The Mongolian Gerbil (Meriones unguiculatus) is also known as the "desert rat" because it does indeed live naturally in the desert. The Mongolian Gerbil is a friendly and social animal that lives in family groups. In the wild, the animals live in (semi) deserts of Mongolia.
Head-hull length : 10 to 12 cm
Gerbils are very active animals that like to dig and gnaw. It is therefore important that the accommodation is designed for graves and that all parts are gnaw-resistant (aluminium/metal) or gnawable (wood). It is better not to use plastic with these animals.
Tame and familiarize yourself with the Mongolian Gerbil
Always read carefully before you decide to take Mongolian Gerbils. They are very nice pets that are regularly awake, so that they can also be seen during the day. This can be especially fun for children. Mongolian Gerbils are very friendly and curious, but they are not stuffed animals, they do not like to be held. They do, however, like to come to your hand after a while to accept a treat and make active contact with their owner. Mongolian Gerbils are very fast, which makes them difficult to handle, especially for children. It is therefore important when children handle the animals that there is always a parent present who can help and support.
New residents should be approached calmly, especially at first. The animals must first become familiar with their own enclosure, feel safe in it before they dare to approach people. Of course there are also daredevils who immediately approach you and are social, but most Gerbils are a bit shy the first time. Give the animals time and try to make contact calmly by talking to them. Handing over some treats often also works well to gain the trust of the animals.
Housing of the Mongolian Gerbil
Mongolian Gerbils are social animals that can be kept together. In the wild they live in colonies with a strict hierarchy. The best combination is a group of men. It is important that the animals are coupled at a young age. Newcomers are not accepted in old age.
Mongolian Gerbils need a spacious enclosure of at least 100 x 50 cm ( LICG ) for two animals. For each additional animal, 20% - 25% additional ground surface must be calculated. A good stay gives the animals the opportunity to display their natural behaviour. In the wild, Gerbils build beautiful tunnels and they would like to continue to do so in captivity. The Gerbil has an extensive system of corridors. The fortress in the wild is at a depth of about 1 meter. The depth of the castle depends on the ambient temperature. When the temperature rises, the gerbil digs deeper underground to reach the cool earth, a kind of natural air conditioning.
Hamsterscaping is therefore great fun for Mongolian Gerbils.
At our home, this translates into a spacious accommodation with lots of digging options and a sandbox. A terrarium is the best choice because of its closed nature. It is important that a terrarium allows good ventilation, so preferably has two grids (top and bottom). This is especially important in summer when temperatures rise above 25°C.
A sandbox is important to Gerbils because they are desert dwellers, they quickly develop a greasy coat.
Mongolian Gerbils cannot tolerate high temperatures in combination with high humidity. They are desert dwellers by nature, so they are not used to high humidity. An optimal humidity for these animals is on average around 55%. A temperature between 20 - 24°C is recommended and a humidity below 70%. You can use a hygrometer to measure these values.
Cottage for Mongolian Gerbils
Mongolian Gerbils are lucky! because many houses that are made for hamsters also have a good size for Gerbils. They are prey animals and do not like to walk open and naked through the enclosure, if they occasionally come across a shelter where they can shoot away, they already feel a lot safer. The best houses for Gerbils are multi-room houses. It is important that there is a part in a house that is shielded from daylight. Our advice is therefore to place at least one multi-room house in the accommodation and also one house per animal. Gerbils like to sleep together, so at least one house in the enclosure must be large enough to accommodate the entire group.
Running wheel for a Mongolian Gerbil
The Gerbil running wheel is an important part of the furnishing of the gerbil enclosure. Gerbils are active animals that like to run. A running wheel gives the animals the opportunity to lose their energy. It is important to consider the running wheel, because not every running wheel is suitable for the Gerbil. The long tail must be taken into account, it must not come between anything, so a completely closed running wheel is preferred, of course the running surface must be closed for all animals. Running wheels with fronts are also not suitable.
It can be a challenge to place the running wheel in the enclosure because of the high ground cover, this is best on a solid platform so that the animals do not dig it over. With regard to the material, a metal (aluminium, very hard plastic) has the best survivability. A wooden running wheel is usually gnawed on quite quickly.
Ground cover for the Mongolian Gerbil
It is important that the ground cover is digable for Gerbils , that is to say that they can make tunnels and burrows in it, which preferably remain standing. This can be achieved by choosing ground cover that is digable in itself or by mixing ground cover to make it digable. An example of an excavatable ground cover is for example the Humus and the Holenzand , but also Cotton & Cotton . A nice mix is, for example, the mix of Cotton & Hemp Fiber, Cotton & Wood Fiber or a mix of Wood Fiber, Hemp Fiber and Hay. Ground covers such as Back 2 Nature are not suitable because the animals cannot dig in them. An ideal height of the ground bed to dig in is around 30 to 40 cm.
Sand bath for Gerbils
Gerbils should always have a sand bath available to them. The Gerbil's coat gets greasy quickly and therefore needs to be groomed regularly with a sand bath. Sand has a degreasing effect and therefore also has a cooling effect. Because sand is degreasing, it also has a drying effect. Animals with skin problems should therefore not be given a sand bath. If the skin dries out too much because of the sand, it can start to itch, causing the animals to bathe even more. It is therefore important to keep an eye on the bathing behavior of the Gerbils and to remove the sandbox if there are signs of skin problems (red spots, bald spots, scabs, wounds).
Gerbils want to build a nest
Gerbils like to line their nest with soft nesting material . Making a nest is therefore part of the natural behavior of a Gerbil. Therefore, always give the Gerbils 15-25 grams of nesting material.
