Even though they are not as popular as Syrian hamsters, gerbils are one of the most common types of pets you will ever come across.
These little creatures are a favorite pet for children besides being fascinating to watch. They typically live longer than most hamsters and are easy to handle.
But you might fail to understand fully what gerbils eat. Quite a number of pet owners prefer feeding them simple, standard seed mixtures such as those given to hamsters.
While these seed mixtures (of course, dried varieties) have their place, they’re still far from making a complete gerbil’s diet.
The best secret in keeping pets healthy is to replicate their natural environment in a captive situation. This means that your pets need enclosures designed to mimic their wild habitat.
The same case is true with their diet. They deserve food that meets their dietary needs. In this case, gerbils require a well-balanced diet that will help them grow healthy.
In the wild, gerbils eat grassy seeds, leaves, nuts, berries, and hay. Your gerbil will need a varied and nutritious diet to thrive under your care.
One mistake that pet owners make is giving these animals food mixes formulated for hamsters.
Best Food and Diet for Gerbils
Gerbils have different nutrition requirements than hamsters, and you can get a gerbil mix in most pet stores. So, what do gerbils eat?
– Seeds and Grains
Seeds provide gerbils with nutrients like vitamins, calcium, magnesium, fats, and proteins. Seeds shouldn’t be the core part of their diet as they pack a lot of fats and can make your pet overweight.
Sunflower seeds make great but occasional snacks since they are quite fatty. Pumpkin seeds have less fat, and they provide fiber, magnesium, and smaller quantities of calcium and iron.
Gerbils can also eat sesame seeds, melon seeds, poppy seeds, and butternut squash seeds.
Most seeds have a fibrous shell that will keep your pet’s teeth from growing too long. You can buy seed mixtures to provide variety but avoid salted or roasted seeds.
Don’t give your gerbil seeds every day as the nutrients can easily make them obese. The animals are also notorious hoarders, and they may keep a lot of seeds to eat them all at once.
Gerbils also enjoy healthy nuts like peanuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, pecans, and pistachios. Avoid nuts that are cooked or flavored since they are poisonous. Your pets can also eat whole grain bread and breakfast cereal that does not have sugar.
– Fruits and Vegetables
Gerbils enjoy fruits as much as humans do, but the sugar content of fruits like bananas, peaches, melon, and apples can cause obesity in the animals.
In the wild, gerbils have their fill of leafy greens, root vegetables, and berries. Other suitable fruits include kiwis, plums, and strawberries.
You can give your pet veggies like carrots, lettuce, bell pepper, zucchini, and broccoli. These fresh foods should be given in small amounts, and a few times a week.
Remove uneaten fruits and vegetables to discourage spoilage.
– Commercial Pellet Food
Gerbil pellets are formulated with various grain and seed ingredients to provide optimum nutrition. The pellets are also fortified with minerals, fats, vitamins, and proteins for a balanced diet.
The best food mixes also include vegetables and fruits in moderate amounts. Store-bought gerbil pellets can provide the base of their diet, which you can supplement with snacks.
– Treats for Gerbils
Most gerbils love treats in the form of fruits and vegetables. Give them small quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables to avoid cases of diarrhea and other complications.
Make sure that their food is clean and free of pesticides. Provide them treats such as dandelion greens, broccoli, berries, and apples. But avoid raw potato, raw kidney beans, rhubarb leaves, and potato leaves.
You may feed them nuts but do it sparingly. This type of treat is high in fat which can be detrimental to your pet’s health. Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds can also be a great treat for your gerbils if offered in small quantities.
Whole grain bread should come in handy to supplement your pet’s diet. You may offer it either toasted or plain depending on your choice.
On top of that, you may gradually introduce unsweetened breakfast cereal to your gerbils. They will most likely love its taste. Serve them small portions of cheese, currants, and raisins but do it occasionally.
Eggs in small quantities can make some differences as well. Whether boiled or scrambled, eggs can become the best treat for your little gerbils. Occasionally, give them mealworms to make their meals more appetizing.
