One or more?
The question as to whether to keep gerbils alone or together is very simple to answer. In the wild, some animals are social creatures and live in group, families or as a pair. Other animals live alone. They seek a mate to breed and then go their own way again. So it’s important to keep animals that live alone in the wild alone in captivity too. Animals that originally live in group or as a pair are happier pets when they have a mate. Almost all gerbils are very definitely herd animals. They will feel very unhappy sitting alone in a cage. Gerbils may not be able to tell you about their mood in words, but they can certainly do so with their behavior: a lonely gerbil will become listless and apathetic over time. If you are planning to keep gerbils as pets, you would be well advised to keep tow or more animals of the same sex, There is then no risk of being overwhelmed with young, and fortunately, it is easy for young gerbils to form groups. It is far more difficult to get adult animals used to teach other as they can start vicious fights, which often end in one of the animals losing its life.
Where to buy?
You have plenty of options where to buy a gerbil.
Most gerbils are sold by pet shops, which in itself is a good thing, as generally pet shop owners know how to look after the animals they sell properly.
However there are always some shops that are not so good. You can often spot what kind of a shop you’re dealing with. Are the cages clean? Do all the animals have clean water? Are there too many animals in a small tank? Are they selling animals that are wounded or appear sick? Are the animals handled regularly?
Most pet shops obtained their rodents from enthusiasts or serious breeders. These animals are healthy and usually used to human hands. Unfortunately, as well as serious breeders and animal lovers, we have our share of rogue breeders in this country. These are people who try to get rich quickly by breeding as many gerbils, mice, rabbits or other pets as possible, often keeping the animals in disgusting conditions. They never, or hardly ever, take care of hygiene or animal welfare, and in-breeding is the order of the day. One of the major disadvantages of these “breeding factories” is that the young are separated from their mother far too early, because time is money after all. The young are nowhere near strong enough, and sooner or later become seriously ill. Never buy a gerbil (or other pet) that is still too young or too small.
However hard it may sound, never give in to the temptation to buy such animal hoping to give it a better home. You’re really not doing any good. The more animals these dealers can sell this way, the more they will keep “in stock”. They don’t care why you’re buying the animal, just as long as you buy it. But if nobody buys their tiny sick animals then they can’t make any profit either, and they then have to decide either to stop trading or to start taking better care of the animals.
Things to watch out for when buying a gerbil
If you’re planning to buy a gerbil, watch out for the following points:
• The animals must be healthy. A healthy gerbil has bright eyes and is lively. Sexual organs must be clean and the animal must not show signs of wounds or scars. Its coat must be smooth, clean and glossy. Look out for any lumps or swelling.
• The gerbil must not be too young or too small. During the first few weeks of its life, the young animal gets resistance to disease through its mother’s milk that is vital to its health.
• The animal must also not be too old. Gerbils have a relatively short life. Buying an older animal may mean you will only be able to enjoy it for a short period. Also, grown gerbils are more difficult to tame. You can recognize an older animal by its yellowish belly.
• Check whether your gerbil is really the same sex as the shop assistant tells you. Mistakes are often made on this points: two “females” often suddenly produce babies later.
• Make sure the animal is not too thin or too fat.