About gerbils

GerbilsAre gerbils suitable for all ages?

Gerbils are sociable animals but they do have particular needs. For this reason we do not recommend them as pets for young children. Gerbils are fast and sleek and are not easy to handle. They are burrowing animals and prefer to live underground, not in a cage, so a deep glass fish tank is needed. See Housing your gerbils for more details.

How long do gerbils live?

Gerbils tend to live for between 3-5 years.

Are they friendly?

Gerbils are friendly creatures but difficult to handle, moving very quickly. They love to be in groups if you have the space, or at least a pair. They are great fun to watch with their endless burrowing and digging. If kept in a cage their behaviour and state of health may well deteriorate.

Can gerbils be let out to play?

Yes, but they move so quickly it can be difficult to catch them again. They need to be in a secured space.

Caring for your gerbils

What you need to know...

Housing your gerbils

A deep glass tank ( typically a long fish tank of at least 120cms x30cmsx30cms for a pair) is best. It needs a well ventilated lid, such as wire mesh, deeply filled with a mixture of peat, hay, chinchilla sand and shredded paper. The tank should be three quarters filled.

You need to provide hay and bedding as gerbils like to make an underground nest to sleep in. They also need a dust bath. Fresh drinking water should be put in a drinking bottle, not a bowl as it gets filled with material from all the digging!

A good idea is to bury some appropriate sized plastic tubing in the peat and hay mixture for the gerbils to discover, and also provide cardboard tubes and wood for them to chew on.

Healthy tips for gerbils

  • Gerbils need the right accommodation to be happy and healthy. No cages!
  • Their teeth grow quickly, like all rodents, and they need to chew and shred wood regularly. Always have some suitable wood in their accommodation for them to gnaw.
  • Do not put heavy objects or rocks on the surface after the tank is filled. Gerbil burrowing can easily bring these down on top of them

Feeding your gerbils

  • You can buy food mixes specially formulated for gerbils. Avoid a rich diet such as sunflower seeds and peanuts.
  • A small quantity of fruit and vegetables is a good idea (the size of a garden pea is enough or they will store the food).
  • Daily fresh water but in a feeding bottle hung from the wire mesh of the lid, not left in a bowl.

Need more help and advice?

Call the Small Animal Team at Raystede on 01825 880467 or email


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