ears, and nose should be free and clear of any discharge. Watch for other signs of illness like sneezing or trouble breathing, abnormal eating or drinking, blood in the urine, hunching in a corner or lack of activity (lethargy), overgrown front teeth, bald patches in the fur, lumps or sores on the body or sores on the feet.

Gerbils can get diarrhea, typically caused by the stress of a new environment, especially if the environment is not kept clean. Minimize stress & feed only gerbil food for the first 2-3 weeks, then gradually add some greens & vegetables to their diet. If your gerbil, shows signs of diarrhea, provide Oxbow omnivore care & Benebac.Follow the product instructions. This will normally improve their condition within a short amount of time, but if no improvement is noted, an exotics veterinarian should be consulted. Treat any sign of illness immediately.

Handling Your Gerbil

Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after handling any pet animal. Help prevent the spread of germs and prevent accidental bites by washing away smells that may entice them (like if you recently handled food or treats).

Many gerbils can be acclimated at a young age to tolerate gentle handling and enjoy time out of their cage, if you take the time. Handle your gerbil with easy, calm movements; loud noises and quick movements can startle these animals. Any animal, even a friendly one, will bite or scratch if it feels threatened. When holding them, do so with two hands and be close to the floor or sitting on the floor. Offer a treat before they return to their home to encourage it to come out again the next day.

he gerbil's long tail is used for balance and as a distraction for predators in the wild. Do not lift them using their tail. If the tail is injured, it can break off and will not grow back.

Gerbils are fragile animals. Your new pet may leap from your hands in Gerbils are fragile animals. Your new pet may leap from your hands in fear when you are handling them or when startled. If your gerbil falls or is dropped, they can become seriously injured. They should be seen by a vet, as not all injuries are visible to the naked eye.

If you are selecting a gerbil for a young child, gerbils may prefer not to be handled like some other pets. Young children should always be supervised by parents when interacting with their pet. Not only are these animals fragile, but they can, if frightened, bite or scratch. Parents are encouraged to handle the animals first to get them used to contact and to teach children the proper way to hold or carry their pet.


1. Provide a tank or cage with 1/4” or less bar spacing.
2. Provide unlimited spring water.
3. Provide balanced gerbil food. (75% of diet)
4. Provide fresh greens daily. (20% of diet)
5. Provide chews for good teeth health.
6. Replace paper bedding every week or as necessary.
7. Provide a sand bath weekly.
8. Provide a 10” enclosed exercise wheel.
9. Handle carefully on your lap or near the floor.
10. Provide love, care, and company!

Thank you for taking the time to learn about your new family member.   We recommend having a veterinarian check-up soon after you bring your new pet home. It is helpful to keep a medical record about your pet should an emergency ever occur.

Pet care is always evolving & changing.  Please continue to research and monitor your pet’s behavior to assure they are thriving.  If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact our small animal department at 717-299-5691 ext. 1274. or