Gerbils are generally diurnal animals (active during the day), constructing deep, dark, underground burrows. Gerbils may live for up to 3-4 years, although some may live longer.
Your duty of care
Gerbils are often kept by young children, because they have a great deal of character. However, their needs are actually very complex and owning one is a big responsibility. If you own or are responsible for gerbils, even on a temporary basis, you are required under the Animal Welfare Act to care for them properly.
Understanding Gerbils’ needs
There is no one 'perfect' way to care for all gerbils because every gerbil and every situation is different. It is up to you how you look after your gerbils but you must take reasonable steps to ensure that you meet all their needs.
Read our expert reviewed pet care information to find out more about the needs of gerbils: Environment, Diet, Behaviour, Company, and Health and welfare.
Clarification of terminology
Bedding material is used to describe the material or substrate that is used to cover the bottom of the gerbilarium.
Nesting material is used to describe the material provided in addition to bedding material, which is given to the gerbils for nest building and nesting behaviour.
There are many species of gerbils, though the Mongolian gerbil (Meriones unguiculatus) is the species of gerbil most commonly kept as a pet. They belong to the family of the Cricetidae (burrowing rodents) and are naturally adapted to desert environments in Africa, India and Asia. Why not view our full Gerbil factfile (PDF 44KB).
Gerbils are active
- Gerbils keep themselves busy by digging and they also like to gnaw.
- They shred material to use in nesting which also helps to keep their teeth short (as they never stop growing).
Gerbils are intelligent
- Gerbils learn a lot from their parents. For example, favoured foods are learnt from their mothers or from other familiar or related family members.
Gerbils are sociable
- In the wild, gerbils live in extended families of one breeding pair and its offspring of several generations.