A Helpful Guide to Caring for Your Pet Gerbil — Part 1

Are you ready to commit to caring for this lovable, curious animals?

Gerbils love to dig and chew. By: madcornishprojectionist

Gerbils make great pets. If you’ve been thinking about adding gerbils to your household and can safely do so, head down to your local shelter and give a gerbil a loving home.

With that said, you may be a little fuzzy on the details of gerbil care. That’s perfectly normal — there’s a lot to think about.

So here’s a handy guide to help you create a welcoming home for your gerbil.


When it comes to a gerbil habitat, go for sturdy and roomy. “Think of your gerbils as intrepid explorers armed with a strong pair of hind legs and a sturdy set of incisors,” says the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

Your natural curious gerbil wants to explore the world around her, even if it means leaving her comfy habitat. Gerbils can jump surprisingly well, are voracious chewers and love to dig. All of these personality traits need to be addressed when choosing your gerbil’s habitat.

Your gerbil needs a good-sized space to feel comfortable, and the size of the enclosure should increase if you bring home more gerbils. The American Gerbil Society recommends the following:

  • 1–2 gerbils: 10-gallon tank
  • 3 gerbils: 15-gallon tank
  • 4 gerbils: 20-gallon tank
  • 6 gerbils: 30-gallon tank
  • If you choose a cage or plastic habitat, simply get the equivalent size. A 10-gallon tank would measure 24x9x13 inches.

You have a few options when it comes to choosing the right habitat for your gerbil:

Wire Cage


  • Good ventilation
  • Easy to clean
  • Bars allow for easy accessory attachment
  • Easy to move/carry


  • Gerbils frequently kick bedding out of cages
  • Openings must be small — no more than a half-inch wide (or your gerbil may squeeze himself out)
  • Shallow bottoms means gerbils can’t dig
  • Gerbils can’t resist chewing on the bars

Plastic Habitat


  • Built-in tunnels and play areas
  • Attractive/appealing to gerbil parents
  • Easy to move/carry


  • The plastic gets chewed on and destroyed
  • The enclosure tends to smell
  • Poor ventilation
  • Often not large enough for 2+ gerbils

Check out these gerbils having some fun roaming free at home:



  • Prevents young children or other pets from harassing your gerbil
  • Glass sides allow viewing for your gerbil and yourself
  • Glass can’t be chewed up, unlike wire or plastic
  • Easy to clean


  • Can be heavy to move
  • Poor ventilation
  • Water bottle requires special attachment
  • Mesh cover must be purchased and kept firmly in place to prevent escape/harassment

The HSUS and the American Gerbil Society recommend aquariums so your gerbil can watch what’s going on in the world while still feeling protected from those who want to “play” with her.

In Gerbils: The Complete Guide to Gerbil Care, Donna Anastasi offers a few more tips: “Gerbils need to live indoors in a moderate temperature range (68–78 degrees.) Since they come from a dry environment, living in a damp area like a basement is out. They’ll need a place away from drafts and direct sunlight and one that’s not too close to heaters or windows. Don’t put the housing directly on the floor where the temperature can fluctuate wildly. Your gerbils’ home needs to rest on a sturdy piece of furniture or a stand.”

It’s a lot to think about, so take your time choosing the right habitat and location for your gerbil.

Make sure your gerbil can easily reach the water bottle you put into her habitat. By: dbgg1979


Beyond providing comfort, bedding absorbs gerbils’ urine. It also needs to be deep for dig-happy gerbils, so the American Gerbil Society recommends that you fill the enclosure one-third full with bedding material.

The best materials for bedding are Aspen, Carefresh and Corncob, all of which can be found at local pet stores or online. You can also use blank shredded paper, but it tends to get pretty smelly quickly. Whatever you do, don’t use cedar or pine bedding — it can cause respiratory issues in gerbils.

Water Bottle

Most water bottles will require a special clip to allow you to hang it safely from the gerbil’s enclosure. Check water daily for freshness and ensure that the bottle’s full.

Here are some more tips:

  • Use an 8-oz. water bottle.
  • Glass is great to keep your pets from chewing up the bottle, but plastic can work well too and is more commonly sold in pet supply stores.
  • Make sure your gerbil can reach the sipper.
  • Keep the tip of the water bottle well above the bedding area. “If the tip comes in contact with the bedding or other material it will drain out in a matter of hours. Even though gerbils are a desert animal they require clean, fresh water at all times,” advises the American Gerbil Society.

Now that the habitat’s set up, you’re well on your way to creating a comfortable and safe environment for your new furry friend.

Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 of our 2-part series on caring for gerbils. Please continue on to Part 2, which focuses on feeding, handling and playing with new pet gerbils.

Melissa Smith

View posts by Melissa Smith
Melissa Smith, discussions manager for Petful, has been researching and writing about pet behaviors for several years. A longtime pet lover, she lives in Massachusetts with her teenage son, their cat Harrison and the spirit of their German shepherd named Gypsy. Melissa is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in multimedia design and hopes to adopt as many needy animals as she can.

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