In order to provide your gerbil with a species-appropriate home, you should consider a few points when setting up the enclosure.
These include first selecting the right enclosure, assembling the substrate correctly, and providing ample opportunities for activity or grooming.
That sounds complicated?
It’s not: We’ll tell you 7 steps that will guide you transparently through the process of setting up the gerbil enclosure.
What does the ideal gerbil enclosure look like?
Every species-appropriate gerbil enclosure should have a minimum area of half a square meter (for two animals).
A terrarium is best suited for this purpose, as it does not pose any risk of injury to your gerbil.
The appropriate bedding, a small house, a sand bath and sufficient rodent toys must not be missing.
Step 1: Choose the right enclosure
Your gerbils will be very happy if they have a lot of space available.
But not every enclosure is equally suitable for your racers.
For example, you should not buy a lattice cage, because your racer could climb up the bars and fall down from there and injure himself.
Also, the bars invite gnawing, which is detrimental to your gerbil’s dental health.
If the grid cage also has plastic components, this can lead to illness, injury or even death of the animal if your gerbil chews and eats the plastic.
Therefore, it makes sense if you opt for an aquarium. They are made of glass and offer plenty of space for your gerbil.
Another advantage is that your gerbil cannot climb up the walls.
If your pet wants to dig a tunnel, no litter will fall out of the enclosure, which is why you also have less dirt in the apartment.
It is important that you either make sure that the aquarium is high enough (about 75 cm) or that you build a lid – otherwise gerbils are excellent jumpers and could jump out of their enclosure!
Step 2: How to find the right bedding
Not all bedding is the same – it’s the quality that counts!
The best way to recognize high-quality bedding is that it is highly absorbent and reliably neutralizes unpleasant odors.
It should also be as dust-free as possible so as not to stress the respiratory tract of your gerbils – after all, gerbils like to dig and would therefore stir up a lot of dust.
Ideally, you should use a litter made from natural materials such as hemp or spelt, as this litter is biodegradable and environmentally friendly.
You should also make sure that the shavings feel soft under your gerbil’s paws and have no sharp edges.
Since your gerbil likes to dig tunnels, it is also important that the litter has good stability so that the dug tunnels do not collapse again immediately.
Basically you have to make sure that you litter the enclosure at least 20, better still 30 cm high, in order to make an adequate tunnel construction possible at all.
Furthermore, it makes sense to build up the bedding from several layers with different materials (e.g. bedding, straw, paper bedding).
Step 3: Provide a house for your gerbils
Once the enclosure is littered, the next step is to furnish the interior.
A house and/or other shelter possibilities may not be missing here.
Gerbils are flight animals and look for protection in case of potential danger. If your enclosure does not have a suitable shelter, this means a lot of stress for your pet.
Sleep quality can also suffer significantly if your gerbil doesn’t feel 100% safe.
Gerbils like to cuddle a lot – even when sleeping!
Therefore, when buying the house, make sure that there is not only space for one animal, but for several animals.
In addition, it is useful if the cottage has several entrances, so that each animal can withdraw, should there be a dispute in the enclosure.
In a closed house your gerbil cannot escape if the ‘quarrel seeker’ blocks the only entrance.
The house should always be made of untreated natural wood so that there is no health risk if your gerbil gnaws on the house.
Plastic or synthetic houses are an absolute no-go for health reasons!
Step 4: A sand bath for fur care
Gerbils should never be bathed in water – but that is not necessary!
It is sufficient to provide a sand bath with high-quality chinchilla sand for your pets to roll around in.
High quality sand is very fine-grained, does not create dust and has rounded grains that will not harm your gerbil’s fur.
Coarse-grained sand is not suitable for your gerbils, as it will cause lasting damage to their fur and can also cause injuries to their skin.
In addition, the sand should clump when it comes into contact with the urine of your gerbil.
This property ensures that you can read the clumps out of the sand every day and only need to change the complete sand once a week.
Chinchilla sand consists of either quartz sand or contains clay.
Quartz sand is not harmful for you, but your gerbils should not eat the sand, otherwise it can lead to diseases.
Clay sand, on the other hand, is completely safe for your gerbil, but you should only touch the sand with gloves, as the substances attapulgite and sepiolite are suspected of promoting cancer in humans.
Step 5: Keep them busy
An empty enclosure is boring and does not keep your animals busy.
For this reason, you should provide your pet with a few toys to keep them occupied.
Of course, these toys should be made of safe materials!
Here’s a list of potential toys that your racer is sure to enjoy:
- a wheel
Providing your Gerbil with a high-quality running wheel will allow your pet to indulge his urge to move whenever he wants.
Make sure that the wheel is made of untreated wood and has a diameter of about 30 cm. This guarantees that your racer won’t get back injuries.
A list of the best wheels for racing mice can be found here.
- a wooden tube
Gerbils love wooden tubes!
Especially if this tube has several entrance holes.
Get creative and stuff a few holes with hay or twigs to keep your gerbil busy for longer.
- hay balls
Hay balls aren’t particularly durable, but will bring your pets a great amount of fun!
These little balls aren’t expensive, and you’ll quickly see how much fun your gerbil has chewing up the ball and nibbling on the hay or using it to build a nest.
However, make sure that the hay is of high quality. You can recognize it by the fact that it hardly or not at all dusts.
Step 6: Place food and water wisely
Water should always be provided in an open water bowl.
Plastic drinking bottles, which are unfortunately often offered in pet stores, are not suitable.
Since gerbils dig and burrow a lot, it makes sense to place the water a little higher, for example on the roof of the house. This way you can avoid that too much litter is shoveled into the water.
If you want to feed fresh food, it makes sense not to put it in the litter, but in a food bowl.
This should also be placed a little higher. Especially if you feed watery food, such as cucumber, the litter sticks to the food very easily.
If you feed rather dry food, e.g. herbs, you can also hide this in the litter to make foraging as natural as possible for your racers.
By the way, pellets and other dry food is not suitable for gerbils, because they are very hard on the gastrointestinal tract!
Step 7: Check the setup for suitability for everyday use
Once the enclosure is finally set up, you should take a final look at the furnishings and make sure that your gerbil can really feel comfortable here.
The enclosure should not be overcrowded, but still offer some variety, so that your gerbil does not get bored.
You should also check that things like the wheel are in a convenient place.
If you get older gerbils, it is important to make sure that they can easily reach the food and water.
Also the sand bath should always be accessible.
Depending on how fit the gerbils are, it can be problematic if the sand bath or the food/water are higher.
This is where ramps can help to make access easier for your pet if they can no longer jump onto the cottage on their own.
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