Mongolian gerbils are one of the most popular pocket pets in the world. Other popular pocket pets like hamsters and guinea pigs are often cited as good pets for beginners, both adults and children. But what about gerbils? Are Mongolian gerbils good pets?
Gerbils make great pets for both adults and children. Caring for gerbils is easy. They also have a friendly nature and can be tamed quite easily. Although gerbils are good pets for children, you should never let your (young) children handle them without supervision.
Not only do gerbils make fun pets to watch, but they also are really friendly and can be tamed within a short time frame. Depending on the character of your gerbils, it’s possible that your gerbils are very affectionate or not.
The friendly nature isn’t the only factor that determines whether a pet is a good pet. In fact, there are a lot of different factors that determine if a pet is a good pet. A pet can also be more suitable for adults than for children. For example, a very tiny and fast animal isn’t that easy to handle by young children.
In this article, I will go through all the different aspects that determine if a pet is a good pet and apply them to the Mongolian gerbil. You’ll know why Mongolian gerbils are generally considered to be good pets for both adults and children.
Are Mongolian Gerbils Good Pets for Adults?
Most adults will choose a dog or a cat as a pet and only get pet rodents when they have children. A lot of adults think that pet rodents don’t make an interesting pet for adults. But this doesn’t have to be true. So, when is a pet a good pet for adults and do gerbils tick all the boxes?
Factors that determine a “Good Pet”
Not one person or family is the same. Some people have a very busy work schedule and don’t have a lot of time to spend with their pets (or come home late and have to start work early), others spend more time at home caring for children and the household.
For a person that isn’t home a lot the factors that determine if a pet is a good pet will be different than for a person that is home more often. However, in general, the following factors determine if a pet is a good pet no matter the specific situation:
- easiness to care for
- hypoallergenic nature of the animal
- required cage size
Some other factors that are (less) important depending on your situation are:
- startup and recurring cost of the pet
- attention that your pet requires and gives
- lifespan of the pet
- sleeping habits of the pet
Now let’s examine these factors for one of the cutest pocket pets, the Mongolian gerbil.
Are gerbils easy to care for?
Gerbils are easy to care for and aren’t high-maintenance. They need to be fed each day and you have to give fresh water daily. The cage should be spot-cleaned daily but a thorough cleaning is usually only needed once a month. Make sure that your gerbils have enough toys to keep them busy.
Are gerbils hypoallergenic?
Gerbils are not hypoallergenic. Their hair, dander, and saliva can cause allergic reactions. Although gerbils produce only a bit of urine it can also cause allergic reactions. Besides the gerbil, it’s also possible that you are allergic to the substrate (for example, wood shavings) that you use.
Research in the journal Clin. Allergy has for example found that pet gerbils were the cause of asthma or rhinitis.
Do gerbils need a lot of space?
Gerbil cages that are often sold in pet stores are relatively small and aren’t the best for gerbils. Provide at least 2,500 cm² of floor area and a height of 30 cm. For small homes, the required space can be a problem. You can opt for a vertical cage that is at least 60 cm in length.
Make sure that your gerbils have enough running space and can burrow in a layer of bedding that’s at least 20 cm (8″) deep.
How much do gerbils cost?
A pair of gerbils will cost around $20 ($10 each). The largest part of the cost of gerbils come from the cage, substrate, accessories, and food. The total cost of a gerbil is between $300 and $400 depending on the kind of cage you choose. The average recurring cost is $100 each year.
Do gerbils need a lot of attention?
Gerbils don’t need a lot of your attention and can live perfectly fine when they live in a pair or small group. You can just watch them build their tunnels and have limited interaction. However, this will make bonding difficult and can make it more difficult to take your gerbils out of the cage.
At some point, you will need to take the gerbils out of their cage (for cleaning or taking them to the vet). It’s easier of your gerbils are used to being handled to take them out of the cage. Of course, this doesn’t mean that they need a lot of attention.
Do gerbils give a lot of attention?
Gerbils aren’t cuddly pets and usually don’t like to be held for a long time. Don’t expect your gerbils to like being held in your hand like a guinea pig and don’t expect the same loyalty as a dog. You can hold a gerbil on your hand and it might like to be scratched behind its ears.
When are your gerbils active?
Gerbils are crepuscular which means that they are most active during twilight periods. Your gerbils will alternate periods of high activity with sleep during a 24-hour cycle. This makes them ideal pets for both people that are at home during the day and people that are awake at night.
How long do gerbils live?
Most pocket pets have a relatively short lifespan. The gerbil also is a short-term commitment and lives between 2 and 5 years, although some can live longer. On average you can expect your gerbils to live for 3 years. Around 2.5 years your gerbil can be considered a “senior”.
Are gerbils child-friendly?
Because of their friendly nature gerbils are considered to be child-friendly. Gerbils can be handled by children from the age of 5, although supervision is always necessary. Teenagers can take up some chores like cleaning the gerbil cage or feeding them.
Before you let your children handle the gerbils, you should make sure that they are used to being handled and that they don’t bite. Observe the behavior of your gerbils when your gerbils are being handled by your children and make sure that they know how to handle them properly.
Children under 5 years should not handle gerbils. They can accidentally squeeze or hurt the gerbils which can cause your gerbil to bite your child. Another risk of letting young children handling a gerbil is that they might let the gerbil fall which can cause serious injuries or an escape.
Are Mongolian Gerbils Good Pets for Children?
For children, there are very different factors that determine if a pet is a good pet. Children don’t care about the cost or space requirements. They do care that the pet looks cute or unique and that they can hold and pet it (in general, shows affection).
Gerbils have a cute and unique look. They look a bit like a mouse but cuter. Your children will love watching them and their curious behavior (standing on hind legs, snuggling with other gerbils,…).
Gerbils aren’t cuddly and will show only a little affection to their owners. They don’t bite unless they’re afraid or stressed. This makes them good pets for children. However, your child might expect to cuddle the gerbil a lot and gerbils will only like handling and petting for a short time.
The most fun part for children can be to watch the gerbils build their tunnels in the substrate or watch them running around. Your children can spend several hours each day just watching the behavior of the gerbils.
When your child is between 5 and 10 years old, you can let him or her handle a gerbil under your supervision. Only do this if they know how to properly handle a gerbil and how to react to their behavior. Children that are older than 10 years can participate in feeding and cleaning. Older children can also take full responsibility for the gerbils.
Want to Learn More?
If you’re interested in learning more about keeping gerbils as pets, you should definitely read the following articles: