A gerbil’s food mix is dry and processed. While it contains the nutrients a gerbil needs, you may think that a diet of fruit and vegetables (like carrots) would be more appropriate.
Carrots are fresh, crunchy and nutritious, so gerbils like eating them. Carrot tops make a good snack for gerbils. They’re good for a gerbil’s teeth, but contain few useful vitamins and minerals.
Most of your pet’s diet should be a gerbil food mix. You can feed it a snack once or twice a week, and carrot is a good choice. Root vegetable snacks are similar to what a gerbil eats in the wild.
Can Gerbils Eat Carrots?
Carrots are a healthy snack. There is no downside to occasionally feeding your gerbil a little carrot. Your pet will happily gnaw away on almost any vegetable with no side effects.
If you do want to feed your gerbil carrots, it’s best to feed them raw. They can eat raw carrots with no complications. Your gerbil will prefer it because they like eating crunchy foods.
Can Gerbils Eat Carrot Tops?
Carrot tops are tough and stringy, and have a different taste to a carrot. There’s also a belief that carrot tops are ‘poisonous’, since they contain alkaloids. This makes them bitter. But they won’t harm your gerbil, even if eaten raw.
If you have some carrot tops that would otherwise go to waste, you can feed them to gerbils. Gerbils enjoy eating an entire carrot, leaves, and all.
They have lots of vitamins A and C, fiber, calcium, and iron. While vitamin C hasn’t been proven to be useful for gerbils, these other vitamins have.
Do Gerbils Like Carrots and Carrot Tops?
Gerbils, like many rodents, will eat almost anything you give to them. However, there are certain foods that gerbils prefer. These foods usually share a few key characteristics:
- They’re crunchy. Gerbils like to gnaw on foods. The food they find in the wild needs chewing.
- They’re raw. Gerbils don’t eat cooked food in the wild, so they shouldn’t be fed cooked food in captivity. Also, according to Food Science and Biotechnology, cooking changes the nutritional composition of foods, making them less healthy.
- They’re entirely unprocessed. Humans like to process foods to make them a different taste or texture. However, this has health negatives, so gerbils prefer unprocessed foods.
While carrot tops aren’t crunchy like carrots, they are stringy and tough. This gives your gerbils something to gnaw on, but in a different way to carrots.
Health Benefits of Carrots for Gerbils
People think of fruits and vegetables as healthy foods. And, in many ways, they’re right. The precise nutritional content of each vegetable is different, which is why varied diets are recommended.
Vegetables have health benefits for other animals, too. However, some animals need lots of vitamins that we don’t need. At the same time, some vitamins that people need aren’t needed by gerbils or other animals.
Vitamin C is the best example. If people don’t get enough vitamin C, they can develop health conditions, and even die. But no study has yet shown that gerbils will experience the same ill effects if they don’t get vitamin C.
With that in mind, forget what you know about vegetables being ‘healthy.’ Not all fruits and vegetables are healthy for gerbils as they are for humans.
Aside from nutrition, carrots are good for a gerbil’s teeth. Gerbils, and all rodents, have teeth that continually grow. Gerbils need to grind their teeth down, which is why they chew wood. Crunchy foods like carrots, nuts and so on help with this issue somewhat.
Calories in Carrots
Carrots don’t contain many calories. 100g of carrots, around three and a half ounces, only comes to 41 calories. Your gerbil can eat lots of carrots without becoming overweight.
This would make carrots a suitable snack food or regular food for gerbils. Gerbils don’t typically have to worry about calories, because most of the foods they eat are low-calorie root vegetables. That’s why things like high-fat sunflower seeds can cause gerbils problems.
The reason why carrots don’t have many calories is that they’re mostly water. Carrot tops also have lots of digestible and indigestible fiber, some of which will pass straight through your pet without being digested at all.
But you have to consider other things as well, e.g. the nutritional content of carrots. Overall, these mean that carrots are best considered to be a snack food rather than the main part of a gerbil’s diet.
Carbohydrates, Protein, and Fat in Carrots
According to the Journal of Food Science and Technology, carrots contain next to no protein, and even less fat. This is both a good and bad thing.
In the wild, gerbils don’t get much protein and fat from their diet. Gerbils have adapted to store and burn fat efficiently, which means they don’t need much in their diet. But if a gerbil ate nothing but carrots, it wouldn’t get enough. It would need other foods too.
