Gerbil Housing: Covers Cages, Bedding options, Toys & Accessories

gerbil housing

Like all other pets, gerbils too need a safe and comfortable place they can call their home...

Fortunately, there are a lot of good and suitable housing choices for gerbils. 

But, unfortunately, there are a lot of unsuitable choices out there too.

And sadly a lot of reputed pet shops have sold in past and continue to sell these unsuitable housing options to unsuspecting pet owners...

So, the question is: do you know what's the right and what's wrong when it comes to housing for your gerbils? Or are you that lovely, well-intentioned but unsuspecting pet parent?

Also, have you ever wondered about the right bedding options, the right accessories and the right toys?

Let's see if I can help with some of these dilemmas...

More...

Some things I will cover in this guide

Minimum Requirements

  • What's the minimum size of the cage you need?
  • Should I go for really large cages? Will my gerbils declan if cages are much larger than recommended?
  • Which room should you put your gerbils in? How's bedroom?

Gerbil Cage Options

  • Three types of gerbil homes that are available out there
  • Unsuitable gerbil housing options that you should 100% avoid
  • My recommendation for your first gerbil home

Bedding Options

  • Can you use cedar shavings as bedding? How about pine shavings?
  • Can you use wooden shavings at all?
  • Straw, peat, hay - are they any good for gerbil bedding?
  • How about newspaper or magazines? Can't you simply shred them to create bedding
  • The best homemade bedding option for your gerbils

Accessories

  • Why do you need a food bowl when some experts don't use any
  • The best homemade nest box
  • Why most exercise wheels designed for hamsters are not a good fit?
  • Best home made toy for your gerbils
  • How to keep things interesting for your gerbils with just 2 toys?
  • This one accessory can keep your gerbils shiny and sleek
  • Chinchilla sand vs chinchilla dust? Only one of them is a fit. Which one?

And the final shopping list you can simply take to the pet store

Minimum Requirements

Cage (or a gerbil tank) is probably the most expensive supply you will buy for your pets. It's also something you have handy before you actually buy gerbils and bring them home.

Fortunately, these cages come in many varieties and many styles...

There are classy homes and there are modern ones. There are homes made of glass and there are ones made of wire frame. There are simple single level homes and there are ones with elaborate tank toppers with two or more levels.

But, regardless of what type of gerbil home you are interested in, there are few ground rules that apply to all of them. 

Adequate Size

Gerbils need a fair bit of space to move around and stay active. More space they have, healthier and happier would they be.

AGS suggests a minimum of 10 gallons (approximately 20 inch length * 12 inch width * 10 inch height) of space for a pair of gerbils. For each additional gerbil, you should add an extra 5 gallons to that number.

Lower than 10 gallons is just not enough space for your gerbils to move around, stay active and be happy. They will become irritable and fight prone if there are too many in too little an area.

Actually, 10 gallons is just about the minimum size and you should go higher than that.

I typically suggest a 20 gallon tank for a pair of gerbils to my friends. In fact, some of them have gone as high as 70 gallons for a family of four and their gerbils are incredibly healthy and happy.

No of Gerbils

Minimum Size

Wagfu Recommended Size

2

10 Gallons

20 Gallons

3

15 Gallons

30 Gallons

4

20 Gallons

40 Gallons

Do Note: Some folks think that they should not go for an extra large size for gerbil homes as it may result in declanning. This is NOT true

The general rule of thumb is that when it comes to size, you should go as high as you can afford or as large as you can fit in your home (with the minimum being 10 gallons for a pair).

If you are going ahead with just 10 gallons, keep the cage devoid of unnecessary accessories. Keep bedding, water bottle, food bowl, nest boxes and an occasional cardboard treat. Don't put any ornamental accessories like a ladder or a plant that further reduce the space available to gerbils.

Also while choosing the size of tanks, do take into account that you will have to clean it pretty frequently.

Elaborate large setups look fancy but are harder to clean.

