The Pros and Cons of Having Gerbils as Pets While Pregnant: What You Need to Know

Can You Keep Gerbils During Pregnancy?

Gerbils are adorable small rodents with round eyes, long tails, furry bodies, and lively personalities. They make popular pets due to their ease of care, intelligence, and ability to form close bonds with humans. With various breeds available, featuring vibrant colors, petite sizes, and gentle temperaments, there’s a gerbil to suit every preference.

If you’re an expectant mother, you might have concerns and questions about keeping pets during pregnancy. Worries about potential harm to you or your baby, as well as the time and energy required for pet care, may cross your mind. Specifically, you may wonder if it’s safe to keep gerbils during pregnancy. Will they bring joy and companionship or add troubles and risks? This article aims to address these questions, providing insights into the pros and cons of keeping gerbils during pregnancy and offering practical advice for their safe care.

Overview of Gerbil Basics

Gerbils, originally from Africa and Asia, are desert-dwelling animals adapted to a plant-based diet. They exhibit strong adaptability and survival skills. Introduced to Europe and America in the 20th century, gerbils are widely kept as pets and used in scientific research. Gerbils typically live 2 to 4 years, weigh between 60 to 130 grams, and measure 15 to 25 centimeters, with their tails accounting for about half of their length.

Key characteristics of gerbil pets include:

  • Gerbils are social animals, thriving best in pairs or groups to prevent loneliness and stress. When keeping gerbils, ensure compatible pairs or groups, considering gender to avoid unnecessary breeding or conflicts.

  • Active during the day, gerbils engage in most activities in the morning and evening, resting at night. Adequate lighting, temperature, and a quiet, comfortable sleeping environment are crucial for their well-being.

  • With a curious nature, gerbils enjoy exploring and playing, requiring sufficient space and toys, such as wooden sticks, cardboard boxes, and plastic tubes. Prepare a spacious and secure cage, along with appropriate toys, for their enrichment.

  • Intelligent creatures, gerbils can learn simple commands and actions, forming close bonds with humans. Regular interaction, rewards, and encouragement contribute to a sense of love and care.

Various gerbil breeds exhibit differences in coat color, size, and temperament. Common breeds include:

  • Mongolian Gerbil: The most prevalent breed, characterized by brown or gray fur, black eyes, and a moderate size. Known for their lively nature and adaptability, they are easy to care for.

  • Long-Tailed Gerbil: A rarer breed with white or pale yellow fur, red eyes, and a long tail. Smaller in size, they possess a gentle temperament but require more attention and care.

  • Short-Tailed Gerbil: A newer breed with a variety of fur colors, such as black, white, yellow, and gray, featuring black or red eyes and a short tail. Larger in size, they are known for their curiosity, needing extra space and toys.

Considerations for Pregnancy and Pet Care

Pregnancy is a joyful yet demanding period, requiring careful consideration of both physical and emotional changes. If you already have pets or are contemplating pet ownership during pregnancy, specific considerations ensure the health and happiness of both you and your pet.

General advice for handling pets during pregnancy includes:

  • Maintain normal interactions with your pet during pregnancy, benefiting from the joy, companionship, and stress relief they provide. Pets can sense your emotions and changes, becoming more caring and dependent.

  • Pay attention to hygiene and cleanliness when handling your pet, avoiding contact with feces, urine, saliva, blood, and other bodily fluids to prevent infections from bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Regularly clean your pet’s cage, toys, food bowls, water bottles, and keep them tidy.

Provide opportunities for your pet’s physical and mental well-being, ensuring they remain active and balanced. Engage in simple games like chasing, fetching, and shaking, but avoid overly strenuous activities or allowing pets to jump on your abdomen to prevent harm.

Avoid introducing new food, water sources, cages, toys, or other changes to your pet’s environment during pregnancy to prevent discomfort and stress. Maintain a balanced and nutritious diet for your pet, avoiding harmful foods like chocolate, grapes, and onions.

Unique Health Considerations for Gerbils

While gerbils make lovable pets, they can potentially transmit diseases. Some diseases are harmless to humans, while others pose risks, especially to pregnant women and their unborn children. Therefore, understanding common gerbil-transmitted diseases and taking preventive measures is essential.

