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Gerbils. All advice gratefully received.

(6 Posts)
kreecherlivesupstairs Tue 27-Oct-09 11:34:33

We have just been and got two, assured that they are both males so no little pups. We had to sign a piece of paper saying that we won't handle them or let them out of their home for three days, take them to the pet if they become poorly, feed them the same sort of food they've been having at the shop and not sell them on. I got my 8.5 dd to sign because I doubt there will be the same sort of legal comeback that there would be for an adult if it all goes tits up.
So essentially, top tips for happy gerbils. We had hamsters in the past, but they are so stinky I said absolutely no way to another. These two look really adorable, but, I thought that about the hamster.............

squirrel42 Tue 27-Oct-09 13:07:30

If you got them from a petshop there is still no guarantee that babies won't appear because young gerbils are very hard to sex! So watch out for any gerbil hanky-panky as they get older.

What sort of living space do they have? Hopefully a tank or "gerbilarium" rather than Rotostack-style plastic house with built-in tubes; they really aren't ideal as gerbils will most likely chew through plastic and that can be bad for them. They also don't usually have enough space to fill with "substrate" for digging. It'd be interesting to hear what sort of advice you were given before getting them.

Just a few top tips: gerbils love to dig and tunnel, so the more "substrate" of woodshavings they have the better. I'm talking several inches, ideally more. Some small cardboard boxes (like egg boxes, mini cereal boxes, tissue boxes) and tubes give them things to hide in and under, and tubes help prompt them to dig their own tunnels. Most gerbils go crazy over toilet roll tubes in particular and will chew them up in ten minutes or so! They will chew just about anything, and need things like wooden chews or willow sticks to gnaw on. It's instinctual behaviour and necessary to keep their teeth in check. Extra things my girls like are treats hidden in folded tissues, and a dish of chinchilla sand to dust bathe in.

Torn up toilet roll and kitchen paper makes the best and cheapest bedding - the gerbs will chew and fluff it up and make a nest. They also like to store food in a cache, and if you give them a food bowl they might well move all the food and bury it somewhere else. Most gerbs love sunflower seeds as a treat; they can be very handy to help hand tame gerbils. Googling how to tame gerbils will give you advice there. My girls also particularly love broken pieces of Shreddies!

I think I've waffled enough for now! But this is a good site for more advice: Twin Squeaks.

kreecherlivesupstairs Wed 28-Oct-09 07:31:46

Thanks for that, they are in a tank with about 6 inches of wood shaving stuff. You are right about the toilet rolls, we've put 7 in so far and they just go mental for them.
I am a bit concerned about their food, I put it in a dish on top of the shavings and they buried it, we dug it out and they buried it again. My dd is concerened that they won't get enough to eat, I said, and Ihope I am right, they'll just sniff it out and uncover it. Will give the shreddies a go, currently they are my dd's breakfast of choice. She has been trying to get them to eat off her hand by offering sultanas, no luck so far.
Finally, as you seem to know a lot about them, should they have an excercise ball to run about in. The woman at the pet shop was a bit 'up to you' about it and as they cost a shed load of money (as everything else does here) we didn't get one. If it will enrich their lives I can go to the shop and pick one up though.

squirrel42 Wed 28-Oct-09 09:03:50

The tank sounds good and I'm sure they're loving all those toilet roll tubes!

I don't have a ball for my gerbils, but I have heard of other people on gerbil forums etc who do and seem to get on well with them. I guess to a certain extent it depends on what the individual gerbils think of it! I'd guess if they used one when they were quite young they'd be more likely to accept it than an older gerbil who would just see themselves as trapped in a little plastic ball they can't get out of. I'm personally not too keen because my sister had one for her hamster and he used to get quite stressed bouncing off walls in there.

A lot of experienced gerbil keepers do seem to say that food bowls are pointless and "scatter feed" instead by sprinkling food around in the tank. Otherwise gerbs tend to just pick their fave bits out of the food mix and don't bother with the rest. I started with a bowl but now my girls just gather all the food they can find and store it in their wooden house in a cache, so as soon as I fill a bowl up they empty it! I'd say as long as you monitor the amount of food you give them and actually observe them eating now and then that should be fine. Gerbils have an excellent sense of smell so will definitely be able to dig up buried food!

Don't worry if it takes a while to hand tame them - my girls ran and hid whenever I went in the same room as their tank for quite a while, and it took weeks/months for them to start coming out to see me instead. Associating me with sunflower seed/shreddie treats seems to have finally won them over! A great starting point I saw recommended was to put the gerbils in a (dry) bathtub and sit in there with them being very still and quiet. They are contained and they slowly get used to you being near them and will climb over your arms and legs, getting used to you and your scent. Introducing treats on the palm of your hand for them to take then seals the deal! I still put my girls in a dry bathtub when I need to clean out their tank, since with a few toys and boxes it makes a great safe "playpen"!

kreecherlivesupstairs Thu 29-Oct-09 11:18:00

Cracking idea about the bath. We were wondering about how and where we could get them out without the fear of losing one. DD picked up a couple of twigs last night and put them in their tank, they demolished them.
We (rather I) was a bit concerned about their behaviour last night, gnasher seemed to be mounting nibbles, having watched for a couple of minutes, they stopped their thrusting and just rolled around. fingers crossed that they are just homosexual.wink

squirrel42 Thu 29-Oct-09 15:03:34

Well with most animals mounting can also be used as a display of dominance, so maybe gnasher is just trying to prove he's in charge! grin

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