How Long Do Gerbils Live?

Growing up I, along with many other kids at the time, had a gerbil. I forgot his name, but I do remember him escaping and getting lost in the house while I was cleaning his cage. I didn’t see him for 6 months and later found him living behind the drier in the laundry room. 

He had a big pile of dry cat food that he must have found on the floor and collected. For water, I guess he drank from the water bowl left out for the cat. Somehow he managed to survive and remain undetected for such a long time. Gerbils are incredible survivors and very resilient.

How Long Do Gerbils Live?

Pet Gerbils are usually Mongolian gerbils and Mongolian gerbils live, on average, between 2 to 4 years. Wild gerbils, on the other hand, rarely live up to a year as they are frequently preyed upon by larger animals. A wild gerbil’s life-span is typically 2-3 years if it manages to avoid predators.

Gerbils have an uncanny ability to gather and store food while remaining undetected. This makes them extremely resilient. They can adapt to many different types of environments. It takes a lot to take a gerbil down, well, other than a predator.

How Long Do Gerbils Live as Pets?

As mentioned, pet gerbils can live between 2 and 4 years but their life span will also be affected by how well they are cared for. Their genetics and level of health will also play a role. Pet stores and breeders will be able to give you the most accurate lifespan for their particular gerbils.

What Do Gerbils Eat?

Gerbils can eat a variety of foods including pellets, seeds, nuts, fruits, cheese, and vegetables. 

  • Pellets are most commonly used. 
    • Most gerbil owners keep a regular supply of pellets inside a food dispenser in the gerbil’s cage. 
    • Most gerbils don’t have a problem overeating, so keeping a store of food in their cage isn’t a problem.
  • Seed Mixes
    •  The best way to decide which one to use is to try both. Let your gerbil tell you what he likes.
    •  With seed mixes, you may find your gerbil picking out the foods he likes and leaving the food he doesn’t like. 
    • This is especially common with seed mixes that include dried fruit or raisins. 
    • If you notice that he prefers one food type over another you might want to try to keep what he likes in supply. Any dried fruit should, mostly, be given in limited quantities.
  • Lab Blocks are an Alternative
    • Scientifically formulated, lab blocks resemble cookies and are packed with the optimal amount of nutrients for your gerbil
    • These aren’t as commonly used
    • Some gerbils get bored and don’t like these
  • Gerbils love Treats
    • A small amount of dried fruit every day, handfed, can be a good way to interact with your gerbil.
    • Gerbils can safely digest cheese and may prefer it over fruit.
    • Cereal or cooked grain can be given to gerbils occasionally

Change Water Daily

Gerbils need access to water at all times. Water should be inside a water bottle and placed into the cage. Changing the water every day is important to prevent bacteria from building up. The bottle should be cleaned once per week with a natural disinfectant, such as vinegar.

How To House A Gerbil

Gerbils should be housed in a cage, preferably with ventilation on the sides, but empty fish tanks are acceptable provided there is sufficient airflow. Most gerbil owners put a layer of wood chips on the bottom of the cage. This is for sanitary reasons and will absorb the moisture from their urine and any spilled water. 

Because of this, a gerbils cage will need to be cleaned a minimum of once per week. The woodchips should be removed and the inside of the caged wiped down with a natural disinfectant, such a vinegar. Fresh woodchips should be layered inside the bottom of the cage each week.

Common Health Conditions For Gerbils

Gerbils should be taken to the vet for a check-up at least once per year and monitored for health conditions.

  • Teeth Overgrowth
    • Gerbils teeth are constantly growing
    • They need special food, toys, and treat to chew on to grind down their teeth
    • If their teeth become overgrown they may have trouble eating which could lead to other health problems
    • Your vet should check your gerbil’s teeth on his annual checkup
  • Tyzzer Disease
    • Caused by Clostridium Piliforme bacteria
    • The most common infectious disease a gerbil can get
    • Baby and teenager gerbils are the most at risk from this infection but it can affect a gerbil at any age
    • Symptoms include depression, rough appearance in coat, dehydration, and diarrhea
    • This infection is contagious and will spread to other gerbils so vets recommend keeping infected gerbils in quarantine
    • Treatable by a veterinarian
  • Pinworms
    • An intestinal parasite that spreads through feces
    • Usually, no notable symptoms
    • Can be confirmed by having a vet examine the gerbils feces 
  • Eye Infections
    • Gerbils can develop eye infections that can be passed on to other gerbils
    • While this is rarer, it’s important to keep the cage cleaned regularly to prevent bacteria from building up
    • Symptoms include dried tears around the eyes, swelling of the eyes, and redness.
    • Treatable by a veterinarian

How Fast Do Gerbils Reproduce?

Gerbils are mature and able to breed at just 2 to 3 months old. Typically, females mature about a month faster than males. Once mated together gerbils are paired for life. They are monogamous animals. 

Once pregnant, a female gerbil may not show signs for up to 24 days. She may continue to remain active, eat, mate, and act as if everything is normal. It’s not until a few days before giving birth that she will start to show. This is extremely inconvenient and can come as a shock to new gerbil owners.

Females will be ready to give birth as soon as 3 weeks after becoming pregnant. Females are immediately able to mate and become pregnant after giving birth. With a typical litter of 6 pups per pregnancy, they reproduce at a rapid rate.

After giving birth the mother will usually create a nest in the corner of the cage. Any elevated areas should be removed to prevent the babies from falling. Gerbils are born blind and deaf and need their mother for the first 4 to 5 weeks of life. Around day 10 is when the gerbil pups will begin to show signs of fur growth.

How To Tell If A Gerbal Is a Male or Female

You can check the sex of a gerbil by checking between its hind legs. There will be two bumps from the urethra and anus. A female will have these bumps a closer distance together while a male will have them spaced out about half an inch. You should also be able to see signs of the male’s scrotum.

Are Gerbils Good Family Pets?

Gerbils are popular pets in the United States and around the world. Gerbils are friendly, like to be held, and don’t bite often. This makes them great family pets, especially as first-time pets for children over 10 years of age. Caring for a gerbil requires a level of responsibility, and animal care can teach kids valuable life lessons.

If held and exposed to touch at an early age, gerbils love to be around humans. They can be high energy and enjoy social interaction and stimulation. For this reason, many people buy plastic balls that let them walk around the house while offering them a bubble of protection.

Should I buy more than one Gerbil?

Yes. Gerbils are very social animals. They prefer to be in the company of other gerbils and without social interaction can become lonely, fall into depression, and have behavior problems. Like humans, animals have emotional needs, and this particular rodent thrives in a community. 

If you are looking to buy a gerbil you should get a pair. If you are going to get a male and a female be sure to have the male neutered. I can tell you from personal experience that having them breed together and produce babies is something to avoid at all costs. It has horrors that can go along with the experience. Just trust me, and get your male neutered.

How Long Do Gerbils Live?

In this article, we went over the average gerbil’s life span, health issues that could factor into their lifespan, proper gerbil nutrition, and related information that should help you understand more about gerbils.

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