Gerbils make excellent in-house pets for the family. They are very social animals and do not mind playing with you endlessly.
They make great first pets because caring for them does not require a great deal of specialization. All they need is a proper cage to stay, the right mix of food, and regular check-up from the vet to remain healthy.
Once you get all these in place, you are in for endless hours of entertainment for you and your family to enjoy. However, there are certain aspects of their care that you need to be wary of to ensure the health of your animal.
Certain types of food and toys can be harmful to your gerbil and may result in poor health or even death. Here is some information to help you better care for your animal.
What is poisonous to gerbils?
Many things can be poisonous for your gerbil. These range from food items to toys. Gerbils belong to a class of rodents known as omnivores. That means they can eat a variety of food items ranging from fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
Although their diet is varied, certain types of food are poisonous to them. For example, apple seeds are toxic to gerbils because they contain trace amounts of cyanide, which is a poison.
You may also want to offer some of what you eat to your gerbil. Although they can partake in some human food, most of what you eat counts as poison.
The way you care for your animal can also lead to its poisoning. For example, not cleaning the drinking bottle in the cage can cause bacteria to accumulate, and can kill your animal if ingested. Failing to change the bedding regularly can also be harmful to your animal.
Gerbils are hoarders and like to store food. They will do this under the bedding, where if not checked, the food starts to rot and release harmful gases such as methane and sulfur.
Food items you should never give your gerbil
Gerbils consume a variety of food items. However, not all of them are beneficial. Below are the different foods that you should not give to your gerbil, based on their category.
Nuts that are salted, cooked, or flavored are poisonous for your gerbil. The reason is that their body is not designed to digest processed food. Gerbils eat nuts in their raw form, as that is how they can get all their nutrients.
Salty nuts lead to dehydration, while the artificial flavors contain harmful chemicals that the gerbil cannot process.
Gerbils can eat all manner of vegetables. However, you should offer these in moderation.
Zucchini, cucumber, and baby marrow all contain seeds that are poisonous to the animal. Make sure to remove these before offering the treat to your gerbils.
Lettuce in abundance will result in liver problems for your pet. Other vegetables to avoid are onions, raw potatoes, rhubarb, and kidney beans. Onions act on the red blood cells of gerbils and cause them to rupture.
In the wild, gerbils like to hoard their food for later. Always look for leftovers in the enclosure. If they stay too long, they start to rot and create an environment for harmful pathogens to thrive.
When offering seeds to your pet, make sure to read their method of preparation and the recommended dietary allowance. Just as with nuts, any seeds that are salted, cooked, or flavored are poisonous to your gerbil.
On the other hand, sunflower seeds, even in their raw form, can be dangerous to your gerbil if not given in moderation. They contain high-fat content, which may lead to obesity and other complications to your animals.
Seeds of most fruits are also a no-no in your pet’s diet. They can cause gastric obstruction, or as in the case of strawberry seeds, contain cyanide.
Avocados are very high in fat, calcium, and acid, which is too much for your gerbil to handle. Avocados also have a damaging effect on their heart and will result in fatality if given.
Grapes are also poisonous to gerbils. Their high acid content is not suitable for the physiology of your pet. According to most veterinarians, citrus fruits should not feature at all in the diet.
Grasses and leaves
Nightshade, hemlock, daffodils, ivy, and buttercups are all toxic to gerbils. No matter how pretty daffodils look, do not keep them anywhere near your gerbil’s enclosure.
They are curious animals and will gnaw at anything within their sight. You should, therefore, be very careful where you place the cage.
Human foods that can be poisonous to your gerbil
Your gerbil is a beloved member of the family, and you would want it to have a taste of what you are eating. However, this may end up doing more harm than good.
Gerbils are sensitive animals when it comes to diet. Even though they are omnivores, gerbils cannot eat meat. Never offer a piece of your steak to them, as it is too heavy for their system to digest.
Other human foods that you should not give to your gerbil are as follows:
- Any drinks that contain caffeine such as tea, coffee, and energy drinks.
- Chocolate. Theobromine is a constituent ingredient of chocolate, and can is difficult for the gerbil to metabolize. Over time, it builds up and becomes toxic to their body.
- Eggs. In their raw form, eggs may contain bacteria that your pet’s immune system cannot handle.
- Toffee, pastry, and sweets are also poisonous to gerbils. They are all manufactured food, and the chemicals used to prepare them are unnatural to your gerbil’s metabolism.
- Cheese. Unknown to many pet owners, gerbils are lactose intolerant. Offering them a slice of cheddar cheese will only kill your pet. It causes severe diarrhea, which is devastating to their little bodies.
Chew toys and bedding material
Gerbils, like all rodents, are gnawing animals. They have to grind their teeth to prevent overgrowth and keep them sharp. When selecting chew toys for your pet, avoid anything plastic.
They may ingest it, and it can cause harmful blockages in their system that can lead to fatality. You should also avoid chewing toys that feature treated wood. The chemicals are indigestible and accumulate over time to toxic levels in their bodies.
The bedding in your animal’s cage can also be poisonous. Pinewood and cedar are highly toxic for gerbils. The strong odors they emit are harmful to the respiratory system of gerbils.
Printed material is also harmful to your animal. If ingested by the animal, chemicals in the ink start accumulating in the body and lead to diseases of the blood and damage to vital organs such as the liver.
Other external factors that can poison your gerbil
Aside from the above, there are also external factors that may lead to poisonous situations to gerbils. When offering fresh vegetables and fruit to your gerbil, ensure to wash them thoroughly.
Pesticides can still linger on the produce and when ingested by your pet can cause irreversible damage to your animal. Some food that you buy from the store from your animal, may contain ingredients that are not suitable for gerbils. Always read the package to verify if the feed is beneficial for your pet.
Regular cleaning of the gerbil’s cage is encouraged. Gerbil urine is rich in ammonia which when left unattended can have severe consequences. Depending on the bedding material, it can react with the ammonia in the urine and release toxic gases within the enclosure.
Make it a point to clean your animal’s enclosure at least once every week. It goes a long way in maintaining a clean and healthy environment that does not allow the build-up of harmful pathogens.
Another external factor that is poisonous to gerbils is an abrupt diet change. If you feel that your gerbil needs some variety in their diet, do so in phases.
You can start by introducing the new food slowly into their menu, as this allows their system to adjust properly. Quick changes in diet cause a shock in their digestive system which is toxic for them.
As you can see, there are certain types of foods that can have adverse effects on the health of your gerbil. However, their omnivorous nature still leaves you with plenty of options that you can provide them to stay healthy.
Whenever you feel unsure of what food is ideal for your pet, you can always seek the counsel of your local veterinarian.