how long can gerbils go without food

How long can gerbils go without food?

Gerbils, adorable little creatures native to desert regions, exhibit strong adaptability. While gerbils can survive for a period without food, it doesn’t mean we should neglect their dietary needs. As responsible gerbil owners, it’s crucial to understand their eating habits, monitor signs of hunger, promptly replenish their food and water, create a comfortable living environment, prevent nutritional issues, and ensure the well-being and happiness of these small companions.

Dietary Habits of Gerbils

Gerbils are omnivores, and their daily diet includes various foods:

Seeds: Seeds constitute the primary source of nutrition for gerbils, providing essential proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, flax, and buckwheat seeds are suitable options. Offering a variety of seeds enhances the diversity and balance of their diet.

Pellets: Specifically formulated for gerbils, pellets are made from a mix of seeds, grains, legumes, and vegetables. High-quality pellets should be chosen, avoiding those with artificial colors, preservatives, and additives.

Fresh Vegetables and Fruits: These serve as snacks, supplying gerbils with moisture and vitamins. Carrots, apples, bananas, watermelon, cucumbers, and other pesticide-free options cut into small, clean pieces are suitable.

Gerbils need approximately 1 tablespoon of food daily, with seeds and pellets making up 80%, and fresh vegetables and fruits comprising the remaining 20%. Since gerbils enjoy eating throughout the day, it’s essential to keep their food bowl adequately filled, preventing them from going hungry. Regularly cleaning food bowls avoids consumption of spoiled food.

How Long Can Gerbils Survive Without Food

Adapted to desert environments, gerbils showcase impressive starvation endurance. With sufficient water, gerbils can survive 3-4 days without food. In cases of complete water deprivation, they can endure up to one week. Gerbils utilize the fat and moisture in seeds to sustain life, and their developed kidneys reduce water excretion, maintaining internal hydration.

However, the ability of gerbils to endure hunger is influenced by temperature conditions. Higher temperatures accelerate metabolism, increasing energy and water consumption. Lower temperatures slow metabolism, conserving energy and moisture. Adjusting food and water supply based on their living environment helps maintain stable body temperature and hydration.

Signs of Gerbil Hunger

While gerbils can survive for a period without food, prolonged hunger can lead to noticeable symptoms:

Weight Loss: Lack of food consumption leads to the utilization of body fat and muscle, resulting in weight loss. A healthy gerbil typically weighs between 60-120 grams. A weight below 60 grams indicates nutritional deficiency.

Sluggish Behavior: Energy deficiency causes sluggishness. Gerbils are naturally active, and if they become lethargic and unwilling to engage in activities, it signals hunger.

Apathetic Behavior: Prolonged hunger affects their psychological state, making them less interactive. Gerbils are intelligent and curious, and a shift towards dull, apathetic behavior indicates hunger.

Dealing with Gerbil Refusal to Eat

If a gerbil shows signs of hunger, take the following measures to aid recovery:

Offer Preferred Foods: Provide the gerbil with its favorite foods, stimulating its appetite. Options like seeds, pellets, or fresh vegetables and fruits can entice them to eat.

Attempt Syringe Feeding: In cases of discomfort or oral issues, prepare liquid foods such as diluted milk, juice, or vegetable puree. Gently feed the gerbil using a syringe to supplement fluids and nutrients, alleviating discomfort.

Create a Stress-Free Environment: Changes in the environment or stress can contribute to appetite loss. Maintain a clean, comfortable cage, appropriate temperature, and humidity. Provide enough toys and chew items while minimizing disturbances from noise, light, or other animals.

Seek Veterinary Assistance: If the refusal to eat persists, consult a veterinarian promptly. Professional examination and advice can identify and address underlying health issues, ensuring the gerbil’s recovery.

Accept Natural Hoarding Habits: Gerbils have a natural tendency to hoard food in pockets, wooden shelters, or other areas. Respect this behavior and avoid forcibly removing their food, as it may cause anxiety and fear, affecting their appetite.

Preventing Gerbil Nutritional Issues

To prevent nutritional problems in gerbils due to prolonged hunger, adhere to the following guidelines:

Provide Balanced Nutrition: Ensure a well-rounded diet by offering a mix of seeds, pellets, and fresh vegetables and fruits. This guarantees the intake of sufficient proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Ensure Access to Adequate Clean Water: Supply a clean water bottle or bowl, changing the water daily to guarantee a continuous water supply and maintain hydration.

Maintain a Comfortable Living Environment: Offer a spacious, well-ventilated, and dry cage. Regularly clean bedding, food bowls, and water bottles. Provide ample toys and chew items, minimizing disturbances from noise, light, or other animals, creating a stress-free environment.


Gerbils, adorable as they are, can endure periods without food, but responsible ownership involves understanding their dietary habits, recognizing signs of hunger, promptly addressing food and water needs, creating a stress-free environment, preventing nutritional issues, and ensuring the overall health and happiness of these delightful companions.

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