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Gerbil care: a guide to keeping gerbils as pets

So you think gerbils are the right small pet for you?

Let’s take a look at everything you’ll need to consider when welcoming your new furry friend into your home.

You will need:

Before bringing home your gerbils, it’s important to be prepared. Your shopping list should include:

  • A spacious enclosure, ideally a tank or old aquarium with solid walls
  • Lots of natural bedding
  • Shredded paper for nesting
  • A water bottle and food bowl
  • Food – a commercial diet mix, plus fresh fruit and veg
  • Something for them to sleep on, ideally made from a material they can’t gnaw away at
  • Materials they can gnaw at, i.e. small pieces of wood, fruit tree branches


As with most small pets, it’s important for your gerbils’ enclosure to be as similar as possible to the conditions they’d live in in the wild.

Gerbils are active at night, so store their enclosure somewhere they won’t disturb you while you sleep. They love to dig and burrow, so make sure the enclosure has a thick layer of natural bedding such as organic soil, peat or hay. The enclosure itself will need to have glass walls to make sure none of the soil or hay gets out – and so your gerbils can’t dig through it.

Gerbils will need space to move about comfortably and to keep themselves entertained. In the wild, they live in tunnels up to 3m long. As a minimum, choose an enclosure that’s at least 40cm x 70cm, and 30cm high.

What do gerbils eat?

A commercial feed will more than likely be the basis of your gerbils’ diet, but make sure to supplement this with fresh fruit and vegetables. Popular choices include:

  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Apples
  • Very small amounts of lettuce

When selecting a healthy snack for your gerbils, be sure to avoid potatoes, rhubarb and tomato leaves – they’re highly poisonous.

As with all pets, your gerbils should have a constant supply of clean, fresh water readily available. Store it in a water bottle that clips to the side of their cage rather than in a bowl, a bowl would end up toppling over while they were digging.

Exercise, entertainment and enrichment

First off, gerbils are very sociable creatures, so you’ll need to keep a minimum of 2 in the enclosure. If you get them both at the same time, and if they’re a similar age, they’ll naturally form a great relationship. Make sure your gerbils are the same sex too, or you may end up with a lot more gerbils than you planned for!

Gerbils’ teeth never stop growing. Provide them with items to gnaw on, such as small fruit tree branches, and they’ll be able to wear down their teeth naturally.

Once again, gerbils love to dig and to burrow. Try providing them with cardboard tubes or boxes and they’ll be very pleased indeed.

Meeting the vet

It’s always a good idea to bring your gerbils along to the vets for an introductory health check, this will make sure they’re in good health from the start.

Read more: Common gerbil health problems and how to take care of your gerbil.

Need more info?

For more help and advice on getting a new small pet, how to take care of a gerbil or any aspect of your gerbils’ health and wellbeing, have a chat with your local vet.

Find your nearest vet using our Find a Vet page, or speak to a vet online using Online Vets.