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I adopted an injured gerbil, advice on how to bond and general?

Discussion in 'Small Animal Chat' started by Smouse, Jan 21, 2021.


  1. Smouse

    Smouse PetForums Newbie

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    I've had a lot of pets in my life but I've never had a gerbil. Right now, he's in a temporary 10 gallon glass aquarium with the essentials but I do plan on upgrading his home once I have the funds for it. He is also currently housing alone because when I got him a few days ago, he was separated from the other gerbils. He had been roughed up by a few of them when he was in the community part. I do plan on getting him a companion as I've read that gerbils actually bond better with their owners if they have a gerbil friend.

    So far, he has only eaten from my hand. Anytime I put food in my hand and place it down, he'll come out of his small hut, eat from my hand, and retreat right back. He doesn't like to be picked up and he spends most of his time in his wooden hut (which he has successfully burrowed himself in). Then again, I'm not sure how to approach holding a gerbil either. I don't know if they're the type of animal that you just need to pick up to hold or the type that will sit in your hand and will let you pick it up. I know he'll be more active and friendly when I get him a friend, but I'm curious about if there's anything I can do now for him. What are some general things i should know about keeping a gerbil? What do they like? What should I be looking out for?

    I am also curious about advice on when I do get him a buddy. I don't want the other gerbil to be a female, as I've heard plenty of stories of people's pet gerbils just having a bunch of babies. If he is housed with another male gerbil, what are some good ways to introduce them to one another? Is there any type of behavior I should look out for? How would I go about bonding with the both of them?

    Any advice helps, thank you!
     
    Thea_SRA27 likes this.
  2. Thea_SRA27

    Thea_SRA27 Thea

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    Welcome to the world of gerbils!

    Firstly - with the food, are you saying he won't take the food if you put it in his cage without your hand? I'm also interested in what food you're using if you don't mind me asking :)

    Do you have a wheel/ sandbath? I would love to see your setup if you could show me. Do you know how old he is? And where did you get him?

    I find that gerbils really vary in their personalities - some never want to be held but some love it - I have a mix of both! My current lone girl Rolo loves to be held and cuddles p in my hand and purrs. But I've had gerbils who prefer to stay in their cages, and that's fine too!

    The minimum size per gerbil is 10 gallons - although personally I think 15 - 20 per gerbil is better. He should be alright in the ten gallon for now, but bear in mind that really it shouldn't be a permanent home, and if you get another gerbil which you really should you will need to have a minimum of a 20 gallon tank (although 30 - 40+ gallons is better!)

    With splitting, it isn't an easy process. I have never done it thankfully (When I've had gerbils before my little guy left was ill when his last brother died sadly, so I never got him a friend, and Rolo is 2 now and is doing amazingly by herself since her sister died 4 months ago so that's why) but know a lot about it. Males are easier to introduce than females luckily for you! You need a split first, although you'll want to get a bigger tank before splitting. You might want to get a cheap, temporary home like a bin cage while splitting as you shouldn't split with LOADS of room as they'll most likely avoid each other, but 10 gallons is really too small to split with. You need something to split with - Some people make their own mesh splits, and some buy a wire one. You need to make sure it is the right size, and they need to be able to sniff each other so it cannot be fully glass or wood. Put the split through the middle of the cage, or diagonally (like so https://www.rodentzone.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/DSCF0730-1024x768.jpg ) and put one gerbil either side. You have to swap their sides three times daily, so that they can sleep in the bed of the other one and get to know their smell. Try taking the split out after a week and watch them for a while, and watch for signs of fighting (squeaking, biting etc.) and if they do fight, do the same for another week. A good sign that the split is ready to remove is when gerbils are sleeping either side of the split so next to each other, but this doesn't happen for all gerbils.

    I would say keep trying to handle him - but if he hates it them just put your hand in the enclosure daily and try to stroke him.

    Also, it's best to have a lot of bedding for gerbils - which is another reason to upgrade from the 10 gallon as there most likely isn't much height to it. But I understand if you can't right away. It's best to have 6 inches minimum of bedding, but really closer to 9 or 10+ inches is better.

    You can give certain veggies and fruits to your gerbil every 2-3 days, but make sure to research them before giving. My Rolo loves small bits of carrot, apple, peas, sweetcorn, banana, and if she's lucky very tiny bits of blueberry, although higher water fruits like this are not very good for them because gerbils don't need much water since they're desert animals, so if you give high-water fruits then make sure they're really small bits.