I have seen some pet owners spending big dollars on elaborate fancy setups, only to skip regular cleanings due to the sheer effort involved. So now, they have a fancy setup but it's a stinky fancy setup.

Gerbils will be happier in a simple 20 gallon tank that's cleaned regularly as compared to let's say an elaborate 70 gallon tank that smells.

Personally, I have always liked simple single level setups that neither too small nor too large for gerbils. As stated before, approx 20 gallons per gerbil pair is my ideal setting though bigger the better.

Placement of cage in home

You need to identify a good spot in your home to place your gerbil tank...

Placement of gerbil cage in your home goes hand in hand with the size you should get. Do not go for wrong placement to get a bigger size.

A recommended place for gerbil cage is your living room or bedroom. I always recommend a daily contact at minimum with your gerbils.

Unlike a lot of other pets, gerbils can't bark or squawk for your attention when they need same. It's upto you to keep a watch and provide for whatever they need.

Also they are incredible fun to interact with. Even if they are initially shy, they will soon get used to you and will create a strong bond. And once bonded, they are amazing pets.

Net net, gerbils, generally, love interacting with their humans. And a high traffic room provides the perfect opportunity to do so.

Even if it's not your living or bedroom, make sure it's a place that's clean and is easily accessible by family members.

But do avoid the rooms with a lot of noises. Do not place gerbil cages close to TV or music systems. They have an incredible hearing and a loud noise 24/7 will stress them out.

Net, net find that balance. Not too noisy and not complete isolation.

Typically, I will recommend to avoid basements or storage areas...

Also, you should keep the temperature and humidity levels in mind before you decide the placement of your gerbil cage. Gerbils, generally, are pretty ok with normal variations in temperature and humidity of a typical home but they don't tolerate extremes very well.

The ideal temperature range for them is between 60 and 70 F. They don't like extremely cold temperatures and will become lethargic and sluggish in such environments. Gerbils don't hibernate as a species, but will try to snuggle together and will cease almost all their activity when it's too cold outside.

These cold temperatures are common in garages and outhouses, especially in winters (while home interiors are relatively safer). So please don't place your gerbil home in an outhouse or a garage especially if you live in a cold area. Also, automobile exhausts are not really that great for your pets' health.

Make sure that you don't place the cage directly on the floor, especially, in areas with extreme temperatures.

Floors can get too hot or too cold and either way, it will make your gerbils uncomfortable. Don't place their cages near a heating or air conditioning vents for the same reasons.

Also, do not place their cage in direct sunlight. If you have a glass aquarium as your gerbil home, with direct sunlight shining on it, it will become a greenhouse and kill your gerbils (or at minimum, will make them extremely uncomfortable).

Gerbils like dry environments. Council of Europe recommends a relative humidity range of 35%-55% as a suitable range for gerbils.

As a rule of thumb, gerbils won't tolerate humidity of more than 50% very well. At this or higher humidity, they will get stressed out and lose the shine of their fur. So avoid draughty or excessively damp areas.

If you are getting gerbils for your kids, think twice before placing the cage in their bedroom. Or, for that matter, think twice about placing gerbil cage in any area where they will have unsupervised access to their new pets... [See: Are gerbils right pets for you and your kids?]

You should take the age and maturity of your kids into account before providing them an unsupervised access to their pets.

Kids below 10 years are not mature enough to understand that their pets are delicate mammals and can get injured. They treat their pets like their dolls (so if a kid tosses a gerbil up to catch it, don't be surprised) and will squeeze them, pinch them, pick them up by their tails and will typically end up scaring them.

Gerbils, when scared, can bite hard. So even from that perspective, it's not safe to leave your young kids alone with their gerbils.

If you have other pets at home, you should place the cage such that access to gerbils is minimized for them.

