With over a hundred different recognised gerbil varieties, the great gerbil, Rhombomys opimus, is the largest and the Mongolian gerbil, Meriones unguiculatus, is the most common gerbil breed kept as pets, they are what you will see in most pet stores.
Though the gerbil’s history is surrounded by myths as the small-clawed warrior, records reveal that it originated in Mongolia. It was kept as pets since the 1960s and it wasn’t until 1964 when it was imported to the UK.
Myths and all, the gerbil is a mammal under the order Rodentia. Read on to find out how gerbils are as pets.
1. Some gerbils are nocturnal and some are diurnal.
Some gerbils are metaturnal. This means they have random intervals of activity. These mammals may be active, whether it is day or night. However, the Mongolian gerbil, the most common breed, is known to be diurnal, which means they are active mostly during the day.
2. Gerbils are active creatures.
As active creatures, they require a large habitat that will allow them to run around. One of their favourite activities is digging. This is a habit instilled from being a prey animal. They find safety by digging and living under deep burrows, away from potential predators. With that in mind, it is best to provide them with an enclosure with a solid bottom.
Gerbils are entertaining to watch doing any set of activities especially digging. However, the downside of digging is that you would most likely find dust, food, or wood flakes being kicked out of the cage. It requires regular cleaning and vacuuming around their aquarium.
3. Gerbils yearn for companionship.
In the wild, gerbils thrive in large family groups. They have an inclination to mark each other with their own scent, which often referred to as ‘family scent.’ They use their stomach to rub on objects that they have taken a liking to. This is also how they mark their territory as gerbils have a gland in their abdomen that leaves behind their own distinctive scent.
4. Gerbils have a unique way of greeting each other.
Gerbils have a special way of greeting and getting to know each other. They rub their noses on other gerbils like the Eskimo kiss and at times they will give a nose kiss to their owners.
5. Gerbils can procreate fast.
Yes, we may have stated that gerbils need company. However, it is advisable to keep the same genders of gerbil together to prevent unplanned mating. This animal multiplies at an amazing rate. Females can produce twelve litters in one year, with one to eight young in each litter.
6. Gerbils lick when they are thirsty.
If you see your gerbil licking their habitat or tank walls, this signifies that you have a thirsty gerbil. Make sure to provide fresh water in their sipper bottle at all times.
7. Gerbils are serious gnawers.
This is a common behaviour of rodent pets. They love to chew, and cardboard is amongst their favourite. Your gerbil can easily dismantle cardboard as quick as lightning. Watching them munching on anything can be quite entertaining. Other appropriate chewable items include untreated wood and chew toys designed for gerbils. Just need to clean up afterwards.
8. Gerbils wink and purr.
Eye-winking and purring are indicators that you have a satisfied, happy gerbil. These are their ways of showing gratitude. Feel free to wink back when they wink at you. Winking is a sign of happiness in the eyes of your gerbils.
Similar to cats, gerbils purr when they are feeling comfortable. It is likely that your gerbils will start purring while you are petting them.
9. A gerbil’s tail can actually come off.
It is very important to learn how to properly pick a gerbil up. Never pick up a gerbil by his tail. Part of his tail can actually fall off and will never regrow. This is part of their self-defence instinct that will buy them time to flee from a predator. Watch this video to know how to properly handle a gerbil: