Any gerbil owner knows that anything that is put in a gerbil tank usually doesn’t stay in one piece or in its original shape. Due to the fact that gerbils' teeth literally never stop growing, their need for something to chew on is constant. Without anything to chew on, their teeth will eventually become too long and require vet assistance to shorten them in order to allow the gerbil to eat properly.
Unfortunately, gerbil toys and chews really add up in cost. The good news is that you really don’t need to buy things for gerbils to chew on, in fact you probably have some acceptable items at home.
Toilet and Paper Towel Rolls
In other words, gerbil heaven. Not only do these rolls provide fun to the gerbils, who enjoy to investigate and explore, they also fulfill their need to chew. Although it is always best to have something harder in the cage as well, these rolls make for a few minutes of gerbil-fun. Unfortunately, their new toy will usually diminish in less than 15 minutes, especially if you have 2 or more gerbils.
Any type of cardboard is usually good for gerbils, but toilet paper and paper towel rolls are made with food-based glue which is safe for humans. This ensures that if your gerbils do, somehow, ingest some of the roll, they won’t be in danger. Other types of cardboard can be questionable because it isn’t always known what type of glue is used in the cardboard. It is especially important to avoid cardboard with printing on the front, such as cereal boxes.
Believe it or not, some gerbils actually enjoy looking at themselves in the mirror! If you are housing your gerbils in an aquarium, mirrors can be attached to the outside of the aquarium, where the gerbils cannot get into contact with them. However, if your gerbils home is wire or plastic, it probably isn’t recommended.
You can use just about any type of mirror. I found one out of an old make-up bag that wasn’t in use anymore and washed it up a little. It was the perfect size! Of my two gerbils, one of them often enjoys looking at himself, while the other couldn’t care less.
While you can find countless wooden chews at the store, you probably have something around the house. This is a simple toy, and great for trimming down a gerbil’s teeth. It’s definitely a must-have.
Any wood you give them must be untreated and completely natural. Certain woods such as pine and cedar wood is not good for gerbils due to the scent it releases. The scent can later cause respiratory problems for gerbils.
You can give them wood chews in any shape or form, but it’s always fun to create something that they can play in. Simple things can include houses, tunnels, blocks, ladders, bridges, etc. Avoid using any types of glue, unless it is food-based. Instead, try nails. The only downside to using nails is that after they’ve chewed on the item for a while, the nails may become visible. You will have to check the items every once in a while to make sure none of the nails are in a position that it can cause harm to your gerbils.
It’s not hard to find things that are acceptable for gerbils to chew. Things like egg cartons can also be acceptable. However, it’s important to ensure that there is no egg residue left on the carton. I personally avoid cartons.
Coffee cup holders. For those who go to drive thru windows at coffee shops etc., they often give out cardboard holders for the cups. Gerbils love these, and as long as you haven’t spilled too much liquid on them, they’re perfectly safe.
Avoid the following:
While there are many healthy options for gerbil toys, there are also many things to avoid.
· Plastic – this is unnatural and can be very harmful if ingested. Try to avoid all plastic toys and cages at all costs to ensure a healthy gerbil.
· Treated wood – again, this is unnatural and chemically treated, definitely not safe for an animal.
· Pine or Cedar Wood – as mentioned above, these types of wood release a scent that can damage a gerbil's respiratory system. Instead of using this type of wood, try aspen. Something else to keep note of is that there is often gerbil bedding and wood shavings sold in each type of wood. Gerbil bedding is also a great way to shorten their teeth, as long as you don’t select a harmful wood type.
· Glue, tape, paint – A gerbil probably wouldn’t find this in their natural surroundings, so they shouldn’t be given it when they’re your pet. While pet stores sometimes have colourful wood blocks etc., the paint used is vegetable-based and safe for gerbils.
· Other Animals & Bugs – which could carry disease and transfer it to your gerbils.
· Tree branches and twigs – While these are natural items, they can often be infested with bugs, mites and disease, some of which will not be noticed at a first glance. It’s probably a good idea to avoid these.
Having something in the cage to chew on is also important for when you bring them out of the cage. If you want gerbils who will respect your clothing and leave it hole-free, you need to make sure that their need for chewing has been fulfilled to the maximum. Having something in the cage at all times helps to elimate the holes that may end up in your clothing as a result of playing with your pets.
A gerbil’s need for something to gnaw on is ongoing, but it’s also very simple to find something safe, easy and cheap around the home. Before heading out to the store to spend too much money on something that will disappear anyway, take a look around your house.