Gerbils are prey for a lot of other larger animals and that natural instinct always exists regardless of how well behaved your cat, dog or parrot is in general. Even if the risk of your gerbils being harmed is low, you should still ensure that there is no direct interaction between your pets. While cleaning their cages or during playtime, placement of cage should be such that you are able to create a safe space by closing the door.

Last, do make sure that you don't have clothes or curtains or anything else that's in direct access of gerbils. They will simply gnaw on it and destroy it.

In summary, key things you should take care of

  • Keep them in a high traffic area
  • Keep them away from noises
  • Take temperature and humidity into account
  • Don't put their cages in kids bedrooms, outhouses or garages
  • Don't put them in direct sunlight or in front of cooling or heating ducts
  • Keep them away from your other pets

Ventilation

Gerbil homes have to be well ventilated.

Good ventilation allows your pets to breathe easily and not suffocate. But it's also important from perspective of enabling wind-flow that helps maintain a cool temperature even if its really hot outside.

You should avoid any enclosures that are closed and have poor ventilation. A lot of fancy setups come with very poor ventilation - ask and check before you purchase.

Safety

A very important aspect for you to ensure is that your pet enclosure is structurally safe.

It should not be unstable and should not have anything sharp that your pets can hurt themselves on.

Most commercial options will already tick these boxes, but if you want a homemade option, only go for somebody who knows what they are doing.

Do not use enclosures with lids that can fall inside the enclosure. Gerbils are small mammals and will get injured if something heavy traps them.

Escape proof

Finally, your gerbil homes have to be escape proof while ensuring a good ventilation.

Gerbils are incredibly curious animals and they want to explore all parts of their world.

They will push, they will squeeze and they will chew. And if there is an opening that's big enough for them, they will squeeze through and escape.

Ensure that there are no openings that a gerbil can take advantage of while choosing their home.

In nutshell : Minimum Requirements for a Gerbil Home

  • Go for a minimum of 10 gallons size for a pair of gerbils, possibly 20 gallons
  • Gerbil cage should be away from loud noises, extreme temperatures and should be inaccessible to young kids or other pets
  • The gerbil tank should be structurally safe
  • The gerbil housing should have a good ventilation
  • The housing should be escape proof

Gerbil Cage Options

Aquariums

Glass Aquariums or Gerbilariums as they are recently being called are probably the best homes for gerbils.

These gerbilariums are nothing but simple glass aquariums with a cover on top. In fact, any aquatic aquarium of more than 10 gallons in size is a good start and with a cover, it's functionally as good as a commercial glass gerbilarium.

The covers are required to prevent your pets from escaping. A wirescreen or wire mesh works pretty well but it needs to be secured or latched.

Your gerbils will try to push the cover up and squeeze through. Also, your other larger pets may try to remove the cover and harm your gerbils. To prevent this, you need to ensure that your cover doesn't move when a pet is pushing it.

If you have no large pets at home (dogs, cats, large birds), you may simply place a brick or some books on top... this works pretty well.

But, by far, the best choice is a wire screen with a latch that is securely latched to the top or the sides of gerbilarium. You will get this at most pet stores and it is secure enough to ensure that your pets can't open the cage.

You may find some interesting options when it comes to wire-mesh cover. Last one I bought is a hinged and a two-part lid cover which is particularly valuable if you are split caging.

Do not use a simple glass or plastic lid. This will result in poor ventilation and may end up suffocating your gerbils. At minimum, you are looking at a build up of ammonia gas inside their homes and that's not particularly pleasant or good for your pets.

If you do not like the looks of a wire screen, consider using a tank topper instead. This will provide more space to your gerbils to play around plus will provide enough ventilation for them to stay healthy.

Gerbilarium with tank topper

A gerbilarium with a tank topper

Tank toppers are also an interesting way to increase the secondary space for your 10 gallon setups. The ramps or the ladders that connect your primary cage and tank topper should be gently angled and should not be slippery. Ensure that these ramps and ladders are made of solid material else gerbils may end entangle their tails or feet in these. If your tank topper is actually a nicely fitting wire cage, ensure that it's not uncomfortable for gerbils to walk on (i.e. the floor is either a solid floor or a very fine mesh that gerbils won't entangle themselves in).

