If you’ve ever been a pet sitter for a gerbil, you already know these fuzzy little critters will eat a ton of food for their weight. They also look cute while doing it, too. Though they’re avid munchers, pet owners still (rightfully) worry about their gerbil’s weights.
Can you overfeed a gerbil? Much like with any other pet, the risk of overfeeding is always going to be there with gerbils. Overfeeding your gerbil may cause their taste in food to change, gearing their preferences towards extremely unhealthy foods.
Knowing how to help your gerbils live as long as possible is a crucial part of being a good pet owner. At the center of knowing how to care for gerbils is understanding their dietary needs. This guide will help you understand the nuances of gerbil diets.
Can You Overfeed A Gerbil?
Like with any other animal, gerbils can be overfed. When they are overfed, gerbils have a tendency of opting for high-fat, low-nutrient foods that don’t benefit them. When overfed for a long period of time, it can negatively affect their wellbeing and health.
What Happens If You Overfeed A Gerbil?
Overfeeding a gerbil can lead to a lot of health problems, especially when you take their penchant for high-fat foods into account. A gerbil that’s continually overfed runs the risk of:
- Weight Gain. Just like humans, gerbils can get a little chunky when they eat too much.
- Malnutrition. If they’re fed too many high-fat foods, gerbils might start to avoid the nutritional pellets in favor of fatty foods. This can lead to your pets getting low on the vitamins and minerals they really do need.
- Difficult Mobility. Much like humans, gerbils that get too heavy can run the risk of having trouble walking. This is an extreme side effect but still has been documented.
- Premature Death. Gerbils’ bodies will get overstressed from being too heavy from their frames. This can lead them to an early death.
How Often Should You Feed Your Gerbils?
Feeding your gerbil doesn’t have to be a major endeavor. You can sprinkle pellets in their bowls and just let that be that. It’s best to just drop the food in once per day or to refill their bowl whenever it’s empty if you have multiple gerbils.
An adult gerbil should be given about ½ cup of food per day. To figure out how to feed multiple gerbils is simple. Just multiple the portion by the number of gerbils you have. To prevent overfeeding, cap out the number of times you feed your gerbils to twice a day maximum.
How Can You Tell If Your Gerbils Are Overeating
This can be tricky for a beginning owner, but it’s still doable. Gerbils that are overeating finish their food rapidly. A typical gerbil should nibble away at food throughout the day, rather than continually eat at their bowl. If you notice signs of weight gain, you also might have a gerbil that needs a diet.
Are Some Gerbils More Likely To Overeat Than Others?
Gerbils are just like people. They each have their own personalities and preferences. This means that some gerbils are more likely to overeat than others. In most cases, your gerbils will be fine regulating their own diets. It’s when your gerbil is eating unhealthily and trying to ask for more for that you should get concerned.
How To Prevent Gerbils From Overeating
If you have a gerbil that’s been eating just a little too much or seems to have a penchant for fatty foods, don’t worry. There are some methods you can use to prevent them from eating even more:
- Separate gerbils during mealtime. By restricting each gerbil to their own food, you can ensure that gerbils aren’t eating other gerbils’ meals.
- Reduce the use of treats. Treats, with most gerbils, are fine additions to their diets. With some picky eaters, they end up spoiling their tastes and try to eat them exclusively.
- If your gerbil is refusing to eat certain foods in your mix, buy foods that don’t contain their “favorites.” This often happens with sunflower seeds or similar treats. If you notice gerbils picking apart kibble or choosing specific items, go for foods that don’t involve their favorite portions as this picky behavior can spark bad eating habits.
- Don’t refill their bowl until most of the food is gone. Remember, once a day is the norm in most situations. Regularly refilling their bowl, especially when there’s plenty of food still there, sends the wrong message.
What Should You Do If You Overfed Your Gerbil?
Even the most well-meaning pet owner can make the mistake of overfeeding their pets. It happens. The important thing is knowing what to do when you realize you’ve been overfeeding your pets.
If your overfeeding session was a one-off, just go back to your normal feeding routine, and nothing should happen. If you’ve been overfeeding your petite pets for a while, here’s what you need to do:
- Scale back the food, big time. Take a look at the amount of food that you’re feeding your gerbil. Is it over ½ a cup per day? If so, that’s where the problem lies. The first thing that you should do is cut the amount of food back to ½ cup per day. This alone should make a massive difference in your pets’ health.
- Consider parsing out the food in smaller quantities throughout the day. Sometimes, you might end up with a gerbil that will continually eat until there’s no food left. This fixes that problem quickly.
- End fatty treat usage. Your gerbils might not like this, but this can help goad your gerbil into eating healthier foods. If your gerbil has already gotten to the point of gaining weight, treats should be the last thing on the menu. Drop the sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds!
- Consider switching sunflowers for a healthier type of snack. Sunflower seeds are a major culprit to obesity. If you notice your gerbils gaining weight, switch those seeds out for peas, apples, cucumber, carrots, or corn. They’ll love it!
When To Call A Vet
Generally speaking, an overfed gerbil is nothing to worry about. However, if you notice that your gerbil is refusing to eat any food you put in front of him or has started to show serious signs of distress, a call to your preferred vet makes sense.
Don’t get us wrong; gerbils won’t always be too thrilled to have their treats taken away from them. It might take a week or two before they get use to a new diet, so give them time if they seem upset and cut down on their food intake. On the other hand, if they are refusing to eat at all, a vet visit might be in order.
Gerbils can be overfed fairly easily if you don’t pay attention to what they’re doing or how much they’re eating. The ideal diet for your gerbil is just a ½ cup of food per day. If your gerbil eats more, they run the risk of gaining weight and ignoring their own dietary needs.
Thankfully, most gerbils will not need much work to prevent overeating. Gerbils that are prone to eating “junk food” or overeating may need to be gently coached with better dietary attention and the removal of fatty foods from their feeding bowls.
For the most part, treating a gerbil that’s gained weight is simple. All you need to do is fix their diet, and they’ll shed the weight quickly enough. If you notice your pet in distress, call a vet.