Choosing where to put your gerbil cage isn’t as easy as you might think. There are many factors to consider, such as the quietness and temperature of the room.
Keep your gerbil cage away from ultrasonic frequencies, as they’re sensitive to noises we can’t hear. They should also be kept in a warm, dry room with filtered sunlight. Don’t put the cage near a radiator or draughts. Gerbils feel threatened by other animals, so make sure any pets can’t get into the same room as your gerbil while unsupervised.
All homes are different, so in order to find the best room for your gerbil cage, consider all of your pets’ requirements and pick the most suitable spot in your house. This could be your living room, kitchen, or spare bedroom.
Where Should I Put My Gerbil Cage?
Choosing where to house your gerbil cage is a big decision, as it will determine your pets’ comfort and quality of life. While gerbils’ housing requirements aren’t too specific, they need their home to be:
- Away from draughts
- Free from stressful triggers
To ensure you tick these boxes, put your gerbil cage somewhere:
Quiet and Peaceful
As we’ve touched upon, gerbils use ultrasonic frequencies to communicate. As described by The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, gerbils can hear frequencies between 100 Hz and 60 kHz and are sensitive to many sounds we can’t detect. To put this into context, human voices register between 85 and 255 Hz.
Loud noises scare most gerbils. If you have small, excitable children, keeping your gerbil in their bedroom is likely to be too loud for them. Similarly, housing your gerbil next to a TV or radio is bound to cause distress, particularly if you frequently use these devices.
Therefore, put your gerbil cage in the quietest spot in the house. As mentioned, this will vary from house to house but aim to keep your gerbil away from traffic or constant noise disturbance, whether from people or electronics. Other noises that are off-limits include:
- Running water
- Computer screens
- Vacuum cleaners
Warm and Dry
You should place your gerbil cage somewhere warm and dry, away from draughts. This means that you must keep it away from radiators and other heat-producing or air conditioning units.
Even though gerbils hail from hot, dry African and Asian deserts, direct sunlight will cause them to overheat and become unwell. A warm, bright room with plenty of filtered sunlight is ideal. Just remember to provide plenty of bedding and housing units inside the gerbilarium so that your gerbil can get shelter if it needs it.
Isolated from Other Animals
Most gerbilariums are made of glass to prevent gerbils from escaping. While this is beneficial in multiple ways, it means gerbils can see out and other pets can see in, potentially causing distress.
To prevent stress, put your gerbil cage somewhere other pets can’t access. Predatory pets such as cats will stalk the gerbil in the attempts to find an opportunity to attack. Some dogs are also a problem, especially if they like to bark. You should put your gerbil in a room where your other pets have supervised access under your watchful eyes.
Safe from Toxins and Chemicals
Unbeknown to some owners, some houseplants are toxic for gerbils and can kill them if they get the opportunity to munch on them. Such plants include:
Houseplants are a common feature in homes, which is fine, but keep them out of the room your gerbil’s in to keep it safe.
You Won’t Be Disturbed
As well as thinking about your gerbil’s comfort, you must also consider yours. Some gerbil species (though not all) are crepuscular, which means they’re most active at low light times during dusk and dawn.
While gerbils are awake, they spend most of their time digging and burrowing into nests, creating a series of complicated tunnels they can root through. They also run on their wheel and play with the other gerbils in the cage.
This means you’re likely to get disturbed by their activity and will struggle to have a good night’s sleep. This increases the risk of you getting frustrated with your pet and blaming your lack of sleep on it, so keep it away from your bedroom if you can.
Gerbil Housing Requirements
It’s not just where you should put your gerbil cage you need to consider, but what should be in it. Gerbils are adaptable creatures, but you can keep your pet as comfortable as possible with the following things:
Even though gerbils are small, they need plenty of space. That’s predominantly because they like to dig extensive underground tunnels within their bedding. They’re also active creatures that need ample opportunity to burn their energy.
As a rule of thumb, a gerbil cage should be at least 20 gallons. It should measure as close to 70cm (long), x 35cm (wide), x 50cm (tall) as possible as gerbils are excellent jumpers. This means they can easily escape gerbilariums that are too small or shallow.
However, you should always aim to get the largest cage you can afford in order to provide your gerbil with the best quality of life possible.
It goes without saying that your gerbil cage should be completely safe and secure. But if you notice any sharp points that your pet could hurt itself on or gaps that it could squeeze through, it’s time to upgrade to something more suitable.
While second-hand or handmade cages could save you money, they’re not always in the best condition and could contain hidden hazards.
Glass cages are best for gerbils. They’re mini escape artists and can chew through flimsy bars, so a standard wire hamster cage is unlikely to be safe enough. Similarly, avoid wooden or plastic cages that splinter easily.
Many rodent cages come with plastic tubes, but gerbils can escape through them with their sharp, ever-growing teeth. There’s also an increased risk of your gerbil getting stuck, particularly if it becomes pregnant or puts on weight.