As you may know from your research, gerbils typically kick a lot of stuff around, including their bedding and substrate. A gerbilarium has an advantage that these shavings will stay inside their homes and won't spread on your floor. Gerbilarium also allows for a deeper layer of bedding as compared to a wire cage.

Further, a gerbilarium ensures that there are no metal wires that gerbils can gnaw over and potentially injure themselves.

Glass also, in my opinion, provides the best viewing of your gerbils. Watching them indulged in their natural and instinctual behavior is fascinating.

One disadvantage of gerbilariums is that their walls will get dirty pretty frequently as gerbils will kick the substrate and bedding onto them.

Also, glass tanks are heavy and can't be easily moved from one place to another.

Wire cages

The second suitable choice for your gerbil is a wire cage. As usual, you should be looking at a minimum size of 10 gallons (20 inches by 12 inches by 10 inches).

These cages are typically made of galvanized steel and provide good ventilation. They typically come with a bottom tray that can be easily removed for cleaning purposes.

These bottom trays can come in a variety of colors and you may choose one depending upon your room decor. Ask your pet store for choices.

The cage should be designed to prevent your pets from gnawing on plastic bottom trays. Gerbils are compulsive chewers and plastic isn't good for their health.

Also, as was the case with gerbilariums, door latches should be secure and your pets shouldn't be able to push them.

There should be no sharp edges anywhere inside the cage. Your gerbils can injure themselves on these edges.

The distance between wire cage bars should be ​less than 1/2 inch. If the spacing is higher than this, gerbils can squeeze through.

Metal wire cages are reasonably popular homes for gerbils. They have good ventilation and are relatively portable when compared to gerbilariums (some metal cages even come with cage handles) but they do have cons none-the-less...

Biggest disadvantage of using a wire cage is that you can't have a really deep bedding layer. Gerbils typically need about 4 inches of layer but are much happier with 6-8 inches. This may not be possible with a wirecage.​

The metal trays at the bottom can corrode due to the concentrated nature of gerbils urine. You can prevent this by cleaning regularly or just using plastic trays (that gerbils shouldn't have any access to)

If the floor of the cage is metal bars too, you run a risk of your gerbil injuring themselves as they can get their feet caught in the bars. This can be prevented, however, by either placing a solid metal plate at the bottom or by completely covering the base with layers of bedding.

Gerbils will move around and kick out the bedding and debris that will fall on cage sides through the metal bars. This is will make your floor dirty.

wire cages for gerbils

Wire cages for gerbils are not amongst the best housing choices

You can potentially use cages with side trays to collect all this material that's being kicked out. You may, alternatively, place the cage on a kitty litter pad or on cloth seed guard for birds.

If none of these solutions are available, put the cage on top of a newspaper that's spread out around the cage sides. This will allow you to clean same up pretty quickly.

Combination Cages

Combination cages are made of wire screen and plastic. These have typically been constructed and marketed for hamsters. But recently a lot of pet shops have started recommending them for gerbils too.

These cages look great but a lot of these are a poor fit for housing gerbils.

combination cages for gerbils

combination cages for gerbils

Many models have poor ventilation. Also, plastic tunnels and tubes, that make the cage fun for gerbils, make cage much harder to clean. Further, gerbils may chew up the plastic parts (which isn't good for their health)..

Be extremely picky and check for good ventilation and ease of cleaning if you are going for this kind of cage.

Unsuitable Options

Gerbils are compulsive gnawers and will try and chew almost anything. Wooden enclosures provide them with a perfect opportunity to do so.

In a wooden enclosure, your pets will chew, chew and chew some more. And it's matter of time before they create an opening and escape. Additionally, wood absorbs gerbils urine and it will start stinking up badly.

