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Gerbil health and welfare

Health logo © RSPCA publications and brand 2010

Ensure your gerbils are protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

Gerbils need:

  • You to be familiar with how each individual normally looks and their behaviour. Gerbils behaving differently to normal can indicate something is wrong; so this helps you notice signs of illness/pain, and take action quickly. Gerbils can be affected by many diseases. They can become infected by contaminated food/water/litter material. Inappropriate environments and/or stress, can lead to repetitive behaviours developing (e.g. digging in one corner for long periods of time).
  • Portrait of single adult standing in peat filled gerbilarium© Joe Murphy/RSPCA
  • Checking regularly. Handling can be stressful, and they can be difficult to catch, it’s important to regularly check them for health/welfare. Gerbils feel pain similarly to other mammals, including humans. 
  • Suitable gnawing material- their teeth grow continuously and will cause health problems/pain if they grow too long.

    - Wooden chew-blocks are ideal. Gerbils particularly like willow/hazel/beech/birch/branches from fruit trees. Don’t use ivy/yew/holly as these are poisonous.

    - Regularly examine their front teeth; ask your vet to check them to ensure they’re positioned/growing correctly. If the teeth become overgrown, take them to a vet. Gerbils’ teeth grow continually; they gnaw objects to keep them regularly worn down. If there is a problem with their teeth, they may stop eating.

  • Their nails checking regularly to ensure they’re not becoming overgrown. Gerbils naturally wear their nails down walking on rough surfaces. 
  • A shallow tray filled with clean, fine sand/'chinchilla dust' to bathe in daily to maintain their coat in good condition. Remove/sieve clean after use. 
  • Treated with only the medicines recommended for them by the vet. 
  • Caring for by a responsible person when you’re away to meet their welfare needs - introduce your gerbils to them beforehand.

    - Provide them with all necessary information to take care of your pets. As well as details specific to your individual gerbils, this document could be a useful reference point to meeting their needs.

    - Keep your gerbils in their familiar gerbilarium and leave their usual food for their carer to give.

  • Transporting carefully, reducing stress wherever possible. Don’t transport them unless absolutely necessary (Transporting your gerbils (PDF 93.4 KB).
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