    Gerbils also love to free roam if you have a safe room where you can always see them. I take Rolo out every night for a one hour free roam and it's her favourite part of the day. She often comes and sits on my lap to be stroked when she's done playing :)

    What bedding are you using? Paper beddings are good but a bit pricey, and so are SOME types of wood. I like Aspen and Hemp, although Hemp I find a bit cheaper so I use that instead as I need loads of bedding for Rolo to be satisfied! I use a mix of Hemp, kitchen/toilet roll (cheaper alternative to paper bedding, and I let her shred it herself) and Timothy hay. The hay and kitchen roll help to hold their tunnels p so it's good to mix different kinds of bedding together.

    You should take a gerbil to the vet if you notice a lot of strange lethargy, puffiness, bloating, lumps, redness, limping or a lot of weight loss or gain. Or just if they don't seem normal.

    Gerbils are also huge chewers, and their teeth grow long if they don't chew. Wooden toys are always good to have on hand and toilet rolls they love too. Rolo also loves egg boxes and cereal boxes.

    They need sand baths to clean their fur, you can use most children's play sand, chinchilla sand, or reptile sand. Try and find something with as little dust as possible since they have such weak respiratory systems. Rolo currently has some non-dusty chinchilla sand, but it's pretty expensive so I'll be switching to children's play sand when the bag is finished.

    And with regards to wheels, the measurements are a little different to hamsters. Gerbils are smaller than syrians, So I would say aim to have a minimum of a 8 or 9 inch wheel, but bigger is better.

    They also love to have multiple hides.


    Fins and Whiskers on YouTube has good gerbil care if you want to look :)

    Sorry for the INCREDIBLY long post - I just love love love helping people with gerbils so I got pretty excited when I saw this post!

    Thea :)
     
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  3. Knighterist

    Knighterist PetForums Member

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    Just came to say how amazing and detailed Thea's post is. I don't own gerbils and a newbie with my hamster still and I feel that I have learned so much from it, 3000 kudos to you!!!
     
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  4. Thea_SRA27

    Thea_SRA27 Thea

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    Aw thank you so much! I couldn't be happier :)
     
  5. Smouse

    Smouse PetForums Newbie

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    Hello Thea! I just wanted to thank you for your thorough response. I very much appreciate it after looking over the internet for advice, since a lot of what I found didn't really go deep into gerbil care. He will look through his food bowl and eat by himself, just whenever I put my hand in with the food he will always come out to look through it. He does seem to be getting comfortable with me after looking up gerbil behaviors, he's showing signs of curiosity. I don't think he's showing interest in being held though, since he won't just climb into my hand to be picked up. I feel like that is something he will have to be trained to do, unless for other gerbils it comes naturally. I am also hoping once he has a companion that will encourage him to be more social. Today though, I did manage to get him out of his cage and let him jump between my hands, burrow into one of my clean bed sheets, and just let him explore around me. I can't really let him wander free around the room in fear of losing him, since if I lose him there is a cat outside this room that will be waiting for him. I am thinking of getting him one of those hamster balls so he can safely wander around the bedroom.

    Right now his set up is very limited with his 10 gallon. I have his bedding(pine), food bowl, wooden hut, treat log, water holder, and a wooden toy that's like a cannon. I'm waiting to get the wheel with his new cage once I have the funds for it, I did not know they need a sandbath! He is a fully grown gerbil, so about a year old already. I got him from a store called Incredible Pets which is a local pet store in my area. About the sandbath, is that placed in their cage or is that something they have to do outside of it? I've seen chinchillas take dust baths before but only outside their cage, so I'm just curious.

    There is a cage that I was looking at that I plan on getting for him. Its top part is a metal wire cage with the bottom part being plastic. What I like is that it doesn't have a lot of plastic tubing or in general, the bottom part is also deep enough for all his bedding needs. I think this one would provide enough room for him and his companions, my only worry is that they will try to escape through the metal bars. The cage is 23.62 x 14.37 x 11.81 inches so it's longer than it is tall. It also comes with a wheel, but I may not use the wheel it comes with. Would a longer or taller cage be better? Are there any set ups or cages you would recommend that I look at?

    It's a relief that male gerbils are a little easier to introduce to one another, thank you for the advice on that! That will make it reallllyyyy helpful when I do get his companion. I was worried about him getting hurt by the other gerbil, since he's already had that experience from before I had him. I'll definitely make sure to set up a temporary cage to do that between them when the time comes, as soon as I possibly can.