Say no to wooden cages for your gerbils.

Similarly, plastic cages with snap-on lids are not a good home for gerbils. These cages have poor ventilation and gerbils being champion chewers, may end up chewing through them and escaping.

You may keep your pets in these kind of cages for a few hours as you are cleaning their main tank or are taking them to a vet. For anything more permanent, get something else.

Finally, a few things to remember as you go about choosing your perfect gerbil home -

  • Ease of cleaning is important. Doors should be large enough for you to be able to comfortably reach all areas of the cage.
  • All doors and openings should latch securely with no gaps. Gerbils will push and it should not give way under pressure
  • Make sure that the cage is well ventilated. A wire mesh topper is typically enough.
  • Replace any damaged or chewed parts of cage immediately

Take the possibility of gerbils escaping very seriously. There has been a documented case in 2001 where a gerbil disappeared through a small hole in a floorboard when a child was playing with it.

It took the fire department 13 hours to get it out and they had to destroy a 400 year old mahogany floor. This floor was one of only two that are known to have been built by Leonardo da Vinci.

My recommendation for your first gerbil home:

Go for a simple glass aquarium with a wire mesh top with latches to secure it. You will be happy that you made this choice.

Bedding Options

The next piece in the gerbil home puzzle is the bedding inside the cage.

In wild, gerbils are master burrowers. It's not unheard of a colony of gerbils creating intricate tunnel networks. Even as pets, they carry over these some of these natural instincts to burrow and to make sleeping nests.

Bedding (or substrate) provides them with a warm place to indulge in these natural behaviors.

Additionally, it keeps the cage odor and moisture free by absorbing the urine and occasional water spillages.

gerbils bedding layer

Gerbils need a deep layer of bedding

There are many many bedding options in a pet store. The two most common options are:

  • Wood shavings, made of aspen or spruce. These are relatively inexpensive options but fit the bill none-the-less
  • Commercial brands like carefresh. Typically made of recycled paper or wooden pulp. And engineered for odor control. This is a more sophisticated and a more expensive option.

Both the options above work on a standalone basis...

But as a relative comparison, the commercial brands are manufactured with odor control in mind and are much more effective at that. They also are more expensive compared to simple wooden shavings.

Once you have locked down on the type of bedding you want, you need to take two more things into account:

  • Make sure that the bedding layer is at least 4 inches deep if not more. Your pets will dig and burrow and they will be happier with a thick layer of bedding.
  • Make sure that the bedding is dust free. This is important to check if you are purchasing wooden shavings. Dust particles will irritate your pets. Bedding made from recycled paper or pulp, typically, doesn't have this problem

Do note:

Never use bedding made of cedar shavings for your gerbils. Avoid them at all costs.

Cedar shavings are fragrant and are known to cause and aggravate respiratory problems in small pets. They can cause allergies and are not recommended at all.

I also recommend against using pine shavings as they are fragrant too. Though I must say that some of my friends have used them in the past without any visible harmful impact. But, they typically used to open up the bag and let the smell dissipate for a few days before using it. Avoid this if other beddings are available for you.

Instead of cedar or pine shavings, use aspen or spruce. And if you can spend more dollars, there is nothing like commercial brands like carefresh

