Getting pet gerbils is fun and exciting, but it’s also a big responsibility. To take the best possible care of your pet, you need to put in time, effort, and money.
Money?! Yes, because there are a few items that you simply MUST acquire before getting your first gerbil.
A cage is the most important item, and that’s why I decided to help you find the best gerbil cage possible.
Can Gerbils Live in a Hamster Cage?
Some of you may be asking, can you put a gerbil in a hamster cage?
The answer is NO. As gerbils are energetic burrowers, they need a very deep bedding (more than 6 inches). The solid base of a hamster cage is simply too shallow and doesn’t have room for enough bedding. The gerbils wouldn’t be able to live out their natural burrowing and digging instincts.
Using a hamster cage would also force you to deal with quite a mess, as a lot of bedding would be kicked out through the wire bars.
These lovely little rodents are also ferocious chewers. Plastic bottoms and plastic accessories that are often used for hamsters would be chewed to pieces within hours. If ingested, that could cause serious health issues.
So, in conclusion, it would be a very bad idea to let gerbils live in a hamster cage.
How Big Should a Gerbil Cage Be?
One of the first things you need to decide upon is the size of the cage or tank that you’re getting.
What’s the recommended size? And is there a minimum size that you never ever should compromise with?
Well, let’s see what ASPCA says (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals):
Keep your gerbils in a wire cage or aquarium with a wire mesh top (10 gallon minimum for 2 gerbils). Try to get the biggest cage you can afford—your pets will appreciate the extra space.
Notice that because gerbils are social creatures, they shouldn’t live in solitude. That’s why ASPCA specifies the minimum cage size for two gerbils instead of for just one.
So, how big should a gerbil cage be? The bigger the better! But as a general guideline, it should never be smaller than 10 gallons (38 liters). The base should be at least 12 x 20″.
Other sources recommend 20 gallons as the minimum size.
If you have more than two gerbils, add 5 gallons for every additional pet.
Cage Buying Guide: 4 Factors to Consider
In essence, there are four factors that are especially important when buying a cage:
- Type of cage
- Safety and security
- Easy to clean
Let’s discuss them in more detail.
Type of cage
Some people recommend a plastic tank, but I would advise against it, because gerbils chew on plastic. And ingesting plastic could be hazardous.
Glass is a much better material than plastic. It’s transparent, which means that it lets in light and allows you to view your furry friend, and it can’t be chewed to pieces.
That’s why I would advise you to get a glass aquarium plus a wire cage. This type of cage is called gerbilarium.
The first part – the glass aquarium – works as the base and should be filled with plenty of bedding (more on that later):
On top of the aquarium you place the second part, a wire cage. In the gerbil community, it’s called a topper. It provides a much needed air circulation, and also helps to keep small children and your other pets away:
Put the two parts together, and voilà, you’ve got a gerbilarium:
In summary: Glass Aquarium + Wire Cage/Topper = Gerbilarium
As we discussed earlier, an aquarium with two adult gerbils should be at least 10 gallons. But preferably much bigger.
Safety and security
It’s important to keep your pet rodents safe and secure. Remove sharp objects and any plastic items that can be chewed and ingested.
Thanks to being curious, small in size, and great at digging and jumping, gerbils are master escape artists. To prevent escapes, make sure to securely close all doors and openings.
The bars should have a 1/2″ spacing. Any bigger and your gerbils could potentially squeeze through.
Easy to clean
It’s a big advantage if the gerbil home is easy to clean (even though they don’t smell much). Big roof-top doors are great, because you will likely clean the cage more often and more thoroughly if it’s easily accessible.
What Do Gerbils Need in Their Cage?
Before you buy a cage, you need to know a little about “furnishing” it.
So, what do gerbils need in their cage?
Shelves, ramps and ledges allow the gerbil to jump and move around. It also gives you a place where you can put the exercise wheel, food dish, water bottle, toys, and so on.
Water bottle made of glass.
Bedding. As gerbils are ferocious burrowers, they need a deep bedding. They love to dig and create tunnels, where they can store food, hide from predators, and raise their pups. There are several different materials to choose from, but I’d recommend aspen, corncob, or Carefresh paper or pulp bedding.
Nesting box. Gerbils need a place where they can sleep, or just hide to get some privacy. A wooden nesting box will do the job. It’s also a good idea to provide shredded white tissue which they can use to build a nice and comfortable nest.
Sand bath. Gerbils clean themselves in sand, not water. Remember, they are desert animals!
Exercise wheel. As gerbils are very active, curious, and energetic animals, they need to exercise and stimulate both their bodies and minds on a daily basis. Cardboard boxes and toilet paper rolls would also help to keep them busy and entertained.
If you get an exercise wheel, make sure to cover the inside of the wheel with masking tape and bedding. This will reduce the risk of the tail getting caught in the wheel.
Things to chew on, like chew toys or chewing wood, are very important because the front teeth grow throughout life, and need to be ground down on a regular basis. If they don’t have anything else, they will start to chew on the metal bars, which could injure them.
The Best Gerbil Cage
Now let’s take a closer look at the cage I think is the best alternative for housing two pet gerbils. If you have more than two, you need to choose a bigger product.
The very popular High rise pet cage from Ware Manufacturing will create the perfect gerbilarium with any 10 gallon aquarium.
It measures 19.5″ x 11″ x 10.5″ and it comes with a water bottle, food dish, and all the shelves and ramps to keep your furry friend happy.
The bars have been powder coated to make them chew proof, and the spring locks will keep the cage and the aquarium tightly locked to each other.
- Accessories included
- Easy access for cleaning
- Secure. Wire is chew proof.
- Ramps and shelves included
All in all, I would rate this high rise cage from Ware Manufacturing as the best option for you and your gerbils.
Basic Care Guidelines
Before you leave, I’d like to take the opportunity to share some basic guidelines on how to take good care of pet gerbils:
- Water. It’s extremely important that you provide fresh clean water at all times. Even though gerbils don’t drink much, they can’t live without it. Instead of a bowl, use a glass bottle.
- Placement. The cage should be placed indoors, away from draft, direct sunlight, and very high or low temperatures. That means away from radiators, fireplaces and ventilation systems. To minimize stress, place the cage in a calm and quiet room.
- Temperature. Should be 65-75°F.
- Day night cycle. Just like us humans, gerbils are active during the day. They want it to be dark at night and bright in daytime. So make sure to place the cage close to a window, but not in direct sunlight.
- Cleaning. As gerbils don’t smell much, you only have to clean the cage once every two to three weeks. If it starts to smell, you need to clean more often.
- Food. Get a healthy premixed food. It contains everything your little friends need, and it can be served either in a ceramic dish placed in the topper, or directly on the bedding. Either way, the gerbils will store the food in the bedding.
- Health. Use the help of your veterinarian and the breeder to learn more about grooming and common health issues.
Good luck! 🙂