Gerbils spend much of their time underground or busy digging tunnels and foraging for food. They are designed to dig, so floor space is more important than height and shelves.
Suitable gerbil housing available to purchase is very limited. Therefore, we recommend building your own by converting a tank. If you are looking to purchase, avoid any enclosures that have mesh shelves, as these can damage your gerbils’ feet.
Avoid three-level glass rodent tanks – a weaker gerbil may become stuck under one of the shelves when trying to dig up for air or escape.
Use either a 3ft fish tank or a glass display cabinet, laid on its back. Both need a homemade, mesh lid to ensure your gerbils receive plenty of fresh air. A fish tank lid is not suitable.
To make the lid, you will first need to construct a wooden frame, similar to a picture frame. This will either sit on the inside ledges of the tank or snugly fit over the enclosure edges. These should be well made with correct wood screws and not tied together. For larger glass cabinets, you may need to make the lid in two sections to avoid it being weak in the middle.
Once you’ve made the frame, use a staple gun to attach 1cm by 1cm welded mesh to the lid. Ideally, place this on the inside of the lid to avoid your gerbils chewing the wood.
Unlike most rodents, providing toys and activities for gerbils can be rather tricky. Many items are unsuitable and may injure your gerbils. However, there are a few items that will help them stay fit and healthy.
The wrong bedding for your gerbils can have a very negative effect on their health. Wood shavings or sawdust can be extremely harmful to your gerbils’ skin and airway, and can give you an allergic reaction too!
Again, gerbils are slightly different to other rodents. They like a deep layer of bedding in which they will build tunnels and nesting pods. Aim to fill your tank around 3⁄4 full, allowing your gerbil enough room on the surface for them to reach up on their hind legs without touching the lid.
As a gerbil house is made up of deep bedding, give then a full clean out every three to four weeks. Do a daily pick of any dirty areas and remove old food to prevent it from becoming contaminated. Your gerbils will also appreciate a top-up of nesting material, such as white tissue bedding or hay, a few times a week.
When your gerbils are due to be cleaned out, remove them from the tank and place them in a rodent pet carrier. Place some of the bedding and a toilet roll in the carrier to help them feel relaxed. Completely empty the tank and clean it with a pet-friendly disinfectant. Once dry, refill with fresh bedding and activities.