Other bedding options you may encounter

  • Sawdust - Although this is very cheap to buy, this is not a recommended option. Sawdust has been known to cause irritation to gerbil eyes and noses, so it is best to avoid it.
  • Shredded paper - Sometimes you may not want wood shavings as bedding for your gerbils (particularly in case your pets are suffering from allergies) but commercial brands like carefresh are too expensive. In such cases, you may use shredded paper as an alternative. This won't be very attractive to look at but it works. However, shredded paper will start stinking much earlier as compared to other options. 
  • Hay - Hay is chewable and helps trim their teeth. It works the best when it's combined with other bedding types (wooden shavings are recommended). It's relatively cheap and easily available in most pet stores. Timothy Hay is what you should ask for.
  • Straw and peat - This is an option if you want to provide a seemingly natural environment to your gerbils. It is somewhat difficult to get it right if used on a standalone basis. The bedding couldn't be too dry or too damp. If it's too dry, the tunnels gerbils build will collapse and your gerbils may get trapped. If it's too damp, fungal infections may happen. If you do want to go for this option, mix it up with other bedding material like wood shavings.
  • Fluffy bedding - These are beddings made of long and thin fibers. Never ever ever use these. Your gerbils can get entangled in these fibers and get injured. Additionally, these fibers will also cause issues if your gerbils end up ingesting them.

DO NOT USE shredded newspapers or magazines for bedding purposes as they have inks that can harm gerbils. However an unscented tissue paper roll works well. Also if you are purchasing no-name brands, confirm at the pet store that the material it was made from had no harmful ink or dye.

Mix it up

A lot of pet owners mix the bedding options. This works extremely well. A great combination is mixing up some timothy hay with aspen wooden shavings and carefresh

Even while mixing them up, never use cedar shavings, newspaper prints or fluffy bedding.​

Regardless of bedding type you will choose, you will need to spot-clean every week or not every day and will need to change the bedding every 2-3 weeks (or whenever it starts smelling). If you have a tendency to not clean your pet's cage regularly or if you sense a mild ammonia smell emanating from your pet home, use the odor control bedding instead of simple wooden shavings.

In summary,

  • Cardboard shavings, wood shavings (aspen or spruce) or a commercial brand like carefresh are great options for your gerbils. Aspen is the best amongst these if you take into account value/price ratio.
  • DO NOT use sawdust, cedar shavings, pine shavings or fluffy bedding with threads or fibers
  • Shredded paper works ok, but will stink up quite quickly. Avoid ink or printed paper as that can be toxic to gerbils.
  • Straw and peat will take expertise to get right especially if used on a standalone basis. Mix it up.
  • Hay works best when mixed up with aspen shavings.

Accessories

Once you have the gerbil cage and bedding sorted out, you will need some accessories. Food dishes and water bottles are almost mandatory while others are a bit optional (but fun).

Food dishes

At first, a food dish may seem like an unnecessary accessory as you can always put the food on the cage floor. Also, even if you do use a food dish, you will realize very soon that gerbils anyway carry off food to their designated pantry areas.

So what exactly is the use of a food dish and why do I strongly recommend having one?

A food dish helps prevent contaminations. If you place the food directly on the cage floor (called scatter feeding), there is a risk of it getting mixed with urine and othe droppings. A food dish will prevent that.

Some hobbyists scatter feed their pets none-the-less, but if you want to go that way, make sure that your pet cage is clean at all times.

ceramic food bowls for gerbils

Buy ceramic food bowls that can't be tipped over easily

If you do decide to buy a food dish, go for an option that can't be tipped over easily by your pets. Ceramic bowls that are heavy enough so that your pets are unable to move them are good. Go for shallow bowls instead of deep ones. Shallow food bowls provide easy access to food for your pets.

Do not choose wooden or plastic options as food bowls. They will just be chewed up pretty soon.​

Water bottles

Next, almost mandatory, accessory in the gerbil home is their water bottle.

water bottle for gerbils

Get a gravity fed water bottle for gerbils

Gerbils need ready access to fresh and clean water at all times and a gravity fed water bottle is perfect for this. You can go to your nearest pet store and get one designed for gerbils or hamsters. This is typically a 4-ounce rounded top water bottle with a metal guard holder.

You can either hang the water bottle by the side of a wire cage or hang it from top mesh you are using for gerbilariums. You can also choose to use an adhesive to stick it to the walls of the aquarium. All these choices work almost equally well.

The bottle should be at a comfortable height for your gerbils to be able to reach up and drink from. However, do make sure that the bottle is not so low that it can come in contact with the bedding. If it actually comes in contact with bedding, it will drain out in a matter of hours.

