5 REASONS WHY GERBILS MAKE GREAT PETS
I have to say, in all honesty, that gerbils make really good pets - for slightly older kids, and anyone living in a small space like an apartment. They have a lot going for them besides being absolutely adorable - they really do (and that's a message for all you moms out there who KNOW you will be spending a bit of time with any new pet your child acquires)!
Hamsters have long been awarded the popularity trophy when it comes to small rodent pets. But I want to challenge that! Not to make all you hamster owners mad, but biting often seems to be more of a problem with hamsters than gerbils. Gerbils are also (sorry hamsters!) less smelly.
They both cost about the same to set up - you'll need a good cage or 10 gallon tank with a mesh top, food, food bowl, water bottle, toys and chewy things (or tubes), and bedding. You can also get one of those "exercise wheels," although most gerbils have never figured out how to use theirs.
Speaking of gerbilS (plural!) it's best to get TWO gerbils because gerbils are very social and like to have a pal. Never get a male and a female unless you want oodles of babies to deal with!!
One bit of caution when it comes to gerbils: They move quickly! So if you have a very young child (under eight) be sure to supervise his or her interactions with the gerbils, and help with the cleaning. You don't want any rodents going crazy in your house (especially if you have a cat or dog or large predatory creature of any kind)!
Gerbils do seem a little more hyper than hamsters - but in my book, that's a plus. This makes them more interesting to watch! This is what also makes gerbils better suited for slightly older children. My blogger friend who's a gerbil owner always takes her gerbils out in a bathroom or bedroom with the door closed. That way, if they should scoot off - at least they can't go far.
You can also get one of those "hamster balls" (I guess it's a "gerbil ball" now) so the little guys can get out and "run around" inside of them, yet still be safe from roaming housecats and other dangers. The exercise is good for them, and the activity is entertaining to watch (especially for those roaming housecats).
Are you considering acquiring gerbils for either yourself or your child? Without further ado, here are FIVE REASONS why gerbils make great pets:
1. GERBILS ARE FRIENDLY AND MILD-MANNERED. Friends of mine who own gerbils have never bitten - not once. Personally, I like this trait. I don't want to own something that bites. Gerbils may nibble on your finger just a little, but that's only because they have bad eyesight and might mistake your finger for food. One way to avoid this, is to make sure your hands DO NOT SMELL LIKE FOOD when you stick them in the cage! (And always wash hands after handling any small rodent).
Other than that, though, gerbils are very friendly and sociable - not aggressive, at all. Try not to startle your gerbil (gerbils don't like loud noises)! Be gentle with your gerbils and they will be gentle back. You can even train them to take seeds right out of your hand.
2. GERBILS ARE VERY CLEAN NON-SMELLY PETS. Not that you can get away with never cleaning out their cage, of course! You should - at least once a week (that's what we do). They love the nice clean cage - it makes them go racing around with joy! But overall, since gerbils are desert animals, they don't require a lot of water (although you should have fresh water available at all times) and consequently, they don't pee as much!
3. GERBILS ARE REALLY EASY TO TAKE CARE OF. Honestly, they don't require a lot of work or supervision. You just need to replenish their food and water and change their bedding once a week. If you get two gerbils together (and you should!) they have each other to keep them company. However, they love it when you talk to them or spend time with them - whenever that's convenient for you. Gerbils will learn to recognize your face, by the way...because even though they might be "your kid's pets" your face will be around a lot, too...trust me!
4. GERBILS ARE VERY ENTERTAINING AND FUN TO WATCH. Gerbils are such active and inquisitive little critters. They love to dig and chew and play play, play! Also, because they are active during the day, their schedule meshes better with a human's schedule.
5. GERBILS ARE GOOD FOR RECYCLING. No, no...not the actual gerbils, themselves! I mean, since gerbils love to chew, you can offer them all sorts of recycling items like empty toilet paper and paper-towel tubes (finally, something else to do with these besides turn them into bad crafts), empty egg cartons, those cardboard drink holders from MacDonald's...they love em' all! They especially love the tubes, because the tube instantly becomes a fun tunnel and a chew-toy, rolled up in one. Yup - gerbils are very "green" pets!
(Here's a little tip from me that I thought I would toss in: Gerbils LOVE nectarines! I know it sounds weird. However, if you cut up a little piece of nectarine and offer it to them they will go nuts... squealing and squeaking and fighting over it! You may have to put in another piece just to keep the peace).
So, in summation, I'll say it again. GERBILS ARE GREAT! Yes, they are a little bit of work. And yes, they can be a little messy (bits of bedding and cardboard will fly out of the cage). However, no pet is perfect, let's be honest. Nevertheless, I'd say these little guys come pretty close!