Common gerbil-transmitted diseases include:

  • Toxoplasmosis: Caused by a parasite called Toxoplasma, this disease can spread through gerbil feces, blood, saliva, and other bodily fluids. While generally harmless to most individuals, it poses a severe risk to pregnant women, potentially leading to miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth, or congenital deformities like hydrocephalus, epilepsy, and visual impairments. Preventive measures include avoiding direct contact with gerbil feces, regular deworming, wearing gloves when handling gerbils or their items, washing hands before eating, and refraining from consuming raw or undercooked meat.

  • Gerbil Bites: Injuries caused by gerbil bites can introduce bacteria like streptococcus, staphylococcus, or Salmonella through gerbil saliva. While minor for most people, these wounds can pose risks for pregnant women, potentially causing infection, inflammation, fever, or triggering premature birth. Preventive measures involve avoiding provoking or startling gerbils, handling them with care, cleaning bites promptly, applying antiseptic, and seeking medical attention if the wound exhibits redness, swelling, or fever.

  • Gerbil Allergies: Allergic reactions to gerbil fur, saliva, urine, feces, and other substances can manifest through sneezing, runny nose, coughing, wheezing, rash, itchy eyes, and more. While generally mild for most individuals, pregnant women may experience discomfort, including sneezing, runny nose, coughing, wheezing, rash, and itchy eyes. Preventive measures include allergy testing before acquiring gerbils, frequent cleaning of gerbil cages, toys, food bowls, water bottles, wearing masks, gloves, and goggles when in contact with gerbils or their items, and promptly taking antiallergenic medication when symptoms arise.

Practical Advice: Safely Keeping Gerbils

Given the potential risks associated with keeping gerbils during pregnancy, it’s important to implement measures to mitigate these risks while ensuring a safe and loving environment for your gerbil companions. Here are some practical suggestions for safely keeping gerbils:

  • Guidelines for Daily Gerbil Handling:

    • When feeding, changing water, cleaning the cage, or playing with gerbils, wear gloves, masks, goggles, and other protective gear to avoid direct contact with their bodily fluids, fur, and feces.

    • After handling gerbils or their items, immediately wash hands, change clothes, clean tools, and disinfect the environment to prevent leaving traces that may cause infection or allergies.

    • When engaging in close contact with gerbils, pay attention to their emotions and reactions, avoiding actions that might provoke bites or scratches. If accidentally bitten or scratched, clean the wound immediately, apply an

antiseptic, and seek medical attention if necessary.

  • Mistakes to Avoid in Handling Gerbils During Pregnancy:

    • Avoid letting gerbils roam on your bed, sofa, table, or other surfaces that you and your baby may come into contact with, preventing contamination of your living environment with gerbil fur, saliva, urine, feces, and other substances that may cause infection or allergies.

    • Refrain from letting gerbils eat your food or licking your hands, face, or mouth to prevent the spread of bacteria, viruses, and parasites through gerbil saliva, teeth, or food residues, which may cause discomfort or harm to you and your baby.

    • Avoid placing gerbils on your abdomen or allowing them close to your belly to prevent their actions, sounds, or body temperature from affecting your baby’s development or stimulating uterine contractions, potentially causing premature birth or miscarriage.

Expert Interviews and Case Analysis

To give you a deeper understanding of the pros and cons of keeping gerbils during pregnancy and practical tips for their safe care, we have interviewed pet experts, obstetricians, and shared experiences from pregnant individuals who have had firsthand experience in gerbil care. This allows you to gain insights and perspectives from various angles and levels.

Here’s a summary of some expert interviews and case analyses:

  • Dr. Zhang, a pet expert, emphasizes, “Gerbils make great family pets. They’re not only adorable but also intelligent, forming close bonds with humans. However, gerbils are potential carriers of diseases, especially for pregnant women and their unborn babies. Diseases like toxoplasmosis can pose severe risks. Therefore, pregnant women should prioritize hygiene and safety when caring for gerbils. Avoid direct contact with gerbil bodily fluids, fur, and feces. Regular check-ups, deworming, and cleaning gerbil cages and toys are essential. Wearing protective gear, such as gloves and masks, and promptly addressing bites or scratches, ensures the health of both you and your baby while allowing gerbils to thrive on your love and care.”

