Once known as Desert rats there are about 110 species of gerbil originating from Africa, India and Asia.
Gerbils normally live longer than mice, rats, hamsters and other small pets and can reach the age of three. However, some gerbils will live significantly longer and may get as old as five.
Gerbils are very inquisitive and are very curious they make good pets as they are rarely fearful and easy to tame.
Introducing a New Gerbil
Gerbils need to be kept in pairs but any introductions should be made very carefully and gradually. Pairs can be same sex or opposite but careful consideration should be taken as like all rodents they are prolific breeders. Gerbils are very territorial and will fight violently. They are said to mate for life once together but any separations will need further slow reintroductions again to avoid any violence.
One of the better and least expensive forms of housing is a simple aquarium of glass. For a pair of Gerbils a 15" by 12" by 10" tank is ideal. You may have to construct your own Gerbil proof lid but this is easily done with aviary wire from any DIY store. Open wire cages like those sold for Hamsters are best avoided as Gerbils have a tendency to kick the bedding out through the gaps while they dig and will often injure their nose by gnawing on the bars.
Gerbils love to dig and live in burrows so they should have a thick substrate that allows them to have their very own complex tunnel system. Because of the effort it takes them to form a home, they shouldn't be cleaned out quite as often as other rodents - at least every two weeks is usually fine.
Gerbils, like most rodents have a strong chewing instinct. Their teeth will continue to grow like other rodents so they need to keep knawing to keep them to a suitable length. Instinctively Gerbils will chew on anything they can get their teeth on. Cardboard or shop bought chew sticks are OK, but the cheapest and best thing to do is to use branches and bark from trees in your area. Fruit tree prunings are ideal. Pine cones are a great hit too.
Gerbils should be fed on a good quality seed mix and fresh water should always be available. They can have occasional fresh food as treats, such as carrot and other veg. However they should only have this once or twice per week so not to upset their digestive system. Originally being desert rodents they are very efficient with their use of food and water and so produce little urine.