Mice are generally not considered to be water-shy animals. But what about gerbils? After all, they come from hot regions where water is a precious commodity.
So the question arises: Can gerbils be bathed in water or washed with it?
In this article, we will answer this question and discuss other important topics related to keeping gerbils clean.
Are gerbils allowed to be bathed or washed?
The answer is: No, gerbils must not be bathed – at least not with water.
Instead, provide your gerbils with a sand bath where they can roll around on their own as needed to clean their fur.
With a healthy gerbil, it is not necessary for you as a human to assist your pet with grooming.
Are gerbils clean animals?
Gerbils are extremely clean animals that do not like it at all if their fur is sticky and/or dirty.
Therefore, gerbils not only love to take sand baths, but also lick themselves clean several times a day.
Also the licking off of conspecifics you can often observe. This not only cleans the areas that are difficult to reach by the animals themselves, but the mutual cleaning also serves to build up and intensify social bonds.
Compared to hamsters or color mice, gerbils pee very little, which is why they do not soil their enclosure as quickly.
Most gerbils prefer to pee in their sand bath, so it is important that you clean it regularly, otherwise your gerbils will spread all the urine in their fur when they roll around.
How often exactly a sand bath should be cleaned, you will learn later.
If you observe your gerbil cleaning itself very often, then you can be happy: because this is a clear sign that your animal is comfortable, content and relaxed!
How do gerbils bathe?
Gerbils bathe themselves by rolling around in their sand bath at lightning speed.
This process takes only a few fractions of a second and is usually repeated several times in a row.
It is important for the survival of the animals in the wild that this process takes place quickly, because as long as a gerbil is bathing, it can no longer keep an eye on its surroundings.
For enemies it is thus a found food.
You may now be wondering why animals bathe in sand and not in water at all.
This has an evolutionary background: Mongolian gerbils are – as the name implies – native to the Mongolian steppe.
In this dry desert region, puddles and waterholes are rather rare, which is why bathing in the sand has proven to be an excellent alternative.
The fur and also the skin of the animals is not at all designed for bathing in water.
So it can come to skin problems, if you bathe the animals in the water, because here the natural protection from sebum and fat is broken, which is on the skin of the animals.
What should I look for when choosing sand?
In order to offer your racing mice an optimal sand bath, there are a few things to consider, because not every sand is suitable for your racers.
Ideally, you should choose fine chinchilla sand, as this has the best possible care properties. Aquarium sand, bird sand or other types of sand are generally unsuitable, as the grains are too large and usually not rounded.
Thus it can happen fast that the fur of your racers becomes dull or it comes even to skin injuries and/or – inflammations.
Also make sure that the sand is as little dusty as possible – preferably not at all – and that the sand clumps together as soon as it comes into contact with urine.
Based on these criteria, it is easy to see whether the product you have chosen is a high quality or rather inferior sand.
Chinchilla sand usually consists of quartz sand or clayey sand.
Both types of sand are suitable for the fur of your gerbils, but there are differences: gerbils occasionally like to eat sand to benefit from the valuable minerals.
Quartz sand is less suitable for this purpose, as it is unhealthy for your gerbils.
Clayey sand, on the other hand, does not cause health problems, but it usually contains the substances attapulgite and sepiolite, which are not healthy for humans.
Both substances are suspected of having a carcinogenic effect on humans. In view of this, it is important that you always wear gloves when interacting directly with the sand.
Which container is suitable for a sand bath?
Of course, there are special containers that are sold as sand baths.
Basically, it doesn’t matter which container you put the sand in, as long as your gerbil has enough room to turn around.
Also, make sure the bath is not made of plastic or other potentially harmful materials.
Since gerbils are rodents that will also try the sand bath, failure to do so could potentially cause health problems.
How often should the sand bath be cleaned?
If you take care to use a high quality sand, which clumps in contact with urine, it is sufficient to collect the clumps from the sand bath once a day and to change the entire sand only once a week.
If your gerbil is sick and you want to prevent the other animals from getting infected, you should of course change the sand more often, maybe even twice a day, to prevent the healthy animals from rolling around in the urine of the sick animals and risking their health.
Are there exceptions where a gerbil should be bathed with water?
It can happen that your gerbil develops bladder weakness in old age, or even kidney disease.
In this case, it is not uncommon for your pet to literally wet its fur.
The yellow spots do not only look unsightly, they can also lead to urine scalding and thus to inflammations.
Especially if your gerbil does not clean itself or can not clean itself very often, it may be necessary that you help it with the care.
However, avoid bathing the animal in water and instead use a damp cloth to clean targeted areas.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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