Can Gerbils Eat Oranges? (Fresh, Dried and Peels)

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. Oranges are a tasty fruit and they are full of vitamins. But can gerbils eat oranges, or are there better alternatives?

Gerbils can eat oranges but only as a treat. Oranges are a fruit that is high in vitamins but it contains a lot of water and is a medium-oxalate food. Oxalic acid can harm your gerbil’s health. You should only feed it once or twice a month in small quantities.

Fruit 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 apples and bananas), so an occasional piece of fruit won’t hurt your gerbils. However, you should only give small amounts and certain fruit shouldn’t be given. Oranges are often considered bad fruit for gerbils because of their acidity. However, if you give only small quantities and only on rare occasions, your gerbils will rarely get health issues from eating oranges.

Do Gerbils Eat Oranges 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 an orange tree wouldn’t grow well in this region.

Orange trees need water to grow and the desert doesn’t have enough water or rainfall to sustain orange trees. Only an oasis can sustain orange trees. Orange trees are best grown in tropical and subtropical climates. The natural habitat of gerbils doesn’t fit this profile. This means that there are no oranges available in the natural habitat of gerbils.

Mongolian gerbils will eat seeds, roots, bulbs, and herbs. When they’re available, gerbils will also eat fruit and insects, but this depends on the time of year and their region. Oranges aren’t available to them but this doesn’t mean that a gerbil won’t try an orange if you leave it in its enclosure. However, I would highly recommend not giving oranges to gerbils!

Nutritional Value of Oranges (Analysis)

You can find the nutritional value of oranges on FoodData Central, a database of the US Department of Agriculture. Below you can find the most important data:

NutrientAmount (per 100 grams)
Water87.1 g
Protein0.7 g
Fiber2.4 g
Sugars9.14 g
Calcium43 mg
Magnesium10 mg
Phosphorus12 mg
Vitamin C45 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 oranges have 2% fiber per serving, while dried or dehydrated oranges have around 10% fiber per serving. These percentages are similar to the fiber content of seed mixes and pellets for gerbils.

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.

Oranges contain around 10 mg of magnesium per 100 grams, which equals 0.1 grams per kilogram. Most quality seed mixes and pellet diets will contain enough magnesium to keep your gerbils healthy. Oranges won’t do too much but can add a little bit of magnesium.

Vitamins

Oranges are rich in several vitamins and have a very high concentration of vitamin C. Vitamins play an important role in keeping gerbils healthy and can prevent 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 oranges contain approximately 86% of water. So when you give too many oranges or give them too many times in a week, your gerbil can get health issues such as diarrhea.

Sugar

Fresh oranges contain around 9% sugar per piece and dried or dehydrated oranges even contain around more. 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 oranges

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, the correct calcium to phosphorus ratio for gerbils is around [1.7]:[1].

An orange’s calcium to phosphorus ratio is [3.56]:[1], which is a good ratio for gerbils.

Can Gerbils Eat Oranges? (Feeding Instructions)

Based on the nutritional value of oranges, we can conclude that gerbils can eat oranges. 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.

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

What kind of orange can you give?

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

  • fresh
  • dried or dehydrated

Fresh, dried or dehydrated oranges

Fresh oranges are more popular than dried or dehydrated oranges, 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.

Dried or dehydrated oranges go through a process where most water is removed from the orange. The result is a smaller piece of orange that looks wrinkled.

You can buy dried and dehydrated oranges (such as these tiny orange slices) or you can make them yourselves with a food dehydrator.

How many times can you give oranges?

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

How many oranges can you give?

Gerbils should only eat a small piece of fresh orange (up to 10 grams) per gerbil per serving. If you give dried or dehydrated oranges, you should give even less (up to 5 grams) because of the high sugar content.

TypeAmount per gerbil (grams)Amount per gerbil (oz.)
Fresh orange10 grams0.36 oz.
Dried or dehydrated orange5 grams0.18 oz.

Gerbils have a small stomach and giving too much orange 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.

Why You Shouldn’t Give Oranges to Gerbils

According to the RSPCA, gerbils can eat oranges.[1]https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/rodents/gerbils/diet However, citrus fruit, like an orange, is often disliked by gerbils because of the taste. Oranges also have high acidity. Most gerbil owners won’t feed oranges to their gerbils because of the high acidity and high percentage of water. I also don’t recommend feeding oranges and if you do feed them, only do so in very small amounts. There are far better alternatives to feed, such as apples or bananas.

Related Questions

Can gerbils have orange juice?

Orange juice is high in sugar and low in fiber. Although gerbils might take a little sip of orange juice, it isn’t beneficial for them. Instead, give your gerbils fresh water daily and give vegetables or fruit as a treat.

Can gerbils eat mandarins?

Mandarins look a little bit like oranges but they contain more sugar and less vitamin C. Mandarines are citrus fruit and it isn’t recommended to give them to gerbils. Not only will gerbils dislike the taste, but they can also get health issues.

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.

References

References
1 https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/rodents/gerbils/diet

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