what’s the gerbil thing

The gerbil is an adorable rodent native to deserts and arid regions, characterized by its long tail and large ears. Gerbils are popular as pets in Western countries due to their ease of care and lively personalities, enjoying interaction with humans and other gerbils. However, in China, gerbils are not as commonly kept, and many people are not familiar with them. In this article, I will introduce basic information about gerbils, including care methods, advantages and disadvantages, and the relationship between gerbils and humans, hoping to provide you with a comprehensive understanding and perhaps discover that gerbils could be your ideal pets.

Diversity of Gerbils

There are many types of gerbils, with the Mongolian gerbil and the fat-tailed gerbil being the most common. These two types are popular choices in the pet market, each having different origins, physical characteristics, and lifespans. Mongolian gerbils originate from Asia, with brown or gray fur, black eyes, long tails, and large ears. They typically have a lifespan of three to four years. Fat-tailed gerbils, on the other hand, are native to Africa, with white or light-colored fur, red eyes, short and thick tails, and small ears. Fat-tailed gerbils generally live for five to eight years.

Apart from these two, there are other pet gerbil breeds such as the Egyptian gerbil, desert gerbil, and golden spiny mouse, each with distinct appearances and temperaments. Some are rare, while others are more common.

Among these gerbils, Mongolian gerbils are the most suitable as pets due to their social nature and adaptability to their environment. They enjoy living in groups, so it is recommended to keep at least two to prevent them from feeling lonely or stressed. Mongolian gerbils are curious and love exploring new things, requiring a spacious and interesting habitat with enough toys and tunnels for digging and chewing. They are also intelligent, capable of learning simple commands and tricks through regular interaction, building trust and closeness with their owners.

Natural Habits of Gerbils

Gerbils thrive in desert and arid environments, inhabiting burrows or tunnels in the wild to seek shelter and find food. How do gerbils adapt to desert conditions? They possess special physiological structures and behaviors to survive extreme temperatures and low moisture levels. For instance, their tails help with balance and temperature regulation, while their ears aid in heat dissipation and hearing. Their eyes are adapted to see clearly and prevent sand from affecting their vision, and their noses help with smelling and reduce water loss. Gerbils’ teeth are essential for biting and digesting food.

Social behavior is another crucial aspect of gerbil life. They are social animals that live in groups, sharing food and shelter, and engaging in intimate behaviors such as grooming and huddling. Gerbils communicate through scent marking using urine and secretions, as well as using their noses to identify the gender and identity of other gerbils. Their sense of smell is crucial for identifying food, enemies, and friends.

Gerbils are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day and rest at night. They are most active in the morning and evening when the desert temperatures are most suitable. Gerbils have an irregular sleep pattern, adjusting their rest based on their needs and environmental changes. They can sleep at any time and place where they feel safe and comfortable, curling into a ball with their tails covering their bodies to retain warmth and prevent water loss.

Gerbil Care Guidelines

Caring for gerbils is not challenging as long as you understand their basic needs, providing them with a suitable environment and nutrition for happiness and health. Here are some fundamental guidelines for gerbil care:

Ensure a balanced diet with sufficient protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. You can offer specialized gerbil food like pellets or mixes available in pet stores. Fresh fruits and vegetables like apples, carrots, and celery can be given as treats.

Provide a spacious and interesting cage, with dimensions depending on the number and type of gerbils you have. The cage material can be metal, plastic, or wood, ensuring good ventilation and safety to prevent escapes or injuries. Use bedding like wood shavings or paper to keep gerbils comfortable and facilitate cleaning.

Enrichment and Toys:
Decorate the cage with toys such as wheels, tunnels, houses, bridges, and swings to keep gerbils active and entertained. Offer items for chewing like wood, branches, or nutshells to help with dental health. Rotate toys regularly to keep their environment stimulating.

Routine Care:
Clean the cage daily by removing food residues and feces. Change the bedding weekly and perform a thorough cleaning of the cage and toys monthly. Use warm water and mild soap for cleaning, avoiding toxic or harsh cleansers. Rinse thoroughly and allow everything to dry completely to prevent gerbils from ingesting or inhaling harmful substances.

Health Check:
Observe gerbils daily for any signs of abnormal behavior or appearance, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, difficulty breathing, runny nose, sneezing, teary eyes, diarrhea, red or swollen skin, or hair loss. Regularly check their teeth for overgrowth or irregularities. If you notice any symptoms, consult a veterinarian promptly for professional diagnosis and treatment.

