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a couple of questions about gerbils

(4 Posts)
fifitrixibell Tue 13-Nov-12 12:50:39

We have two female gerbils who are about 9 or 10 weeks old now ( we've had them for 3 weeks).
They have one of those litter tray things which they seem to use most of the time - the rest of their tank is very clean. However they also seem to like taking food into the litter tray to eat. Is this normal? is it ok? though I'm not sure how I'd stop them from doing it!

Also, we are getting them used to being handled by stroking them in their tank, and also by putting them in a huge cardboard box with some toys and letting them crawl onto our hands and up our arms. They are so fast though, and they don't seem to want to sit cupped in our hands. Is this just how gerbils are or will they do that in time? Any other tips for getting them used to being handled. They have stopped nipping now as they have realised we are not edible!

They are lovely little things and I find myself watching them digging and playing for ages when I should be doing something else!

KRITIQ Tue 13-Nov-12 13:21:03

Hi Fifi. I haven't had gerbils for some time, but I never tried "litter training" any of mine. That meant they ate, weed and pooed in the same parts of the enclosure, and that was perfectly normal and fine. It's the same way with my guinea pigs now.

Yes, gerbils do like to crawl about alot and will get used to your smell, sound and touch if they are allowed to do that. Perhaps do it in a bathroom or somewhere where space is restricted and there aren't any escape holes. Just let them wander around and crawl, enticing them with a few tit bits (but not too many sunflower seeds as that's not good for them.) The fact they've stopped nipping is good! smile

I think it's important to be really confident in picking them up, a fast and firm but gentle scoop over the back and immediate placing on the palm of the other hand, not letting go of the back, is the best way. They will feel secure enough for you to move them from A to B and won't have the chance to squirm and fall.

I think there is a dilemma if you have gerbils in a tank set up, which replicates their natural environment more fully, but also makes it more difficult to pick up and handle them (as they can just dive down a tunnel.) If they are in a rotastack sort of thing or a enclosure with sawdust (so they remain mostly above the surface,) you can pick them up pretty easily, but the surroundings aren't ideal for their welfare. It was only some years later that I discovered that some of the digging behaviour and bar chewing was a sign of boredom/distress that you don't get when they are in a tank they can tunnel through.

Good luck!

gerbilsarefun Tue 13-Nov-12 20:53:59

We have a gerbil, she is our second. Yes gerbils are fast, I think hamsters are more docile, my daughter's friend's hamster will just sit in our hands. Gerbils are very inquisitive and will want to explore. We had a gerbil playpen for our lovely first gerbil boy, and he used to love climbing over the bars and running off round the room. To pick our gerbil up when out of her cage, we wait until she goes in the tunnel then lift the tunnel out and she walks out onto our laps, I have never been able to pick a gerbil up whilst running about free. I think gerbils are fab, they are so cute and have funny mannerisms.

fifitrixibell Wed 14-Nov-12 14:09:06

thanks for your replies - that's really helpful. I had hamsters as a child so I don't know quite what to expect from the gerbils, but so far have been surprised at how lovely they are!

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