    As far as food goes, it is the general mixture that they were selling at the pet store. It's a mixture of dry pellets, sunflower seeds, dry corn, dry carrots, and some other things that I can't quite name. I have tried to give him pieces of pear in a little food tray but he showed no interest. Is there anyway I can introduce him to fresh food and get him to eat it? Or do I just have to keep trying with different types to see what he likes? I'm thinking of also making my own gerbil food for him, just my own mixture to make sure he's getting what he needs. At the pet store, they told me I would need to get a salt tablet and a mineral tablet for him. I was only able to get the salt one since they didn't have a mineral tablet at hand. He does not show interest in the salt tablet I gave to him though, so is there a way to maybe crush up those things and put it into his food mixture? I think it would be a good idea but also I want to know from someone who has experience with gerbils, since maybe that idea is actually harmful.

    I like the idea of adding hemp into the bedding, would it be bad to mix together his pine wood bedding with hemp?

    I will also definitely check out that youtube channel!

    I just want to thank you one more time for your response, it has given me a lot of knowledge that I desperately needed to know and has given me ideas on what to do with his new cage!
     
  6. Smouse

    Smouse PetForums Newbie

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    I tried to reply with my original response but it wouldn't let me, it would mean a lot if you took a look at it though!
     
  7. Thea_SRA27

    Thea_SRA27 Thea

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    There's a couple of things that need changing - but that's all part of the learning when getting a new animal! :)

    Firstly with the hand feeding and holding - most gerbils do need it to happen every day so that they can learn - it isn't a 'natural' process. My girl Rolo is lovely as I said, but at the start she was skittish and didn't want to be held. What she is like now is a result of her being handled every day since the week I git her (when you get a new small pet, it isn't suggested that you hold them until 2-4 days after getting them as it may cause a lot of stress for them).

    Secondly, you said about using a hamster ball - this is a big no so please don't! They can get their toes stuck in the ventilation holes, there isn't that much ventilation anyway, they can't stop when they need to so always hurt themselves and bash into things, it bends their back... the list goes on. If you can't free roam, taking him out for a run on your bed or making a playpen is good :) Or supervising him while he runs in a bathtub!

    Also - pine isn't good for their tiny respiratory systems - and Cedar is bad too. There are only some commercial beddings that are safe, so please go with one or some of the ones above. Yes you can use hemp, but if you want to mix it with something do one of the beddings above, like paper bedding (carefresh, kaytee clean and cosy etc.) or hay (timothy hay, meadow hay, orchard grass...)

    Sand baths can go in their cage, you can either put it in once a week for a few hours or have a permanent one which you have to replace every week. They like to poo in them once they've finished cleaning so you'll have to clean daily like I do (you can buy a sieve, that's what I did, but don't ever think about using it for cooking too... haha)!

    With cages, I used to have a similar one to that (I think it's a little too small for two?) and I would go for something a bit bigger. If you plan on splitting in there, it is not possible because it has a topper. Really for cages, the best is to get a second hand fish tank on somewhere like eBay. A great hack is and Ikea detolf - turn it on it's side and take the shelves out and door off, and make your own lid, and it becomes a massive cage! it's around 70 us gallons which is awesome :) I'm getting one tomorrow because I want to treat my lone girl to something special, and I got it off eBay for £22 which is amazing! You can also make a bin cage, by buying a huge plastic storage bin and putting mesh on the top (there's ideas on youtube), and they're so cheap too!

    Also split caging is not garunteed to work, you need to remember that. You MAY end up with two lone gerbils. In future, I recommend you get your gerbils from rescues/shelters or at least a breeder, as the rescue gerbils are the ones that need homes and gerbils from breeders have better genes and are raised ethically. Unfortunately many pet shops get their animals from suppliers that do not ethically breed their animals, but I won't go into that. Just for future :)

    Ok, the food sounds ok but I can't say too much since I can't see it, but you can make your own foods (tutorial on channel I sent) or a good food in the US if you're there is Higgin's sunburst. I'm in the UK and use a mix of gerri gerbil, burgess nuggets, nature's touch, and another good food which is made by a small family-run shop. I also add some of my own stuff like porridge oats.

    That's fine about the info I sent, I'll tell you whatever you want to know! I'm glad it helped you :)
     
  8. Engel98

    Engel98 PetForums VIP

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  9. ForestWomble

    ForestWomble PetForums VIP

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    Just a little note, don't go too large with a gerbil cage, too much room and the gerbils could declan, For a pair I'd recommend no smaller than 20 gallons, but probably no larger than 30 gallons.
     
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