Gerbils, amongst many other creatures, make great pets. However, if you are contemplating getting a pet, there are many different things to consider. Below I am going to run through the basic care that is required by every pet gerbil.


Everyone needs somewhere to live – and gerbils can be quite discriminating! Make sure you check out…

Size of housing 

Gerbils enjoy exercising and are very inquisitive. They move around lots and love to dig, so the larger the housing area, the better! Two gerbils living together require a minimum area of 70cm long by 35 cm wide by 50cm tall. Make sure the housing has adequate ventilation and air flow, and secure walls so your gerbil will not escape (remember, they can jump really well if they want to!).


Like many humans, gerbils are very sociable. Keeping at least 2 gerbils of the same sex together is a good idea. We recommend getting a professional to sex your gerbil, as a mismatch could result in a lot of babies which may be difficult to rehome! Buying gerbils that were born together is sensible as introducing new gerbils to a group of adult gerbils can be dangerous for the newcomers. 


Gerbils originally lived in deserts meaning they are used to warm, dry weather conditions. Gerbils need to be kept indoors in a quiet area without any draft, direct sunlight or dampness. You should make sure gerbils are kept in a warm room with no sudden changes in temperature. Because they are very small animals with a large surface area to volume ratio, they can lose heat quickly.


Having tunnels, toys and a deep bed will help to keep your gerbil entertained throughout the day. Gerbils are able to jump very high so providing toys which they can jump up onto is a great idea. They like to bury and flip items so select enrichment toys that are robust. Gerbils also like to dig tunnels, so consider having a deep substrate at the bottom of their home to burrow in.

Location of their housing 

You should keep gerbils in a quiet area so they are able to sleep and rest as they please. Some gerbils will exercise during the night so keeping them in your bedroom may be a bad idea! They should be able to see daylight throughout the day. 

You should clean your gerbils house out roughly every 2 weeks. 


Another of the key Welfare Needs for any animal, if you want happy, healthy pets you need to get their diet right.

Type of food 

Having something to chew on all the time helps their dental health as well as supporting their mental health by providing stimulation. You should ensure your gerbil has commercial gerbil feed supplemented with fruit and vegetables. Be sure your gerbil is eating all of their commercial food and not picking out their favourite parts because this can lead to mineral and vitamin deficiencies. Feeding potatoes, rhubarb or tomato leaves should be avoided as these can be toxic. 

Amount of food 

Scattering a variety of foods around the cage and ensuring adlib food is always on offer helps to prevent fighting for food. Adlib food and chews are essential to encourage your pet to continue to chew. This is vital as their incisor teeth continue to grow, so need to be worn down at the same rate as they are growing in order to stay aligned and healthy.


Gerbils always need a supply of fresh, clean water. Because gerbils originated from the desert, they do not produce much urine nor drink much water. You should monitor how much your gerbil does drink, as a reduction or increase in the amount of water consumed can be a key clinical sign in many disease processes.

Choosing a water bottle rather than a water bowl is sensible as it means you can easily check the volume of water they have available, helping you to know when to fill it up. Water bowls tend to get knocked over, especially if you have a lively gerbil… Water bottles also tend to keep the bedding drier and therefore warmer helping with their thermoregulation and meaning you do not have to clean them out as often! Be sure to make sure the end of the water bottle has not become blocked by any food or bedding.


Because gerbils are so quick and small, they are difficult to catch and handle. Whilst they are rarely aggressive, they often wriggle and, therefore, should only be handled in an enclosed area. The more you handle them, the more accustomed they will become to it. You will need to handle your gerbil in order to health check them, we recommend this is done at least once a week at a minimum.

Life span

Gerbils normally live for 3-4 years on average. When you commit to purchasing a pet, you commit to supporting and looking after them for their entire lifespan so ensure you are ready for a 3-4 year commitment.

Veterinary attention

Like any pet, gerbils will require veterinary attention at some point in their lives. You should monitor your gerbil for any changes including: water volume consumed, food eaten, body weight, glossiness of coat, faecal appearance and volume, amount of sleeping, running nose, sneezing, cuts and amount of movement they do. Any changes in any of these things may mean you need to take a trip to the vets. As your pet gets older, they are more likely to suffer from disease. 

Care whilst you are away on holidays 

As with most other pets, if you go away on holiday your gerbil will need someone else to take care of them. As they are quite low maintenance, this is usually easy to organise, with a daily visit by a family member, neighbour, or friend to check on them and top up their food and water. Or you can even take their whole home to stay with their caretaker for the duration of your holiday.

To conclude, gerbils can make great pets, they do not require as much time as other pets and someone else could easily take over on their husbandry whilst you are away. Like any pet, they do need care and love – ensure you can provide the care they require for their entire lifetime prior to committing to purchasing one.

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