Monday, December 17, 2007

Gerbils Are Fun, Friendly Small Pets

I was in Petco the other day taking a look at the white mice, hamsters, rats, guinea pigs, and gerbils. It brought to mind the time my daughter won a gerbil in a second grade science fair. It was a little, black gerbil my daughter named, Blacky.

My sons had hamsters and white mice as pets in the past, so I figured it was basically the same type of care for the gerbil. What I wasn't expecting was the personality Blacky had. He was very friendly, while the hamsters we had owned always bit. Blacky lived for five years, and never once bit anyone.

He also seemed to be very intelligent. He would sit on his haunches, reaching two paws outside the cage, beckoning for sunflower seeds. My daughter would hand him a seed, he would take it and carefully eat it while turning it over in his paws. When he finished the seed, he would reach out for another one. He never grabbed, or seemed frightened of us at all.

Another of Blacky's talents was house construction. We would put fluff in the cage, so he could build a nest to snuggle into, and each night he would reconstruct his home. It always had multiple doors, or windows (I'm not sure which they were supposed to be). When someone came into the room, he would pop his head out of one of the windows to take a peek. The next night, he would rebuild his home in a different design. These were intricate house designs, not just piles of fluff! I think he was a 'gerbil architect'.

Blacky would allow my daughter to hold him in her hand, or carry him in her pocket. He would also sit on her shoulder while she did her homework. He did occasionally jump down, or get out of the cage, but he would never run off like my son's hamsters used to. Blacky would not even leave my daughter's bedroom, although the door was open. When he was tired of being loose, he would stand on his back legs and look at my daughter until she picked him up and put him back in his cage.

It was a sad day when Blacky passed away, but he certainly taught me a lot about gerbils that I never knew before. I would never hesitate to give a gerbil as a pet, knowing how gentle Blacky was. I believe if you take care of a gerbil's needs, giving him a roomy cage, nesting material, an adequate water bottle, sunflower seed treats, as well as a well balanced gerbil food, and treat him gently, he will be a wonderful pet. We also used to put a gnawing bone in his cage to prevent his teeth from growing too long. Some pet stores recommend getting two gerbils, since they are social animals, but Blacky was fine alone; maybe that was just him.

Pet stores also carry entire critter habitats that come with running wheels, tubes to climb through and water bottles. They come in a variety of sizes. Children like these habitats for the little animals because they are very colorful and can be expanded. We just used a basic cage, and Blacky seemed happy. I would recommend a gerbil to anyone trying to decide on a small pet.

Here's a cute video of gerbils I found on YouTube:

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