In case the water bottle starts leaking, replace it immediately. And till you get a replacement home, make sure that you are not hanging it over their food dishes or nest boxes.

You will, ideally, need to replace the water every day, but definitely every other day. If you have more than two gerbils, take a note of how much water they consume every day. You may need multiple bottles or fill the water bottle up multiple times a day.

Do not use the water bowls. Gerbils will splash it around making the cage a damp environment. But, more importantly, they will contaminate the water in the bowl by moving pieces of bedding into it. This contamination will make the water unsuitable for drinking.

Nest boxes

Gerbils need nest boxes for sleeping and security. Think of them as their bedrooms that they go to when they need a break from all the loud noises, need to feel secure or just need some rest.

Pet stores may not have nest boxes inside display cages. They do it because this way pets stay out much longer and don't 'hide away' from potential customers.

While it's intentional on their part, it doesn't mean that your pets can happily live without a nest box or should live without one. Please don't follow pet-stores in this regard.

There are a variety of nest boxes out there - flavored cardboard ones, ones made of natural plant fiber, wooden blocks that can be hollowed out by your pets and the hard ceramic ones that are nearly indestructible. Clay flower pot is another cheap and popular option. You may also encounter plastic nestboxes in some shops but you should strictly avoid them.

The cheapest option typically is just using an old cereal box or any other unscented cardboard carton. Gerbils will chew on these boxes (like they will on pet-store provided nest boxes) and you will need to replace it after sometime. You may also need to replace it earlier if it becomes smelly.

If you have some unscented tissue papers or paper towels, your gerbils will love to shred them and turn them into their nests. You can also purchase designated nesting material from pet stores.

Avoid using synthetic fiber nesting materials as they can injure your gerbils and are not safe for them to digest.

Compressed cotton nesting material, typically sold for hamsters, is safe to use however.

Toys

You will need to keep your gerbils active and stimulated.

Toys help. They will engage your pets and will make them happy and more interesting to watch. On the other hand, without something to keep them stimulated, gerbils will get bored and listless.

Good news is that the toys for your pets need not be very expensive. Gerbils will be happy with almost anything new placed in their cage.

A cute golden agouti gerbil playing with toys

Gerbils are pretty happy with simple and inexpensive toys

They play by chewing, scent marking, scampering and darting in and out of tunnels. If you are purchasing toys, do keep some periodic budget allowance as you may have to replace them once they are chewed out.

There are a wide variety of toys available if you head out to your nearest pet store. Wood chew sticks, tunnels and ladders typically designed for hamsters are suitable for gerbils. Wooden toys made for parakeets are ok too. In fact, these wooden toys allow gerbils to gnaw and this keeps them happy and their teeth healthy.

If you are using plastic tubes or toys, always use them under supervision and remove them after few hours of play time. Gerbils once bored may start gnawing on the same.

Do not use the toys with fibers as gerbils may end up getting entangled in them.

You don't need to spend a lot of dollars to keep your gerbils happy though. Simple cardboard rolls from toilet papers are great homemade toys.

I often leave a toilet paper roll in my pet cage and more often than not come back to see it shredded to bits with a satisfied pair of gerbils to boot. This shredding typically doesn't take more than two hours 🙂

Do not use a cardboard that has a wax coating or shipping containers with strings.

Egg cartons are also not recommended as they may be carrying salmonella

A ton of wooden branches are sold as good toys for gerbils. However, do not use a live branch from your backyard as a gerbil toy. It may have germs that may infect your gerbil. Sterlize these branches first.

Do not use a wooden toy or branch that has been treated with a chemical.

Don't go overboard and stuff their home with toys. More toys, lesser is the living room for them.

Also, if you have only 10 gallons available for your gerbil pair, be careful about the space your toys will be using. Avoid ones that take a lot of space.

