The Mongolian desert mouse, or the gerbil, has been a popular indoor pet for more than 50 years. Though they look somewhat like hamsters, there are many differences between these animals. The gerbil is native to the steppe regions of Mongolia and is essentially a burrowing animal. Having a short body length and rather broad head, a gerbil is built for strength. Characteristics include a small active nose, big whiskers, over-sized flaps on the ears, and bright black eyes.
Unlike hamsters, gerbils are active both day and night. Gerbils gnaw on almost anything, so it’s necessary to provide them with walnuts, pieces of twigs or wood. Being quite curious as well as active, they may chew on your fingers, jump, hop, burrow, dig, tunnel, and otherwise keep themselves very busy. As a gerbil owner, you must provide adequate room for such adventures. For bedding, Carefresh or recycled paper works well.
Choosing Your Gerbil
The gerbil is a relative of the kangaroo rat and lemming. There are many varieties available in pet shops. Some of the newer varieties available include black, cream, chocolate, blue and nutmeg colored gerbils. When choosing a gerbil, look for active, lively and curious animals. They do best when they live in pairs but be careful as adults will fight when placed together for the first time.
Gerbils should be fed a commercial rodent pellet diet. Limit access to seed and nut mixtures. Gerbils like to chew; therefore, it’s important to provide them with branches, twigs or cardboard boxes. They should have access to water all the time.
If you have questions about your gerbil or would like to setup an appointment, please call Long Island City Veterinary Center at (718) 383-VETS.