The decision to adopt a gerbil, no matter how much you are attracted to this scuttling, little animal, should be made with a mix of impulse and logic and not be a spur of the moment decision. There are several factors you need to consider before you adopt one-factors that will help you identify the needs that must be met when purchasing your gerbil.
Answering these questions in advance will help you maintain a sense of logic in your decision making and when dealing with the shelter or animal center, breeder's home or pet shop:
Just as there are situations where a gerbil is an ideal pet, there are others when one is most inappropriate. For example:
After selecting the type of gerbil for you, there are other factors you need to consider.
One or Two? Gerbils are highly social colony animals. They become depressed when they are alone. So, unless you have some compelling reason not to, gerbils should always be adopted in pairs. A solo gerbil won't be content unless you spend a great deal of time with him.
Keeping one gerbil initially is recommended. Allow your gerbil time to get used to you. After a few weeks you can bring in the second one. He won't be as tame, but he will be a play partner for your first gerbil.
You should bring the two gerbils together on neutral ground to minimize the risks of fighting. You might try a clean, deodorized cage that has been rearranged because this distracts the first gerbil and makes him more likely to accept his new cage mate.
A pair of gerbils interacting can be quite a sight. They often groom and lick each other and snuggle together. When they are feeling energetic, they may wrestle and chase each other.
When selecting your gerbils you should either take them from one family group or take 4- to 6-week-old gerbils. If they are any older, it will be almost impossible for them to grow accustomed to each other because they become fixated on their group's odor. The odor of their own social group is the most important means of recognition among all rodents.
Male or Female? The question of your gerbil's sex becomes important only if you are planning to breed them. It is better to adopt two females rather than two males. Intact males have a tendency to fight when they mature. Although you can neuter a male gerbil, you will probably want to avoid the extra cost and potential risk to your pet.
Sexual differences in gerbils are most visible in naked, new-born young than ones that have fur; even in these tiny rodent babies, the gap between the anus and the genital opening can be seen clearly. Here's how to differentiate the sexes:
Young or Old? Gerbils have a short life span, so you should only purchase young animals. They can be taken from their mother when they are from 4- to 6-weeks old.
Basic Rules for Choosing Your Gerbil
Purchasing any pet can be an emotional decision. When selecting your gerbil, remember: choose from your head, not just your heart; both you and your gerbil will be happier for it.
To help you with that, follow these basic rules:
Now that you have purchased your gerbil you have to transport him safely home. Carrying containers made of transparent plastic with a barrel lid and two handles are good for transporting your gerbil. If you buy a slightly larger box, you will have a spare cage, which can also be used as temporary housing. You should also use litter, tissue or hay to keep your gerbil from sliding and injuring himself. Keep the container upright and out of the sun. This will make him feel more secure.
During a short trip it is not necessary to add food because he won't eat anyway owing to the stress of moving. Be aware that the cardboard or paper cartons supplied by pet stores will rarely stand up to the gnawing teeth of a gerbil. This means that your new pet could easily escape on the journey home.
Making the Choice
With careful observation and the help of the following checklist, you should be able to tell if your gerbil is healthy. Before you make your final selection, thoroughly examine your gerbil for the following:
A Final Word
You should arrange to visit your vet on the way home from picking up your new gerbil. The vet will check him to be sure he is healthy and answer any questions you may have.
Know how to properly handle your gerbil. It will take time for your gerbil to learn that the hand that usually picks him up from above does not signify danger. Allow your gerbil to sniff your hand to give him confidence, rather than trying to pick him up straight away. It is better to retain a gerbil by his tail until he has developed real trust. Remember that being grasped in that way is unpleasant for the animal. Hold your gerbil by the tail only briefly, grasping him at the base near the body. Support him with your other hand so that he is not left dangling by his tail. Gerbils should not be held this way because their tails are easily damaged.
When choosing your gerbil, using a little bit of common sense mixed with your instincts, will guarantee the best chance of you and your gerbil living happily ever after.