can gerbils eat cabbage?
Gerbil Food and Hydration

Are Gerbils Allowed to Eat Cabbage?

Gerbils in the wild will feed on a variety of root vegetables, seeds, leaves, and grains. They are used to eating foods like cabbage. But cabbage doesn’t grow naturally in the gerbil’s habitat.

Cabbages don’t contain toxins or poisons. While it’s bitter, your gerbil can eat raw cabbage. It’s crunchy, too, which gerbils enjoy. It contains the right ratio of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. However, it doesn’t contain many useful vitamins and minerals, so it should be part of a balanced diet.

Feeding gerbils cabbage is better than feeding them other snacks, especially overly sweet and processed foods. But you should only feed snacks infrequently, once or twice a week at most.

Can Gerbils Eat Cabbage Leaves?

Gerbils can eat almost any vegetable that a person can eat. Cabbages don’t contain anything toxic or poisonous, so gerbils can feed on cabbage safely.

Cabbage has a deep, bitter ‘vegetable’ taste even when cooked. But your gerbil won’t mind that, and likely won’t reject it. It’s precisely the kind of thing that gerbils easily recognize as food.

If you are going to feed your gerbil cabbage, you shouldn’t give it an entire leaf. It doesn’t need anywhere near that much. A small chunk will be more than enough.

Can Gerbils Eat Raw Cabbage?

Humans shouldn’t eat raw cabbage because it’s too fibrous. The gut struggles to break it down, which causes wind. It also makes it difficult for the body to extract the carbohydrates.

However, gerbils have no such problem with raw vegetables. You can feed raw cabbage to your gerbil without these issues being apparent.

Raw cabbage leaves are crunchy, almost like a thicker kind of lettuce. Gerbils enjoy this texture because it helps keep their incisors worn down (they continuously grow).

Can Gerbils Eat Cooked Cabbage?

Cooked cabbage is nutritionally much the same as raw cabbage. It contains the same minerals and vitamins, and nutrients, as raw cabbage. It’s safe to feed to your pet.

The big difference with cooked cabbage is that it contains much less water. When food is cooked, all the water evaporates. That’s why fried cabbage becomes smaller the longer it cooks.

While gerbils like getting water from food, cabbage contains too much. It can even give your gerbil diarrhea if you feed it too much. So, cooking away some of that water is helpful.

The only issue with cooked cabbage is if you add anything to it. Added herbs, spices, pepper, or salt could make the cabbage unappetizing. Or, they could interact with your gerbil in some way you didn’t expect. So, don’t feed your pet cooked cabbage if it’s seasoned or in a sauce.

Can Gerbils Eat White Cabbage?

White cabbage is the most common kind of cabbage. It isn’t white like a piece of paper, but a light green color. It’s usually whiter on the inside, which is where it gets its name.

It’s perfectly safe to feed white cabbage to your gerbil. You can feed your gerbil any part of the cabbage, including the outer leaves, the core, and the harder stem.

Can Gerbils Eat Red Cabbage?

Red cabbage is another common kind of cabbage. Red cabbage is more of a deep purple. Red cabbage is nutritionally the same as white cabbage. They take longer to mature, which makes them even crunchier than regular cabbage. This is healthy for your gerbil.

One problem with red cabbage is that it stains. The red/purple color can leach out into bedding, or even onto your gerbil’s fur. This won’t cause any health issues, because it’s just color.

Can Gerbils Eat Savoy Cabbage?

Savoy cabbage is a winter vegetable that has bigger, more ruffled outer leaves. You can eat either the outer leaves or the core. Underneath, it’s similar to other kinds of cabbage.

Nutritionally, Savoy cabbage is roughly the same as other varieties. It doesn’t contain anything that your gerbil won’t like. You can feed it either the outer leaves, core, or any other part.

Health Benefits of Cabbage for Gerbils

BenefitHow Good Is Cabbage for Gerbils?
High water contentGerbils like to get water from food, but too much can cause diarrhea. So, feed in moderation.
High vitamin C contentGerbils do not need vitamin C.
High vitamin K contentIt affects blood coagulation and improves the intake of calcium.
The right amount of carbohydratesYour gerbil won’t become overweight from eating lots of cabbage. It meets your gerbil’s nutritional needs well.
Minimal fatGerbils need some fat in their diet, which cabbage doesn’t provide.

Cabbage is a much healthier snack than others. Fruits and processed foods are high in sugar, for example, and don’t have enough protein.

Nutrients in Cabbage

It’s the nutrients found in cabbage that make it a good choice for a gerbil snack. Gerbils need the right ratios of water to nutrients, and carbs to protein and fat, in their food.

