Gerbil Facts

They Call Me Thumper: Fun But Informative Facts About Gerbils

If you are contemplating the idea of keeping a gerbil as a pet, then here are some facts about this rodent species that you need to take into consideration.
Gerbils are commonly known as desert rats due to their adaptability to arid environment. While most of them are diurnal, some species do exhibit a crepuscular behavior. In the wild, they live in groups and have a strong sense of smell that helps them recognize other members of their clan. They feed on grasses, grains, seeds, and roots of plants that grow in deserts.

The average body length of gerbils ranges from 6 - 12 inches. However, species like Rhombomys opimus are 16-inches long and weigh around 2½ oz. They have large hind legs, which help them move by hopping around. Their hind legs are characterized by a furry surface which protects them from hot and dry surfaces of deserts. Gerbils live underground, where they create a network of tunnels. Families living together in chambers is also one of the features of these tunnel networks. The average body temperature of these rodents is 39 °C (which can vary by 0.5 °C), while their heart rate ranges between 260 - 600/minute. Gerbils have a lifespan of 2 - 3 years.

Gerbils as Pets
Gerbils are considered ideal household pets, just like hamsters. Their body is adapted to survive arid/dry climatic conditions and their kidneys produce very little waste for body fluid conservation. Thus, gerbils―with their clean odor―are quite popular as pets. Mongolia gerbils are the most popular in the pet industry. The following points would help you understand how to take care of them.
  • These creatures are known to fight violently and therefore, if you are to keep them together, you need to ensure that you choose the ones that are familiar with each other.
  • As with various other rodents, even gerbils have teeth that grow continuously. It is important to clip them off regularly, as failing to do so is bound to cause their teeth to pierce into the roof of their mouth. For proper teeth care, the gerbil should be taken to a veterinarian on a regular basis.
  • A metal gerbil cage and cotton bedding is recommended for housing a gerbil. Cotton is not an option as they bury themselves in it. Plastic materials should never be used for housing them as they have a habit of gnawing/chewing, as a result of which they are likely to end up ingesting plastic.
  • Tyzzers' disease is the health problem to watch out for in these rodents. It is an infectious disease caused by bacteria and in some cases, due to stress. Symptoms of the Tyzzer's disease are lethargy, ruffled fur, poor appetite, hunched posture, and diarrhea. At times, they can even die from this disease.
  • You need to handle them properly. It is important for their health and also for controlling their violent behavior. Gentle handling should keep them under control.
Fun Facts
  • Gerbils are fond of sunflower seeds.
  • A gerbil marks his territory by rubbing his stomach on nearby objects.
  • A nest box is needed by gerbils, so that they can feel secured.
  • An interesting form of gerbil behavior is thumping. When they feel excited or are stressed, they generally pound their hind legs on ground.
  • In young gerbils, thumping can be seen even if they are not stressed.
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