Many gerbils enjoy interaction with their owners, but they prefer to tuck themselves away when they sleep to protect themselves from prying eyes. That’s why they need at least 20-30 cm of bedding so that they can dig right into it.
Cardboard kitchen and toilet roll holders make excellent hiding spots. Some gerbils sleep inside them, while others chew them down to line their bedding. They’ll also drag them into the depths of the bedding to use as part of their tunnel system.
You don’t need an expensive housing box – cardboard shoe or cereal boxes cut down to size will do. Your gerbil will use them to build the perfect nest.
Your gerbil’s cage should have adequate ventilation to allow the gerbil to breathe and keep cool when it gets warm. Glass cages let in lots of light, which is a benefit in many ways, but it’s more likely to heat up quickly. This is another reason why you shouldn’t place the cage in direct sunlight.
On the other hand, wire cages allow ventilation, but they also leave gerbils vulnerable to draughts. Glass cage lids must be well ventilated. Many owners convert aquariums into gerbilariums, but they don’t always have suitable tops. Keep this in mind when choosing the right one.
Accessories can make your gerbil’s life much more enjoyable and encourage them to move around as much as possible, keeping them healthy. Of course, they need a constant supply of fresh food and water, but gerbils also enjoy having access to:
- A running wheel
- Toys they can chew on
- Tunnels they can explore and run through
- A climbing frame
Providing at least some of these things will do wonders for your gerbil’s health and well-being.
Gerbil Temperature Requirements
Gerbils feel the cold like any other animal. As described by the Royal Meteorological Society, the Mongolian steppe ranges from minus 40 in the winter to 100 degrees or more in the summer. This means gerbils are good at adapting to extreme temperatures.
That being said, the ideal temperature range for gerbils is between 60-75°F. This is the temperature that most homes are kept at, so yours is likely already in the optimal range.
If your house does get cold at any point, your gerbil will keep itself warm by:
- Trapping heat in its fur
- Burning the energy in its food for heat
- Drawing on fat reserves or muscle reserves if there’s not enough fat
- Huddling with its tankmates
- Digging a burrow deep underground
While a little bit of short-term exposure to the cold shouldn’t do any calm, freezing temperatures will cause your gerbil to become sick with a respiratory infection. It’ll also lose an unhealthy amount of weight. To help your gerbil stay warm and comfortable, be sure to provide:
- A glass cage with a ventilated lid
- Plenty of bedding to trap the heat
- High-energy food, such as nuts
- An exercise wheel
- Keeping the heating on
Providing your gerbil with the right temperature conditions will keep it as healthy as possible.
Do Gerbils Like Light or Dark?
Gerbils spend six hours sleeping during the day and six at night. Studies indicate that gerbils are just as active in the day as they are at night, suggesting they like both lightness and darkness – though perhaps not equally.
Gerbils aren’t scared of the dark. Because they have a high proportion of rods to cones, they have reasonable night vision. They can also see predators approaching because their eyes are positioned on the sides of their heads.
Even in the dark, gerbils keep themselves safe by escaping danger by digging into their burrows and fighting back with their sharp teeth.
That being said, gerbils need some sunlight. Their natural habitat gets both night and day, so keeping them in a bright room during daylight hours helps regulate their biological activity and sleeping patterns.
The truth is, in the wild, gerbils are vulnerable to predators both in the light and dark. As a result, they’ve learned to adapt to both. Their personalities are also unique. Some gerbils may prefer to be active during the light, while others come out at night.
That’s why gerbils should be kept in conditions that mirror their natural lives. Doing so will keep them happy and their instincts sharp.
Should You Cover a Gerbil Cage at Night?
If your gerbil remains active throughout the night, it’s only normal you’d want to provide a solution to help calm it down. While covering your gerbilarium could help muffle the noise coming from within the cage, it’s unlikely to help your gerbil sleep.
As we’ve mentioned, gerbils are active both during the day and at night, so darkness isn’t a cue for sleep. That being said, using a towel or blanket could give you a better night’s rest, allowing your gerbil to carry on with what it was doing without disturbing you too much.
However, some gerbils feel threatened as soon as the lights go out and will stomp their feet because they think danger’s nearby. If so, you might want to consider leaving a dim light on for your gerbil.
Alternatively, your gerbil could be afraid of how quickly the light went off. It takes a while for the sun to set in the wild, giving the gerbil a chance to adjust to the changing light conditions. As a result, try gradually reducing the light to give your pet the time to adapt.
Either way, emulating its natural conditions is the best way to keep it happy and comfortable.
Your gerbil will spend most of its life in its cage, so finding the right spot for it is crucial. Monitor your gerbil for any signs of unhappiness and check that your chosen position doesn’t get too much heat, draught, or sunlight.