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PROPER INTRODUCTIONS

Preparation for your gerbil's arrival into your life should begin as soon as you make the decision to add these playful creatures to your household. Take the time to do detailed research. Since it's recommended that gerbils be kept in pairs or groups, this article will address those concerns as well as the consideration of your own family situation.

Ready

Question other gerbil owners to become familiar with the responsibilities and requirements of your new pets. Your personal circumstances will affect the well being of your gerbils from the moment they arrive.

  • Do you live alone? Are you part of an active household?
  • Are you gone most of the day? Housebound?
  • Are there other pets in your household?
  • Are there children present most of the day? Extended family members?
To get ready for your gerbils' arrival, choose the area of your own accommodations that will best suit all of you. Depending on the breed you choose, your gerbils may need quiet during the day. All breeds should be kept out of direct sunlight and be kept in clean surroundings free of the stress of curious animals or small children.

Get Set

No matter what their broader environment might be, your gerbils need to be introduced to their own secure, quiet, clean surroundings without initial distractions. Set up a safe cage in advance, so the day you bring your gerbils home will be as worry-free as possible. Make yourself a checklist:

  • Check cage security carefully.
  • Line with proper bedding andĀ provide water.
  • Plan for separate food and elimination areas (your gerbils will choose them).
  • Provide wheel, treadmill and/or apparatus for vigorous exercise.
  • Provide wood suitable for chewing.
Go

Now's the time to choose your gerbils. The easiest way to pair up gerbils is to get them at a very early age - five to six weeks old - and from the same litter. Gerbils are territorial and the most successful pairings are those from the same litter, since each is already familiar with the other's scent. Young gerbils have yet to learn to be territorial. Chances are they have been playing and sleeping together already without any problems.

Make sure to bring them home in a secure container from which they can be easily removed. Since gerbils operate by scent it helps the acclimation process to include a bit of their original bedding in the container and their new cage.

If you have a single gerbil under ten weeks old and want to bring in a roommate, you will still want to get a gerbil who is under seven weeks old. If your gerbil is older, any other gerbil may threaten his territory and make co-habitation impossible. Effort will be needed to make the match successful:

The split cage method is preferred.

  • Divide your gerbil's home into two areas. Use a separator or divider that will allow them to see and smell each other - yet prohibit direct contact - to avoid scratching or biting.
  • To get them familiar with each other's scent, every few hours swap your gerbils to opposite sides of the divider. Continue this process for a few days to a week. Remove the divider and observe closely for about an hour. Once they start to snuggle with each other, you can relax.
  • If they fight, separate them and try again. It may take as many as three attempts. If this fails, try the next method.
Note: Wear gloves to avoid the danger of being bitten.

Masking the Scent Method

  • When a split cage doesn't work, mask the scent of your gerbils.
  • In a freshly cleaned cage, place water, food, and toys in a way that puts both gerbils on neutral ground.
  • Grooming and sleeping together are signs that companionship is setting in.
  • If they fight, and you have already tried the split cage method, chances are they will never get along and you need to separate the two permanently.
Where is Everybody?

The gerbilsĀ need to be alone...at first. The first and most important introduction must be your gerbils to their cage. As adorable as they are, resist the urge to handle or approach them for the first few days. This is the time when they must get to know their new surroundings and build a home for themselves - literally. Gerbils need to leave their scents in the unfamiliar places.

Hello In There!

Your gerbils need to meet you in a non-threatening encounter, on their terms.

Because they are instinctively fearless, gerbils rarely bite. If they nip your finger, they're probably hungry or frightened. Wash your hands so they are free of any scents other than your own. Take your time and let them sniff. Gerbil eyesight is weak, and they'll explore with whiskers twitching. The taming process has begun.

Extend your hand into the cage as a balled fist. Let them sniff your fist; take it out. Repeat a few times. This will allow your gerbil to get used to your scent. If they seem reticent, don't worry. Gerbils are such curious pets it won't take long before this shyness wears off. Next, observe what they like to eat. Offer bits of food, first on the floor of the cage and then from your open palm. Let your gerbils take the treat from your hand and they'll begin to associate you with something good.

As they come into your hand, you will be able to stroke and pick them up. Once in your palm, gently scoop from the side or underneath and cup your hands around your pet so there is no possibility of escape.

Add your voice. As you tame your gerbils, speak in soothing tones and they'll come to recognize your voice. During the first two or three weeks, follow the socializing instructions until your gerbils can be lifted easily.

To raise healthy gerbils, it's imperative to remember how they behave. These creatures are domesticated but they are still full of their natural instincts. (Should you doubt it, watch yours in their cage as they snuggle and nest.) Those instincts include scurrying, burrowing and avoiding bright light. Gerbil paws are designed for clinging and they're more comfortable on anything that can be gripped - from your clothes to your furniture - than on smooth surfaces such as tabletops and kitchen counters.

These affectionate pets grow accustomed to handling and it keeps them tame. This is what you've been waiting for but that doesn't mean you can let down your guard. Your gerbils are fearless and active. They love to roam and explore.

What About the Rest of Us?

Other Pets: Your gerbils have no desire to meet the rest of your animal household. Cats, dogs and birds of any size may be perceived as overpowering enemies or a curiosity factor that may incite the larger animal to attack. Do not let other pets sniff, bark or bat at your gerbils' cage. Shock or fear leads to stress and can shorten your gerbils' lives.

If you let your gerbil run, it should always be in a confined area free from any other animals.

Children and Elders: You are the best judge of the handling ability of others. Because of their size and activity level, gerbils may be too active to be held by small children or adults unfamiliar with the skills needed. To avoid injury from a fall, the ideal place to let a child - or novice adult - hold your gerbil is on the floor. A startled or curious gerbil will bolt and can easily scurry off a smooth surface and injure himself.

Docile animals can do wonders for the elderly and ill. However, you should never offer your gerbil to anyone of any age who does not have the dexterity or practice of holding small active animals securely but not tightly. Instead, let them pet or admire them while you hold them.