Even if your gerbils live in a tank (a hutch would rarely be a home for gerbils in the UK) or a cage at home, it is still possible to get close to their natural living conditions, making the animals feel as comfortable as possible.
In the wild
The gerbil that we keep as a house pet originally came from Mongolia. There, the landscape consists mainly of savanna and semi-desert. Gerbils are talented builders: they make complicated underground networks if tunnels, nesting and storage rooms.
The strong hind paws of the gerbil are useful tools in the digging that’s needed. The animals dig tunnels and holes with their short, but strong front paws and push the waste soil to the back with their back legs. Tunnels are usually dug close to plants, so that the roots can offer support. A gerbil’s residence normally has more than one entrance. There are several escape routes for the family in case an enemy enters the burrow. Usually one gerbil family live in one burrow, but sometimes several families work together. This is especially the case when it comes to warning each other in the case of danger. Gerbils normally stay in the proximity of the burrow, even when searching for food.
Housing in captivity
So a gerbil is a real digger and rooter. It won’t be happy living on an old newspaper or a thin layer of sawdust, so a thick floor covering is a must. You need to think about that when choosing a gerbil cage. But, despite their yearning for digging, they deserve a comfortable and well looked-after home that should at least fulfill the following conditions:
- Their home should keep its resident inside. A poorly closing door, chinks, small holes or too wide a space between bars can be enough. Also bear in mind that gerbils have very sharp rodent teeth, which can get through anything that is not made of glass, stone or steel.
- Their home should be safe for animals and humans. No spikes or other objects, which may harm them, sharp glass edges or lids that fall inward.
- It should be easy to clean, there should be no corner or holds that prevent you from cleaning parts of their home.
- I should be made of a material that won’t absorb moisture or smells. Wood is unsuitable for making an animal cage unless it’s been treated with a water-repelling coating. When animal urine soaks into wood, it will begin to rot and smell. Glass or plastics, on the other hand, are ideal.
- The opening must be wide enough for you to be able to access the entire area of their home, not just for cleaning purposes but also to be able to catch the animal of necessary. If the door is too small the animal may be able to get into a corner that you can’t get at.
- Your gerbils’ home must be well ventilated. When cage litter is soaked in urine the ammonia smell can hang around in the bottom of the container. With insufficient ventilation, this can be harmful to the animals.
- There should be areas where the animals can withdraw to in peace.