Gerbils – Profile, Housing and Behaviour

Gerbils are burrowing rodents native to Asia and Africa. Popular pet gerbil species is the Mongolian.

Unlike hamsters, gerbils are a little bit shorter in length than a Syrian hamster and slimmer. They also have a long furred tail with a delightful tuft on the end, in the same length as their body.

Gerbils are generally frisky, and can easily escape from a cage that is not closed securely. They have poor eyesight, and can hurt themselves when they are exercising in the cage. Their hearing and sense of smell, however, are both very acute.

These gentle rodents are friendly and seldom bite. And unlike hamsters, Mongolian gerbils are active during the day.

Unlike a mouse or hamster, gerbils can often be seen sitting up on their hind legs

physical characteristics and overview

Adult Size

  • Body is about 4 inches long; tail of the same body length


  • 70 – 100 grams

Life Expectancy

  • 2 to 4 years on average

diet and nutrition

Feed your pet gerbil with a good commercial gerbil seed mix with a protein content of about 12 percent, and a fat content in the 6- to 8-percent range. Nutritionally complete, gerbil mix is made up of pellets, grains, seeds and dried vegetables, and is readily available at pet supply stores.

You can feed your pet gerbil with small amounts of fresh vegetables daily. Carrots, leaf lettuces, turnips, and broccoli are good choices.

Fresh, clean water should be available at all times in an inverted bottle with a drinking tube. Do change their food and water daily.


Unlike a mouse or hamster, gerbils can often be seen sitting up on their hind legs. Mongolian gerbils are not nocturnal and they go through several normal sleep cycles.

Gerbils are very social animals and do well as a pair. Keeping a same-sex pair is necessary to prevent breeding.

Being social creatures, gerbils can become quite tame with regular handling. They generally do not bite unless they feel threatened. You can hand-tame a gerbil using treats as positive rewards.

Gerbils have long furry tails that have a little tuft of fur at the end. Never pick up a gerbil by their tail as this will cause permanent injury.

offspring and breeding

Gerbils are generally monogamous, and paired gerbils will usually begin to mate at about 3 months of age.

Pregnancy lasts about 24 days, and a litter consists of 1 to 8 gerbil pups. Gerbils will begin mating again almost immediately after the female gives birth.


Gerbils are very active and need plenty of space to run, climb and explore.

One or two gerbils require an enclosure that measures at least 18 inches wide, 24 to 30 inches long and 12 inches high. For tanks, a pair of gerbils also do well in a 15 gallon tank or lager.

Place the enclosure away from direct sunlight and lined with absorbent bedding such as Timothy hay. Do change the litter often to keep it dry and odor-free. Gerbils love to play, burrow and hide, so be sure to provide yours with an exercise wheel, tunnels and extra bedding.

Finally, gerbils also need a nest box to feel secure and sleep. A sturdy wood or ceramic nest box is preferable to plastic, which will likely get chewed and destroyed.

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