  • Dr. Li, an obstetrician, adds, “Pregnancy brings about physical and psychological changes, demanding thorough preparation for both yourself and your baby. If you have or plan to have pets, considerations must be made to ensure the well-being of both you and your furry companions. Gerbils, popular and joy-inducing as they are, can transmit diseases harmful to pregnant women, such as toxoplasmosis. This parasitic infection can lead to miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth, or congenital deformities. Vigilance in avoiding direct contact with gerbil bodily fluids and regular deworming and check-ups are crucial. Keeping gerbil environments clean and wearing protective gear helps prevent infections. Prompt medical attention is advised for any symptoms like fever, headache, muscle pain, rash, or swollen lymph nodes.”

  • Pregnant individual Xiao Wang shares, “Being a gerbil enthusiast from a young age, I was concerned about continuing gerbil care during pregnancy. Consulting both my doctor and pet expert reassured me that with proper hygiene measures, risks could be minimized. Wearing gloves, masks, and eyewear, avoiding direct contact with gerbil fluids and regularly deworming and cleaning proved effective. These precautions ensured the health of both my baby and me. Maintaining our close relationship, I found joy and gratitude in the bond with my gerbils.”

  • Pregnant individual Xiao Li, a novice gerbil owner, states, “Starting gerbil care after pregnancy, I was drawn to their cuteness and ease of care. However, I discovered the potential risks gerbils pose, especially in transmitting diseases like toxoplasmosis. Adhering to hygiene and safety measures, such as wearing protective gear and regular cleaning, proved to be a bit challenging. At times, I regretted my decision to care for gerbils during pregnancy due to the added complexity and effort. Yet, witnessing their adorable antics and feeling their affection, I realized the value of their companionship, making them a worthwhile part of my family.”

Choosing Pregnancy-Friendly Pets

If you’re pregnant and considering a furry companion for joy and companionship, you’ll want to ensure the chosen pet poses minimal risks. Not all pets are suitable for pregnant women, and considerations should include disease transmission, potential harm, and added responsibilities. Here are criteria for selecting pregnancy-friendly pets:

  • Safety:

    • Opt for pets that pose minimal harm, such as those unlikely to transmit diseases, cause allergies, or create a mess in the environment.

  • Convenience:

    • Choose pets that don’t demand excessive space, time, or expenses, making it more manageable for pregnant individuals.

  • Interactivity:

    • While optional, consider pets that offer interaction for enjoyment and emotional bonding, such as those that play, vocalize, or show affection.

Based on these criteria, pets can be categorized as follows:

  • Most Suitable Pets for Pregnant Women:

    • Pets that are both safe and convenient, providing moderate interactivity. Examples include goldfish, turtles, hamsters, rabbits, and parakeets.

  • Fairly Suitable Pets for Pregnant Women:

    • Pets that are moderately safe or convenient but may lack in one aspect. Examples include cats, dogs, rodents, birds, and reptiles.

  • Less Suitable Pets for Pregnant Women:

    • Pets that are less safe, less convenient, or have limited interactivity. Examples include snakes, lizards, spiders, scorpions, mice, and bats.

If choosing gerbils, consider the following breeds:

  • Most Suitable Gerbil Breeds for Pregnant Women:

    • Gentle and less likely to bite or scratch. Examples include long-tailed gerbils and short-tailed gerbils.

  • Fairly Suitable Gerbil Breeds for Pregnant Women:

    • Lively but may occasionally bite or pose some risk. Examples include Mongolian gerbils and fat-tailed gerbils.

  • Less Suitable Gerbil Breeds for Pregnant Women:

    • Aggressive and prone to bites. Examples include large gerbil species and jirds.


In conclusion, the decision to keep gerbils during pregnancy involves certain risks but is not entirely impractical. If you genuinely love gerbils and have already established a bond with them, or if you decide to bring gerbils into your home during pregnancy, implementing specific measures can reduce potential harm. By prioritizing hygiene, wearing protective gear, and maintaining a clean environment, you can safeguard both your well-being and that of your baby. Your gerbils, in turn, can continue to thrive in an environment filled with your love and care. Consider your preferences and needs when choosing a pet, ensuring it brings happiness and companionship while minimizing risks during this special time.

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