Disease Prevention:
Maintain a clean and safe environment to reduce the risk of gerbil illnesses. Perform regular parasite checks and preventive measures, such as applying anti-parasite solutions or providing food with anti-parasitic ingredients. Administer vaccinations for diseases like rabies and distemper as recommended by a vet.

Behavioral Traits of Gerbils

Gerbils exhibit charming behaviors, including playful activities, social interactions, and reproductive habits, providing owners with insight into their personalities and enhancing the joy of interaction. Here are some behavioral characteristics of gerbils:

Playful Activities:
Gerbils are playful animals that enjoy a variety of toys, including wheels, tunnels, houses, bridges, and swings. They interact with these items using their paws, teeth, and noses, exploring shapes, textures, and scents. Gerbils express excitement, satisfaction, or dissatisfaction through sounds and actions like jumping, rolling, digging, and chewing.

Social Interaction:
Gerbils are highly social, engaging in intimate behaviors with both peers and humans, such as grooming, huddling, kissing, and hugging. They establish connections through scent and touch, using their noses to sniff and their paws and teeth to gently grasp and nibble, indicating friendliness and trust. Social interactions among gerbils involve scent marking with urine and secretions, as well as vocalizations like squeaks and chirps to express emotions and intentions.

Enhancing Bond with Gerbils:
Strengthening the bond with gerbils involves various methods. Providing treats and enticing them with fresh fruits and vegetables from your hand builds trust and closeness. Placing your clothing or towels in their habitat lets gerbils become familiar with your scent, creating a sense of comfort and familiarity. Adding a small amount of your saliva to their food introduces your scent, making gerbils perceive you as part of their group, fostering intimacy. Regular interaction with petting and rewarding further allows gerbils to feel your love and care.

In conclusion,

gerbils make wonderful pets with their charming behaviors, social nature, and adaptability. Understanding their diverse needs and behaviors, providing proper care, and engaging in regular interaction will contribute to a happy and healthy relationship between gerbils and their owners.

Reproductive Habits of Gerbils

Gerbils are highly prolific animals with a short reproductive cycle, typically lasting only 24 days. They can produce up to 8 litters per year, with each litter comprising 2 to 10 baby gerbils. If you are interested in breeding gerbils, understanding their reproductive habits is crucial. This includes knowing how to identify their gender, facilitate pairing, and care for pregnant gerbils and their offspring. Here is an overview of some reproductive habits of gerbils:

Identifying Gerbil Gender:
Distinguishing the gender of gerbils can be done by observing the distance between their reproductive organs and anus. Male gerbils have a greater distance between these, while females have a shorter gap. Gender identification can begin when gerbils are two months old, allowing for timely separation to prevent unintended pregnancies.

Pairing Gerbils:
Pairing gerbils is ideally initiated when they are quite young, around six weeks old. Placing them together at this stage helps establish friendship and trust, reducing potential conflicts and territory disputes later on. While it is possible to introduce gerbils when they are adults, it requires more time and effort to help them adapt to each other. You can start by allowing them to sense each other’s scent in the same room, followed by a neutral meeting space and eventually cohabitation. Monitoring their behavior is essential, and if signs of aggression or fear emerge, immediate separation is advised to prevent harm and stress.

Caring for Pregnant Gerbils and Babies:
The gestation period for gerbils is typically 24 days. You can identify pregnancy by observing changes in weight and the roundness of the abdomen. Pregnant gerbils will appear plumper and rounder. Providing pregnant gerbils with extra food, water, additional bedding, and secluded areas for nesting is essential for a comfortable and secure birthing environment. After the babies are born, avoid disturbing them, allowing them to maintain close contact with their mother. Refrain from touching them, as this may disrupt their scent and lead the mother to reject them. For the first three weeks after birth, provide the mother with ample food and water and maintain a clean environment for nursing. After six weeks, you can start introducing solid food to the babies, such as gerbil pellets or a mix, to facilitate weaning and independence. At six weeks, you can also identify their gender and separate them to prevent inbreeding.