Cabbage contains roughly the right amounts of each thing, as can be seen in the table below with information from Nutrition Value:

NutrientAmount per 100g
Carbohydrate (and Sugars)5.8g (3.2g)
Protein1.3g
Fat0.1g
Water92g
Fiber2.5g
Calories25

Cabbage contains lots of water. This is the case for all vegetables, some more than others. Root vegetables, after all, are plant roots. Their purpose is to absorb and hold onto water for the plant.

Gerbils in the wild get all their water from their food. They don’t have access to lots of water sources, so vegetables and plant matter like this is precisely what they need. That doesn’t apply in captivity, because gerbils have water bottles, but this shows that cabbage is roughly suitable.

It contains the right amount of carbohydrate, protein, and fat. Modern diets have given carbs a bad reputation, but gerbils need carbohydrates for energy.

Gerbils need to get their calories from roughly 80% carbs, 15% protein, and 5% fat. Cabbage gives around 80% carbs and 20% protein, with almost no fat.

Feed your gerbil a diet with not enough fat than too much. According to PLoS One, a high-fat diet causes inflammation and bloating, cardiac issues, and problems absorbing minerals like calcium.

Vitamins and Minerals in Cabbage

Cabbage is thought of as a healthy food. It’s certainly not unhealthy. But when you think ‘healthy,’ you likely imagine that it’s full of lots of minerals and vitamins. While cabbage does have some, it doesn’t offer enough to be a cornerstone of a diet.

Here’s a table explaining which vitamins and minerals are in cabbage in useful quantities:

Vitamin/MineralAmount per 100g
Vitamin B60.124mg
Vitamin C36.6mg (a lot)
Manganese0.16mg
Vitamin K76mcg (a lot)

If you check the guides on other fruits and vegetables, you’ll see that this isn’t a big range. You may think that cabbage is worthwhile because it has a lot of Vitamin C. People need vitamin C for all sorts of reasons, and get sick without it.

Unfortunately, gerbils don’t need vitamin C. Lots of studies have been done to determine what vitamins and minerals gerbils need, because they used to be common lab animals.

But no studies found any significant negative impact from having no vitamin C. It’s vitamin K that may be more useful. It prevents excessive bleeding internally, when there’s an injury.

Some studies have been done on the effects that vitamin K has on gerbils. One, published in the Indian Journal of Experimental Biology, found that vitamin K reversed the effects of a common rodenticide (rodent poison). So, it has some positive effects.

Trace Vitamins and Minerals in Cabbage

There are also many minerals and vitamins in trace quantities. A trace quantity is an amount where something is present, but not significantly so. Trace minerals and vitamins in cabbage include:

  • Vitamin B1
  • Vitamin B5
  • Calcium
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Zinc
feeding gerbils cabbage

How Much Cabbage Can Gerbils Eat?

Gerbils shouldn’t eat much cabbage. While it does offer the right amounts of carbs to fat and protein, it contains too much water to be a regular food. If you fed your pet nothing but cabbage, it would experience diarrhea and malnutrition as a result.

Besides that, the lack of a wide range of vitamins and minerals means that your gerbil would miss out on many things it needs. Magnesium, for example, is essential. Without enough magnesium, your gerbil will experience more seizures and alopecia. Cabbage contains hardly any magnesium.

How Often Should Gerbils Eat Cabbage?

Because it isn’t suitable as a staple food, cabbage should only be fed as a snack. Gerbils don’t strictly need any snacks. They can happily eat the same food every day for their entire lives.

But if you’re set on feeding your gerbil snacks, once a week is best. Twice a week is the maximum.

The issue with feeding snacks more frequently is that they take the place of regular food. Gerbil food mix contains everything your pet needs. So, to feed it something else instead is to make your pet miss out on lots of vitamins and minerals.

Also, feeding cabbage this infrequently will avoid causing diarrhea. Any more frequently and your pet would be ingesting too much water, making its stool loose. This prevents your pet from absorbing the nutrients in its food, and spreads parasites/bacteria.

How to Feed Gerbils Cabbage

When you feed your gerbil cabbage, only feed it a small amount at a time. You shouldn’t take an entire leaf and leave it in your gerbil’s cage, for example. That would be far too much.

Instead, only give it a little. Each gerbil needs roughly one tablespoon of gerbil food mix per day. Replace half of this tablespoon with cabbage to achieve the correct amount.

You could also feed it lots of food at once (e.g. three tablespoons) and have it last for three days. If you do that, don’t feed one and a half tablespoons of cabbage. Only feed half a tablespoon, no matter how much gerbil food mix you’re giving it.