Most gerbils love chewing on dog biscuits without meat. This treat is important in keeping their teeth sharp and filed. Insects can also become part of your gerbil’s diet.
Keep in mind that these rodents are omnivorous and will eat a variety of foods that can meet their nutritional needs. Insects are a good treat because they are rich in protein that your pet needs to grow.
Food You Should Avoid Giving to Gerbils
Do not give gerbils raw potato, rhubarb, garlic, and onions as these vegetables are poisonous to them. Avoid fruit seeds with cyanide like those of apples.
Pet owners are also advised to keep grapes and avocados away from gerbils. Citrus fruits are also too acidic for the small animals.
Do not give your pet unwashed vegetables and fruits since pesticides are dangerous to them. You should also keep store-bought seed mixes in the freezer for at least five hours to remove any insects or insect eggs.
How Often to Feed Gerbils?
Most Gerbils eat a tablespoon of pellets every day, and you can feed them three to four times a day. These animals like to nibble on seeds and nuts throughout the day, and you can fill their feeding dish with seed mixes at the start of the day.
Ensure that your gerbil does not run out of seeds and nuts as they also keep their teeth from growing too fast. It is easy to overfeed gerbils since they hoard food around their cage, so you need to clean out their house several times a week.
What do Baby Gerbils Eat?
Female gerbils nurse their pups, and you should not disturb the mother before and immediately after birth. You can wean young gerbils when they are three to five weeks old.
Baby gerbils should be given highly-nutritious foods like peeled sunflower seeds, mealworms, uncooked oats, and regular gerbil pellets. You can also provide small amounts of scrambled eggs.
It is best to scatter the food around the cage so that the pups don’t waste energy getting to the food dish. Baby gerbils will also need water once they reach three weeks, and the bottle should be set low enough for them to reach.
Can Gerbils Eat Chocolate?
Gerbils love calorie-rich foods, and they will often hoard a lot of them in the wild. If given the opportunity, therefore, the animals will eat chocolate, which is packed with fats and sugars.
Chocolate has a compound called theobromine, which can overwhelm the digestive system of a gerbil. The animal’s body will struggle to digest theobromine, and it will accumulate to toxic levels and cause irregular heart rhythm, seizure, and even death.
Dark chocolate has the highest quantities of theobromine, but white chocolate shouldn’t be used either because it is made of fat and sugar.
Some pet stores stock rodent chocolate drops as a safe alternative for hamsters and rodents. These drops are made from the plant carob, which has a chocolate-flavor and no theobromine.
The chocolate drops offer no nutritional value for gerbils, however, as they are mainly made from dairy, sugar, and oil.
Can Gerbils Eat Meat?
Wild gerbils lead an omnivorous diet that includes insects, but they are too small to hunt for animals. You can provide crickets and mealworms as snacks.
Some pet owners give their gerbils chicken, beef, and pork. Such meats have a lot of protein and fat that are too much for the animals.
Meat also has a lot of water that can cause diarrhea in gerbils. Your pet will be fine without meat in their diet, and it is best to avoid it.
Poisonous Foods to Gerbils
Every animal, including human beings, have certain food types that are poisonous to them. This is also true with gerbils when you feed them on foods that don’t work well for them.
You could easily give them poisonous foods accidentally without realizing it.
That said, take note of poisonous foods such as grapes (seeded ones) and rhubarb including green potatoes, green tomatoes, and other foods belonging to the Solanaceae or nightshade family.
These foods are extremely dangerous to rodents, especially gerbils. Avoid them by all means.
Do Gerbils Need Water?
Wild gerbils are accustomed to the dry climates of Mongolia, but you will need to provide water for your pet at all times.
Furnish their cage with a sipper bottle that they can reach and replenish it with daily. Check the bottle for leakages or blockages as well.
Gerbils are less popular than hamsters, but they make excellent pets. Their diet should be based on nutritious seeds and nuts and supplemented with fruits, vegetables.
You can also buy gerbil pellets that are fortified with all the elements that your pet needs. Gerbils also need fresh water every day.