Gerbil Dietary Questions: Can Pet Gerbils Eat Strawberries?

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 healthy and savory snacks, strawberries come to mind. So can gerbils eat strawberries, or are there better alternatives?

Gerbils can eat fresh and dried strawberries but only as a treat. You should feed only small pieces because of the high percentage of water. Dried or dehydrated strawberries contain little water but have more sugar per piece. Therefore, only feed strawberries as a treat once or twice a week.

Strawberries – 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 apples and bananas), so an occasional piece of a strawberry won’t hurt your gerbils. However, you should only give small amounts. There are also several ways to feed strawberries to gerbils (fresh, dried, dehydrated) and some are better than others.

Do Gerbils Eat Strawberries 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 strawberry bush wouldn’t grow well in this region.

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

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

This doesn’t mean that pet gerbils won’t eat strawberries 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 Strawberries (Analysis)

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

NutrientAmount (per 100 grams)
Water91.1 g
Protein0.64 g
Fiber1.8 g
Sugars5.34 g
Calcium12 mg
Magnesium11.8 mg
Phosphorus20 mg
Vitamin C56 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 strawberries have less than 2% fiber per serving, while dried or dehydrated strawberries have around 7 to 8% fiber per serving. These percentages are similar to the fiber content of seed mixes and pellets for gerbils. So, gerbils won’t have too many problems digesting strawberries.

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.

Strawberries contain around 11.8 mg of magnesium per 100 grams, which equals 1.18 grams per kilogram. Most quality seed mixes and pellet diets will contain enough magnesium to keep your gerbils healthy. But it’s good to know that strawberries can also help a bit.

Vitamins

Strawberries are rich in vitamins and have a very high concentration of vitamin C. 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 strawberries contain approximately 91% water. So when you give too many strawberries or give them too many times in a week, your gerbil can get health issues such as diarrhea.

Sugar

Fresh strawberries contain around 5% sugar per piece and dried or dehydrated strawberries 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 strawberries

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 strawberry’s calcium to phosphorus ratio is [1]:[1.7], 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 Strawberries? (Feeding Instructions)

Based on the nutritional value of strawberries, we can conclude that gerbils can eat strawberries. 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 strawberries, we’re going to learn how many strawberries they can eat and how many times a week you can give strawberries to gerbils.

What kind of strawberries can you give?

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

  • fresh
  • dried or dehydrated

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

Fresh, dried or dehydrated strawberries

Fresh strawberries are more popular than dried or dehydrated strawberries, 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 strawberries go through a process where most water is removed from the strawberry. The result is a smaller piece of strawberry that looks wrinkled. Dried or dehydrated strawberries are sometimes also called strawberry chips (but are not baked or fried as other chips).

There is a notable difference between fresh and dried/dehydrated strawberries:

NutrientFresh strawberryDried/dehydrated strawberry
Fiber2%7 to 8%
Sugar5%65%
Water91%15%

You can buy dried and dehydrated strawberries (such as these tiny strawberry cubes) or you can make them yourselves with a food dehydrator.

Strawberry-flavored treats

You can find dried or dehydrated strawberry chips in pet stores and online. However, sometimes there are additives or excess sugar in these products. In addition, some treats contain strawberries as an ingredient, such as the Oxbow Simple Rewards (freeze-dried).

How many times can you give strawberries?

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

How many strawberries can you give?

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

TypeAmount per gerbil (grams)Amount per gerbil (oz.)
Fresh strawberry10 grams0.36 oz.
Dried or dehydrated strawberry5 grams0.18 oz.

Gerbils have a small stomach and giving too many strawberries 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.

Related Questions

Can gerbils eat strawberry leaves?

Gerbils can eat strawberry leaves. These leaves contain fiber and can be fed together with the strawberry without any problems.

Can gerbils eat berries?

Gerbils can eat all kinds of berries, including blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries. Like other fruit, berries should be only given occasionally. You can mix different berries as a treat and give them once or twice a week.

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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