Companionship for your gerbils
What any happy gerbil needs is the company of other gerbils as solitude can lead to unhappiness and illness. Keep a pair, or a group, preferably of the same sex and ideally from the same litter. Getting them all at the same time as babies is perfect. Males and females can be kept together, but that will definitely lead to the patter of tiny gerbil feet.
After 10 weeks of age, gerbils won’t welcome newcomers, and they’ll be in a fighting mood. If you’re bringing a new furry face into the gerbilarium, some remodelling is called for. That means dividing it into two compartments with wire mesh, keeping food and water in each. Swap the gerbils from side to side a few times a day. Once there’s no sign of aggression – usually after two weeks or so – the divide can be dispensed with.
Bonding with your gerbils
When you get your gerbils, remember to give them a few days to get used to their new environment. When you feel like they’re ready, start to sit beside the cage. Why not have a chat? They might not answer back, but it’ll help them to get used to your voice as well as you being around. Only do this when your gerbils are awake though – they might not like being woken up.
Next, start to offer your gerbils a tasty treat through their cage. Don’t force anything, let them come up to you. Eventually they’ll become more familiar with you and start to come up more and more. They’ll also start to climb on your hand to get the treat! Once they’re used to this, you can start to think about handling them properly.
Just remember to be patient, go at your gerbils’ pace and don’t force anything.
Handling your gerbils
Once your gerbils are familiar with your voice, you can start to think about handling them. Hold your hand as a closed fist in the gerbilarium and see if a gerbil approaches. Then gently open your hand and let your gerbil scamper onto it or slide your hand underneath him. Finally, hold your gerbil in cupped hands.
Gerbils are Olympic-standard wrigglers and very good at jumping. So hold them over a table or a sofa or close to the floor or they could fall and hurt themselves. Never pick a gerbil up by their tail as it is painful and distressing for them. The skin can often slip off leaving a raw, exposed stump that can go rotten.
Did you know?
Gerbils don’t just use their hearing to communicate, they also have a highly tuned sense of smell. They mark their territory using their scent gland – and can tell if another gerbil has marked an area. Female gerbils mark their pups with their scent, which helps them recognise their own offspring and warn other gerbils away.
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