Common Health Issues in Gerbils

Gerbils, while generally healthy and robust, may experience common health problems, including:

  1. Dental Issues: Gerbils’ teeth continuously grow, and insufficient chewing materials can lead to overgrown or uneven teeth. Providing hard chew items such as wood, branches, and nutshells helps maintain dental health. Regular tooth checks are advisable, and if abnormalities are detected, a veterinarian should trim them.
  2. Respiratory Infections: Gerbils are susceptible to bacterial or viral respiratory infections, resulting in symptoms like runny nose, sneezing, teary eyes, and difficulty breathing. Preventive measures include maintaining a dry and well-ventilated environment, providing clean and ample water, and periodic vaccinations for diseases like rabies and distemper.
  3. Diarrhea: Diarrhea in gerbils can result from various factors such as unsuitable food, poor water quality, parasitic infections, or stress. Preventive measures include offering appropriate food, performing regular parasite checks, and avoiding contact with potential carriers. In case of diarrhea, switch to dry foods, provide supplemental fluids, and consult a vet promptly.

Diseases in Gerbils

  1. Rabies: Rabies is a lethal disease caused by the rabies virus, affecting the nervous system of gerbils. It can spread through bites or saliva contact. Vaccination is crucial for preventing rabies, and avoiding contact with potentially infected animals is recommended. If symptoms appear, immediate isolation and veterinary consultation are necessary.
  2. Diphtheria: Diphtheria is a severe disease caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae, affecting gerbils’ respiratory system. It can spread through airborne or saliva contact. Vaccination and maintaining a clean and ventilated habitat help prevent diphtheria. If symptoms arise, contacting a vet promptly is essential.

Scientific Research Value of Gerbils

Gerbils serve as valuable subjects for scientific research in various fields such as physiology, behavior, genetics, and pharmacology. Their characteristics as model animals include:

  1. Similar Physiology to Humans: Gerbils share many physiological structures and functions with humans, making them suitable for studying diseases like hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and cancer.
  2. Comparable Behavioral Traits: Gerbils exhibit behaviors and habits similar to humans, such as sociability, curiosity, and learning ability, making them useful for researching psychological and behavioral aspects like emotions, memory, cognition, and communication.
  3. Genetic Similarities: The genetic features and variability of gerbils resemble those of humans, allowing research into genetic and evolutionary aspects, including gene mutations, recombination, and editing.
  4. Ease of Care and Breeding: Gerbils are relatively easy and economical to care for and breed. Their short lifespan, strong reproductive capabilities, small size, and low food requirements facilitate large-scale and long-term experiments, including drug testing, genetic engineering, and behavioral interventions.

The application of gerbils in scientific research has contributed significantly to human health and well-being. Gerbils are instrumental in studying critical diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and tuberculosis. Through gerbil experiments, scientists gain better insights into the mechanisms and treatment methods for these diseases, providing new perspectives and solutions for human medical care and rehabilitation. Gerbils are also employed in the study of essential psychological and behavioral aspects, contributing to theories and practices in education and society.


Gerbils are fascinating and valuable animals, serving both as delightful pets and subjects for scientific exploration. Responsible and respectful care is essential in providing gerbils with a suitable environment, adequate food, and the love and protection they need. Adhering to reasonable and humane experimental principles and standards, along with respecting gerbils’ welfare and rights, fosters a harmonious and mutually beneficial relationship. Through such efforts, both gerbils and humans can enjoy greater happiness and development.


Fun Facts about Gerbils:

  1. The name “gerbil” originates from their natural habitat. In English, the word “gerbil” is derived from the French “gerbille” and the Latin “glis,” meaning desert rat.
  2. Gerbils’ natural behaviors and habits are shaped by their environment. Their survival strategies in the wild involve adapting their tails, ears, eyes, noses, and teeth to desert temperatures, water availability, and food conditions. Gerbils use their keen sense of smell and vocalizations for social interactions and communication. Their paws and teeth are essential for digging, crushing food, and playing.
  3. Gerbils can regulate their body temperature according to environmental conditions. Their normal body temperature is 37.5 degrees Celsius, but they can raise or lower it within a certain range. Gerbils’ highest body temperature can reach 40 degrees Celsius, and the lowest can drop to 34 degrees Celsius.

After reading the above article, I believe you now have a fundamental understanding of gerbils. If you’re considering keeping a gerbil as a pet, please make sure to treat them well. Gerbils are incredibly cute and popular pets. Thank you for reading.

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