Gerbil nesting material should be nice and soft, absorb moisture and have fragile fibers so that the animals cannot get entangled in it. Materials such as cotton, hemp, toilet paper and hay are ideal.
Mongolian Gerbils food
Gerbils are granivores (seed eaters). Gerbils' diet consists mainly of seeds and a small amount of vegetable food in the form of herbs , but also animal proteins. Gerbils catch small insects in the wild, so it is good if their diet also contains animal proteins.
The gerbil's stomach is simple and the cecum and large intestine are not particularly well developed, which is befitting of animals that in nature mainly eat low-fibre foods, such as seeds.
Gerbils that are still growing eat approximately effectively between 5 to 6 grams of dry food/day or 8 to 10 g of food/100 g BW. Gerbils drink about 4 to 10 ml of water/100 g bw/day. Total daily water intake (including water in food and metabolic water) is estimated to be 8 to 13 percent of body weight.
An optimal protein percentage for growing gerbils seems to be 16%. A magnesium or sodium deficiency can cause baldness and convulsions in Gerbils.
Dental formula: 1013/1013 (Incisor ratio at the top - bottom = 1 : 2-3) Incisors keep growing
The percentage of crude fiber in the diet must be a maximum of 10% for optimal digestibility and absorbability of the food.
Because gerbils naturally occur in dry areas, they are very economical with water. Gerbils do not drink much and produce little urine. However, they should always have fresh and clean drinking water available.
Protein: Gerbils need animal protein. The diet should contain a protein content of 14-15%. This can be supplemented with, for example, mealworms as a snack. Animal proteins are essential for a good metabolism.
Fats: The gerbil food should not contain too much fat. A percentage of up to 4% fat in the diet is desirable. Gerbils easily become overweight. That is why it is important that no more than this 4% of fat is in the diet.
Fiber: The fiber content in the diet should not exceed 7%. Gerbils need easily digestible energy because they have a fast metabolism. This is mainly obtained from seeds. Many fibers provide too little energy.
Calcium: The calcium:phosphorus ratio should be between 1.1:1 and 1.5-1.
Incisors: They keep growing, so the food must provide the necessary tooth wear. Hardness, size and type of feed particles are important here.
Stomach: The stomach consists of one chamber and is separated by a mucous membrane into a part without gland and part with gland.
Small Appendix: Gerbils have a small appendix. As a result, they can only process raw fibers to a limited extent. Therefore, feed with a crude fiber content of less than 10% is optimal.
Animal proteins: Granivorous (seed-eating) animals need animal proteins. The valuable amino acids are important for cell renewal and various metabolic processes.
Gnawing material to wear down the teeth
Mongolian Gerbils have a very strong natural need to gnaw. This is because Gerbils are rodents and have growing incisors. It is therefore necessary for Gerbils that they can gnaw on something to wear down the teeth. If Gerbils have too few opportunities to wear the teeth, the teeth can become too long or grow crooked with all the consequences that entails.
Most Gerbils are very active at gnawing gnawing wood. However, it is a matter of taste and, on the other hand, a matter of need how much the animals gnaw on it. If a Gerbil has no need to gnaw because the teeth stay at a good length due to food, hay or other nibbles, then he will gnaw on gnawing wood less. It is good to always offer natural gnawing wood so that the animals can always gnaw if they have a need to gnaw.
Dental problems at Gerbils
If you notice that your Gerbil is very eager to tackle the food, but then does not eat it, there may be something wrong with the teeth. Drooling can also indicate dental problems. If you suspect that you have dental problems, it is best to contact your vet.
Reproduction of the Mongolian Gerbil
Mongolian Gerbils are social animals, both parents take care of the young until they start to become independent from the 18th day.
The female is willing (in rut) and ready to mate every 4 days. This will take approximately 12 hours. If a successful mating has taken place on these days, the young are born after about 24 days.
The difference between males and females can be seen in the distance between the genital opening and the anus. This distance is greater in a male than in a female. In addition, males have a visible scent gland on their abdomen.
Sexual maturity : females after 4-6 weeks, males after 6-7 weeks
Health of the Mongolian Gerbil
Mongolian Gerbils are generally healthy and strong animals. The most common health problems are dental problems, obesity and epilepsy which can be developed at a young age. An epileptic seizure is triggered by stress. The animals lie very still and flat on the ground, the whiskers vibrate, ears flap, front legs stretched and eyes move quickly.
We also recommend that you regularly check the teeth of the animals in order to detect any dental problems in time. A well-balanced and complete gerbil diet is essential to avoid digestive problems.
It is not necessary to treat the animals preventively with anti-parasite. It is not necessary to give extra vitamins with a complete gerbil diet.
Animals that drink and urinate too much can have kidney disease or diabetes.
Unfortunately, there is also a human infectious disease in Gerbils, the Tizzer's Disease. This is an infectious disease with Clostridium Piliforme. You recognize this because the animals have rough fur, are lethargic and remain in a place in the enclosure. The animals lose weight and eat poorly or not at all. It is important to recognize this in time, because only early treatment can save the animals. Young, old and weakened animals can die quite quickly. The disease is also contagious to other rodents such as hamsters, rabbits, rats, etc.
If you have the following symptoms, it is advisable to consult a veterinarian:
Drooling, moist nose and eyes, teeth sticking out, not eating, losing weight, eating foreign materials that are softer than the food.
Bald spots, lots of scratching, scabs, wounds, bumps and lumps
Wet and dirty ass, drinking a lot, falling over, listless, different shape and color of the droppings