The same applies to protein. The majority of a gerbil’s wild diet is made up of root vegetable foods; not carrots specifically, but similar. These have hardly any protein either, so a gerbil has to supplement its diet with insects to get enough protein.
Vitamins and Minerals in Carrots
Carrots are known for their vitamin A and K content. They contain more vitamin A than other vegetables, and it’s their vitamin K content which is good for sight.
Other than this, carrots don’t contain many vitamins and minerals. They contain small amounts of the various B vitamins, and tiny amounts of minerals like magnesium and manganese.
Unfortunately, gerbils need magnesium. It promotes brain health and prevents strokes, which affect many gerbils in their first six months. If you fed your pet nothing but carrots, it wouldn’t be healthy.
Are Carrots Good for Gerbils?
The main way in which carrots are good for gerbils is their water content. Carrots are mostly water by weight. This is a good thing, because the foods that gerbils eat in the wild are the same. Gerbils drink little water in the wild, relying instead on the water in foods.
Carrot tops are as high in moisture as carrots are. According to Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, carrot tops are 95% water.
Carrots can help your gerbil avoid hydration in a natural way. Also, a carrot’s vitamin A content is good for gerbils. Carrots and carrot leaves (which are also high in vitamin A) help promote healthy liver function in gerbils.
You also have to consider how good crunchy foods are for gerbils. They allow your pet to keep their teeth short. This is vital, because not doing so can result in health issues. The teeth can grow until they pierce the top or bottom of the mouth. This can cause infection, death, or brain damage.
Are Carrot Tops Poisonous for Gerbils?
Neither carrots nor carrot tops contain anything toxic to gerbils. Gerbils can eat a carrot with minimal risk of complications.
The only issue is if your gerbil isn’t used to eating carrot. When an animal isn’t used to eating something, the gut won’t be familiar with it. So, when it’s time for the gut to digest it, the animal may experience gut problems.
You may have experienced this before yourself. When you eat too much of a new food, you may get a stomach upset. This isn’t because of food poisoning, or because the food contains anything bad for you. It’s because your gut isn’t used to the new food.
It must be stressed that this applies to any food. Any fruit or vegetable could cause the same problems. If you feed your gerbil carrot semi-regularly, then it would get used to it quite quickly.
How Many carrots Should Gerbils Eat?
There is no need for gerbils to eat any carrot. While carrots are good for gerbils in several ways, there is nothing they contain that a gerbil can’t get from regular gerbil food mix. Many food mixes even contain dried carrot already.
Take vitamin A, for example. Vitamin A is the main nutrient that carrots contain, and they contain a lot. It’s good for gerbils to get plenty of it as it promotes healthy liver function. It can be found in some legumes and whole grains, which are found in gerbil food mixes.
The water content in carrots is good for gerbils, too. But your gerbil should have a water bottle that it can get water from any time. So, it doesn’t matter if your pet’s food has lots of water in it.
If you do feed your gerbil carrots, do so infrequently. Offer half the amount of a regular food portion, with the other half being gerbil food mix. This ensures that the gerbil gets its nutrients, but can have a healthy snack, too.
How Often Should Gerbils Eat Carrots?
If you do want to feed your gerbil carrots, do so as a snack rather than a regular meal. Your gerbil’s regular meals should be gerbil food mix.
You should feed your gerbil one snack food each week. This snack food could be carrots or something else. Feeding irregularly will mean that the snack is more enjoyable for your pet. The rest of the time, it should get its nutritious gerbil food mix.
You can feed your gerbil carrot more frequently than that, and it will eat whatever you give it. However, be careful when doing this. Your gerbil needs a varied diet to get all sorts of nutrients, minerals, and vitamins.
If you fed a gerbil nothing but carrot, it would experience health problems related to:
- Lack of magnesium. Magnesium promotes brain health and reduces seizures in gerbils.
- Lack of protein. Protein is vital for muscle development. While gerbils aren’t big and powerful, they still need to maintain their muscles.
- Lack of fat. Gerbils have evolved only to need small amounts of fat. However, they need more than they would get from a high-carrot diet.
So, if you do want to feed your pet carrot, only do so as part of a balanced diet.