I’m just going to take a moment to be a bit soppy, because that’s what I’m like. This evening I had to make the sad one-way trip to the vet with my last gerbil, Bagel, who’d been ill of late and unfortunately had reached the end of his little gerbilly road. So I wanted to make a brief post about my gerbil experiences to honour him and his predecessors.
I’ve been keeping gerbils since 2008 when I moved out of shared houses for the first time and was able to finally have pets. Gerbils really are smashing little creatures, and imho are far more interactive and fun to watch/play with than nocturnal and often grumpy solitary hamsters. Gerbils are social and love nothing more than to tunnel away in a nice large tank full of substrate and gnaw up cardboard and destroy everything in sight in a pleasingly furry little vandal kind of way, or pile up in a big gerbil ball with their cagemates and have a snooze.
I first got the two ladies at the top - Shreddie (left) and Fruit Loops (right) as rescue gerbils from a local breeder/gerbil rehabilitator. They were my first small furries since I had a pet rat as a teenager, and they taught me a lot about fully responsible for another living creature for the first time paranoia (are they eating? are they drinking? can they reach the water bottles? do they know how to use water bottles? oh god how do I teach a gerbil how to use a water bottle?). Needless to say they got on with everything fine by themselves, with the main hiccup being that time Shreddie got out of the cage topper I built and escaped behind my gas fire… luring her back out was a fun way to spend an evening.
When they sadly passed on in 2011 I acquired the trio at the bottom from the same rehabiliator, and these chaps were brothers descended from Fruit Loops. Keeping to the breakfast theme I named them Bagel (the lighter grey one), Muesli (the black one) and Benedict (after the eggs not the Cumberbatch - the lovely badger-lookalike). They were an absolute delight, and nothing was cuter than seeing all three of them attempting to fit into the same hollow coconut to sleep in a gerbil-pile. There are two pictures of the trio because them all stuffing their faces with bits of green bean is super-adorable.
Unfortunately Benedict died when he was a little over a year old from a respiratory infection, so I had longer with just the other two chaps as a pair, but they were still lovely friendly little boys and a joy to look after, even if things like scent gland tumour (a common risk for boy gerbils) removal at the vets is rather eye-wateringly expensive and stressful for an anxious gerbil-parent! They’ve both gone to the big gerbilarium in the sky in the past couple of weeks and I will miss them as well as the other three. The time has come to say goodbye to gerbil ownership, at least for the present, as I’m hopefully going to be acquiring a rescue cat (or two!) as my next pet-project, and don’t really want one pet potentially eating the other.
So RIP Shreddie, Fruit Loops, Benedict, Muesli & Bagel. I hope you’re all enjoying unlimited sunflower seeds and have plenty of cardboard to chew in gerbil heaven. And if you’re considering getting a small pet, don’t just jump straight to the traditional hamster - why not consider getting a pair or trio of gerbils; you can read more about the sort of care they need here.
(If you need some more convincing, why not check out this very clever little chap running some amazing agility courses [x] - my boys never quite mastered anything that impressive, but they could demolish a toilet roll tube into confetti in about two minutes flat. So that’s something.)