Since gerbils are kept indoors, the question rightfully arises whether they are smelly pets.
Depends. But see for yourself…
Do gerbils stink?
No, with proper care gerbils do not stink at all. The animals are very clean by nature and take great care to keep themselves and their fur clean.
If you make sure that the enclosure is cleaned at regular intervals, you will notice little to no odor from the presence of your gerbils.
Why do gerbils not stink compared to other mice?
If you consider the natural habitat of gerbils, this question is almost self-answering.
Gerbils are Mongolian gerbils, which means that they are at home in the Mongolian steppe.
The animals are used to heat and drought and can cope well with these factors. So it is not surprising that your gerbils drink quite little compared to other mice.
This is in their nature, because they are designed to have to manage with little liquid.
This circumstance is then also noticeable in terms of odor: While the terrarium of other mice must be cleaned at least once a week, the 14-day cleaning is sufficient for gerbils.
The sand bath should of course be cleaned every day. Here, however, it is sufficient to remove the lumps every day and completely replace all the sand once a week.
But what can be the cause, if your gerbils still smell very unpleasant?
We will tell you now!
5 reasons why your gerbil might stink
Cause 1: Your animal is sick
Sick gerbils sometimes develop a very strong odor.
Especially in case of infectious digestive problems, which are accompanied by diarrhea, a strong smell often accompanies.
It is also possible that your gerbil has kidney disease and therefore consumes more water and excretes more urine.
If you observe your gerbil taking in more water, a visit to the vet is advisable, because kidney problems are not to be sat with, as they may cost your pet its life!
Cause 2: The furnishings should be replaced
Real and untreated wood has the great advantage that your gerbils will not be harmed by gnawing on the furnishings.
However, there is also a disadvantage: The untreated wood takes on the smell of the excreted urine and stores it over time. So your enclosure may smell of urine even though you have just cleaned it.
Therefore, check to see if the odor has settled into the wood and replace the affected furnishings with new furnishings if necessary.
Cause 3: Your racers are getting old
No matter how well you care for your gerbils, you won’t be able to prevent aging. As they age, their aches and pains increase, their mobility is reduced, and gerbils clean themselves less often than they used to.
Consequently, your animals may well develop a rather distinctive odor of their own.
This is the natural course of things and you can’t really change this circumstance.
However, make sure that your gerbil has access to a clean sand bath at all times so that it can at least groom its fur a little.
Cause 4: You are using the wrong bedding
A high-quality bedding is paramount in gerbil husbandry when it comes to avoiding unpleasant odors.
Since quality can vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer, you may have to try a few brands before you find the right bedding.
You can recognize high-quality bedding by the fact that it is highly absorbent and also produces little to no dust.
Not only your nose, but also your gerbils will thank you if you pay attention to high-quality bedding – after all, this is their habitat, from which they can’t simply flee if they don’t like it.
Cause 5: Your gerbil is stressed
Highly stressed gerbils spread an unpleasant odor. Especially if this condition lasts for a long period of time.
It is also possible that your animal consumes less water than usual due to the stress, the ammonia content in the urine increases as a result and the odor is the cause of this.
Make sure your group is harmonious with each other, your racers are getting adequate sleep, and that they are in a quiet place without noise or a lot of commotion.
Physical illness and pain can also trigger stress in your gerbil!
3 tips that can prevent an unpleasant odor
Tip 1: Healthy diet
Proper nutrition plays a large part in whether or not your gerbils start to smell.
After all, digestive problems are nothing to joke about!
If something is wrong here, it will also manifest itself in an unpleasant odor.
Since gerbils feed on ‘dry’ food, such as grasses, herbs, roots, mealworms, etc., the food itself should not spread an unpleasant odor.
If possible, you should avoid pellets and ready-made food, as this food is usually very difficult for your racers to digest. Go for fresh food instead!
Tip 2: Regular health check-ups at the vet.
It never hurts to take your gerbils to the vet every few months to check their general health.
This way you can make sure that potentially dangerous diseases can be detected and treated in the early stages.
Your gerbil will be very grateful for these check-ups, as it will probably be spared a lot of suffering. Also, you can prevent your gerbil from getting so sick that it starts to stink.
However, you should make an additional appointment with your vet right away if you notice your gerbil smelling funny.
Tip 3: Regular shock ventilation
Gerbils don’t like drafts – but never airing them out is no solution either!
It makes sense to ventilate the room in which your gerbil enclosure is located every morning and every evening for 10 – 15 minutes. This way the room is well ventilated and unpleasant odors have a harder time to take hold.
In addition, your gerbils will not be very enthusiastic about having to spend their lives in a stuffy room. Breathing is recommended at any time of the year and has many positive effects for you and your gerbils.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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I have spent a lifetime learning about pets and animals, and have worked in the pet and vet industry for over 20 years now!
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