Tip: Rotate toys to keep it interesting

Gerbils may get bored easily with the same toys. Rotating toys is a good idea - buy two or more of them and put one in their tank every week while taking the previous one out. This keeps things interesting for your pets.

Exercise Wheels

An exercise wheel is another recommended accessory.

Gerbils are active mammals and exercise wheel will help them shave off that extra energy. Once they learn to use it, they will love these wheels.

There are a variety of exercise wheels available out there in a pet store. You will typically encounter ones either made of plastic or metal. Gerbils may chew through plastic ones so your best bet is a metal exercise wheel. If a metal wheel is not available, a plastic one is fine too till you keep a close eye on whether or not it's being chewed. If you see any signs of it being chewed, take it out.

Do not buy a standard hamster wheel with bare rungs with gaps. These wheels can ensnare gerbil tails and will cause them a lot of pain. They are dangerous.

The exercise wheel you are purchasing should have a solid base with no gaps between rungs.

Gerbils tails are extremely prone to breaking and there is a high probability of them getting their tails stuck in gaps while working a wheel without a solid base.

You’ll also need to provide a wheel that is sized right for gerbils. If your pet is arching its back while running on the wheel, it's too small and uncomfortable for them. Somewhere about eight or nine inches in diameter is a recommended size.

If everything goes right, your gerbils will have a lot of fun. Look at video below to see two cute gerbils running the same wheel :)​

Tip: If the wheel is squeaking when your pet is running on it, use a drop or two of vegetable oil. Squeaking can be pretty annoying but can be solved easily.

Sand bath

In wild, Gerbils love rolling around in sand. This clears the grease from their coat, cleans up their fur and keeps it shiny and smooth.

As pets, a sandbath takes care of that scruffy look that your gerbils may have sometimes and will make them look sleek and fluffy. And as an added bonus they love it.

You will need to buy chinchilla sand (or cornmeal) and an appropriate bowl for them to take this bath in.

Chinchilla sand is available at any reputed pet store. If it's not available there, try getting cornmeal from a supermarket.

Do not confuse chinchilla sand with chinchilla dust.

Chinchilla dust is dangerous for gerbils as it can damage their respiratory systems.

Read the labels carefully and choose the right option.

You can use any food bowl that's not made of plastic and is heavy enough for it not to be tipped over by gerbils. A typical dog food bowl is good enough. It should just be big enough for a gerbil to roll around in.

Once you have the dish and chinchilla sand, just pour some in and place it in the gerbil tank. Let your gerbils explore it.

Most discover the joys of sand bath immediately and start rolling around. Some, however, take time. If your gerbil is not interested in sand bath even after a fairly long time, try bribing it with a treat or two in the bowl. If that doesn't work, try sprinkling some of the sand on them. Eventually, they will get the hang of it.

You should not leave the sand bath in gerbil home forever and should remove it after about 15-20 minutes of sand bathing. Put it back in once a week or so.

If sandbath is left in the cage for long, some gerbils may start using it as a toilet. Don't freak out if that happens​, it is perfectly natural and normal for gerbils. In fact, some pet owners use it as a trick to quick cleaning 🙂

You can also make them take this sandbath outside their cages​​. That works too. Watch the video below to see a gerbil taking a sand bath.

Final Shopping list

  1. An appropriate and greater than 10 Gallons tank
  2. Wire mesh cover with latches that can be secured
  3. Appropriate and enough amount of bedding
  4. 1-2 water bottle(s)
  5. 1 food bowl
  6. One nest box, some nesting material (optional)
  7. 1 exercise wheel
  8. 2-3 toys
  9. Chinchilla sand and one medium bowl for them to take sandbath in
  10. Some gerbil food and treats

And that's it, my fellow traveller. You are now ready for your gerbil adventure... 

Vance Brown

Vance is a pet lover. He is obsessed with learning everything about his pets, including but not limited to tracking their ancestory. He has been doing this for 20 years.

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