Gerbil Dietary Questions: Can Pet Gerbils Eat Grapes?

Gerbils love to eat all kinds of seeds and need a balanced diet to keep them healthy. However, an occasional (healthy) snack can bring a little bit of variation in the diet. When we think of savory snacks, grapes come to mind. So can gerbils eat grapes, or are there better alternatives?

Gerbils can eat fresh grapes and dried raisins but only as a treat. You should feed only small pieces because of the high percentage of water. While raisins contain less water, they do have more sugar per piece. Therefore, only feed grapes or raisins as a treat once or twice a week.

Grapes – and fruit in general – should never replace the main diet of gerbils. Gerbils are desert animals and they naturally feed on seeds and grasses. Specially formulated seed and pellet mixes contain all nutrients that your gerbil needs to live a long and healthy life.

Many seed and pellet mixes contain a small percentage of fruits (like raisins), so an occasional piece of a grape or raisin won’t hurt your gerbils. However, you should only give small amounts. There are also several ways to feed grapes to gerbils (fresh, dried, dehydrated) and some are better than others.

Do Gerbils Eat Grapes in the Wild?

Gerbils live in arid regions and Mongolian gerbils are no exception. Mongolian gerbils live in an area with grassland, shrubland, and desert and are used to living with only a limited amount of water.

The temperatures in the natural habitat of these gerbils can get up to 50 °C (122 °F), although usually, the temperatures are lower. Water is scarce in this region and you would think that a grapevine wouldn’t grow well in this region.

Grapevines need water to grow and the desert doesn’t have enough water or rainfall. Therefore, only an oasis or artificial greenhouses can sustain grapevines. Unfortunately, this means that there are no grapes available in the natural habitat of gerbils.

Mongolian gerbils will eat seeds, roots, bulbs, and herbs. Depending on the time of year and their region, gerbils will also eat fruit and insects when they’re available. However, wild Mongolian gerbils don’t have grapes or grape seeds on their plate.

This doesn’t mean that pet gerbils won’t eat grapes or raisins when you give them. However, gerbils don’t get a lot of nutritional value from them and don’t need them to stay healthy.

Nutritional Value of Grapes (Analysis)

You can find the nutritional value of grapes (and raisins) on FoodData Central, a database of the US Department of Agriculture. Below you can find the most important data:

NutrientAmount (per 100 grams)
Water80.5 g
Protein0.72 g
Fiber0.9 g
Sugars15.5 g
Calcium10 mg
Magnesium7 mg
Phosphorus20 mg
Vitamin C3.2 mg

Fiber

Gerbils have a very simple stomach and don’t have a well-developed cecum and colon. According to the book Nutrient Requirements of Laboratory Animals, this suggests that they are adapted to mostly eat low-fiber foods such as seeds.

Fresh grapes have less than 1% fiber per serving, while raisins have around 4 to 5% fiber per serving. These percentages are less than the fiber content of seed mixes and pellets for gerbils. Therefore, gerbils won’t have too many problems digesting grapes and raisins.

Minerals

Gerbils are prone to seizures and there is an elevated risk when gerbils are fed a low-magnesium diet. However, according to a study from Harriman in 1974, this risk was eliminated when magnesium was added to the diet at 1.39 grams per kilogram. 

Magnesium also plays a role in preventing alopecia and weight loss. The recommended dietary magnesium concentration is 1.5 grams per kilogram, while the minimum is 1.0 grams per kilogram.

Grapes contain around 7 mg of magnesium per 100 grams, which equals 0.07 grams per kilogram. However, raisins contain 36 mg of magnesium per 100 grams (0.36 grams per kilogram).

Most quality seed mixes and pellet diets will contain enough magnesium to keep your gerbils healthy. But grapes and raisins won’t do much to add magnesium to the diet of your gerbils.

Vitamins

Grapes are rich in vitamins. Vitamins play an important role in keeping gerbils healthy and preventing certain health issues.

Water

Gerbils don’t drink a lot of water, but they should have access to water at all times. They’re desert animals and can survive a long time without water. In captivity, you should provide fresh water daily.

A gerbil’s body isn’t adjusted to drinking a lot of water and grapes contain approximately 80% water. So when you give too many grapes or give them too many times in a week, your gerbil can get health issues such as diarrhea.

Sugar

Fresh grapes contain around 15% sugar per piece and raisins even contain about 65% sugar per piece. Gerbils aren’t used to eating many sugary foods and their sugar intake should be limited. Too much sugar is bad for your gerbil’s teeth and their body will have problems digesting it.

Calcium to phosphorus ratio of grapes

The calcium to phosphorus ratio is a ratio between two minerals. It’s vital for bone growth and bone health in humans and rodents. According to the book Nutrient Requirements of Laboratory Animals, the amount of calcium that gerbils need is 5.0g/kg diet and the amount of phosphorus is 3.0g/kg diet. Based on this data, gerbils’ correct calcium to phosphorus ratio is around [1.7]:[1].

A grape’s calcium to phosphorus ratio is [1]:[2], which indicates that it isn’t good as part of the main diet. But as a treat, it can be given just fine. 

Can Gerbils Eat Grapes? (Feeding Instructions)

Based on the nutritional value of grapes, we can conclude that gerbils can eat grapes. However, they shouldn’t be the main diet and should only be given occasionally. Most herbs and vegetables are better alternatives to feed more regularly. According to the RSPCA, gerbils shouldn’t eat grapes. However, anecdotal evidence on forums and Facebook groups suggests that gerbils can eat grapes.

Now that you know that gerbils can eat grapes, we’re going to learn how many grapes they can eat and how many times a week you can give grapes to gerbils.

What kind of grapes can you give?

Grapes are edible fruit and you can find grapes almost anywhere in the world. You and your gerbils can eat them in different ways:

  • fresh
  • dried or dehydrated (raisins)

You can also mix grapes into juice, but grape juice is low in fiber and high in sugar and should be avoided.

Fresh grapes and raisins

Fresh grapes are more popular than raisins, but they contain more water and less fiber per serving. Fruits high in water content can cause minor health issues, especially when too much is given.

There is a notable difference between fresh grapes and raisins:

NutrientFresh grapesRaisins
Fiber<1%4 to 5%
Sugar15%65%
Water80%15%

How many times can you give grapes?

Gerbils can eat small pieces of grape once or twice a week. However, if you routinely give more than that, the diet of your gerbil will become out of balance. (Fresh) grapes contain a lot of water and can cause health issues when you give too much.

How many grapes can you give?

Gerbils should only eat a small to medium grape (up to 10 grams) per gerbil per serving. If you give raisins, you should give even less (up to 5 grams) because of the higher sugar content.

TypeAmount per gerbil (grams)Amount per gerbil (oz.)
Fresh grape10 grams0.36 oz.
Raisin5 grams0.18 oz.

Gerbils have a small stomach and giving too many grapes might lead to your gerbil not eating its daily seed or pellet mix. This would be similar to eating only snacks the entire day and not having the appetite to eat a nutritional meal.

Want to Learn More?

If you’re interested in learning more about gerbils as pets, please read the following articles:

If you’re interested in getting gerbils as pets, you should read our beginner’s guide to keeping gerbils as pets and our gerbil care guide.

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