Giving your gerbil tasty treats is part of the fun of owning one. While gerbils have specific dietary requirements, healthy snacks can increase their vitamin and mineral intake while providing all-important mental stimulation. So, what treats do gerbils love?
Fruits make a safe and healthy treat, including strawberries, berries, bananas, apples, and raisins. Vegetable treats include broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cucumber, lettuce, peas, pumpkin, and tomatoes. Other nutritious snacks gerbils enjoy include popcorn, unflavored cereal, cheese, chestnuts, insects, nuts, seeds, eggs, hay, and wholemeal bread.
We’ve got a list of fresh treats for gerbils along with their full nutritional profile that are safe for them to eat, as long as you feed them in moderation.
Are Treats Good For Gerbils?
Gerbils have a surprisingly complex diet. That’s because they have specific vitamin, mineral, and nutrient requirements to survive. As a result, gerbils eat a mix of:
- Gerbil food mix
Similarly, gerbils need a combination of carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Without these things, they’re are at risk of becoming unhealthy. They also need specific vitamins and minerals, or their seizures will get worse.
As a result, safe and healthy snacks can be an essential part of your gerbil’s diet, helping it thrive both mentally and physically.
How Often Are Gerbils Allowed Treats?
Glenway Animal Hospital explains that gerbils are allowed one teaspoon of fresh fruit or vegetables twice a week. You mustn’t overfeed your gerbil treats, as they can cause stomach upsets and diarrhea. Remove all uneaten fruits and vegetables after four hours to prevent them from spoiling.
Other treats, such as unsweetened cereal and wholemeal bread, can be fed once a week in small amounts. Any more risks your gerbil gaining too much weight and becoming unhealthy.
What Treats Can Gerbils have?
While you should feed your gerbil the following foods in strict moderations, there are a wide range of treats it can eat and enjoy, including:
Apples are an excellent treat for gerbils. They’re packed with nutrients, including fiber, vitamin A, potassium, and magnesium. They also contain pectin, which is a prebiotic that helps the gut’s beneficial bacteria grow. Gerbils need all of these things to stay healthy.
However, it’s essential you only feed your gerbil a tiny amount at a time, as apples contain high levels of sugar and water. In high quantities, this can cause diarrhea. Apples are also acidic.
Before feeding your gerbil apple, remove the seeds. They contain amygdalin, which turns into cyanide once the gerbil chews and eats them. Even the slightest traces can kill your tiny gerbil.
Fresh, green under-ripe, and black over-ripe bananas are safe for gerbils to eat as a treat. They contain magnesium, copper, and manganese, which are healthy minerals. In particular, magnesium is vital for brain health and can help prevent seizures.
Many gerbils enjoy eating new things as a break from their ordinary food mix. Therefore, adding a banana to your gerbil’s diet is a good way to provide your pet with mental stimulation from trying something different. Wild gerbils don’t eat bananas, but many love the taste.
As with all fruit, too much banana causes a water overload, leading to watery stools. Similarly, bananas contain plenty of carbohydrates but not enough protein and fat. This is why banana is only an occasional treat.
Berries are sweet and tasty, which is why many gerbils enjoy them as a treat. Safe berries include strawberries, blackberries, and goji berries. Wild gerbils eat berries, so they’re a great addition to your pet’s diet. Berries provide:
- Lots of energy
- Essential minerals
- A natural source of water
- Some fiber
- Good fat and protein levels
You should wash all berries before you feed them to your gerbil to remove any chemical or pesticide residues.
Similarly, limit the amount you give to your gerbil at one time as berries are higher in sugar than other fruits. This puts stress on the pancreas, risking diabetes and obesity.
Gerbils need a range of vegetables to stay healthy. One of the best is broccoli. Gerbils love the taste and texture – the crunchiness helps them keep their teeth filed down and provides them with mental stimulation. Gnawing on it stimulates their minds, preventing them from getting bored. Broccoli is also a valuable source of:
- Vitamin K
Speaking of protein, broccoli is surprisingly high in it. One cup of broccoli (90 g) contains 2.54 g of protein (as per USDA data). Gerbils need around 15-16% of protein in their diet to be healthy.
Not only that, but all parts of broccoli are safe for gerbils, including the stem, florets, and leaves.
Cabbage is a safe and healthy gerbil treat because it contains the ideal ratio of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
It also contains lots of water. That’s because, as a root vegetable, its primary purpose is to absorb and hold onto water for the plant. Because gerbils mostly get their water through their food, cabbage provides them with the water they need to stay adequately hydrated.
While cabbage is high in vitamin C, gerbils don’t need it. In fact, cabbage is low in valuable vitamins and minerals, so it must be provided as part of a balanced diet for it to be healthy. Gerbils also shouldn’t eat too much of it.
Carrots are a healthy snack. They’re crunchy, so gerbils enjoy eating carrots as they keep them entertained. They also help to file down their teeth.
Raw carrots are best, as they contain the highest concentrations of nutrients. Similarly, gerbils don’t eat cooked food in the wild. There are practically no downsides to feeding your gerbil carrots. That’s because they contain:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin K
- 95% water
Carrots are unprocessed, which most human foods aren’t. Not only is the main vegetable healthy, but the carrot tops are too. While they don’t contain as many vitamins and minerals as the actual stick, the tops are good for gerbils’ teeth.
As long as your chosen cereal’s unsweetened and unflavored, plain, dry cereal makes an excellent gerbil snack. Cereals are some of the best foods for keeping your gerbil’s teeth filed down, due to their rough, fibrous texture. Puffed rice, Shredded Wheat, and Malted Wheaties are suitable cereals, as long as you choose the no added sugar variety.
Some cereals also contain dried fruit, which is something gerbils love. As long as they have no added ingredients and are genuine pieces of dried fruit, they’re safe for your gerbil to eat.
While gerbils shouldn’t have too much cheese as they’re lactose intolerant, they enjoy a tasty cheese snack every once in a while. Cheese has plenty of nutrients, such as:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamins B2 and B12
All of these nutrients offer several health benefits. Cheddar is the best kind of cheese, as the aging process allows bacteria to process the lactose into cheddar. This is easier for gerbils to digest.
However, too much cheese can cause diarrhea, bloating, and discomfort, so it might not be suitable for all gerbils. Offer yours a small piece to start with and see how it gets on.
Chestnuts are a type of popular nut. They’re a healthy gerbil snack because they contain the right amounts of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. They’re also a rich source of nutrients, including:
While chestnuts are nutritionally-dense, they can make your gerbil gain weight quickly if you let it have too much.
Also, you must cook chestnuts before you give them to gerbils. That’s because they contain tannic acid. While this won’t kill your pet, it can harm its digestive system, potentially giving it diarrhea and stomach pain.
Cooking the chestnuts thoroughly gets rid of the tannic acid. Then, you can feed your gerbil a quarter of a tablespoon to enjoy.
According to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, crickets contain more protein and less fat than mealworms. This makes them one of the best protein sources for gerbils to eat.
While you wouldn’t necessarily associate gerbils with eating crickets, as omnivores, they eat them in the wild. Unfortunately for you, gerbils prefer live crickets to dried ones. The problem with this is that they have a tendency to escape.
Offering your gerbil the occasional cricket can enrich its diet and provide that all-important mental stimulation they crave. However, don’t allow your gerbil to be too reliant on crickets for its protein, as it may begin to refuse its usual dry mix.
Cucumber is a good treat for gerbils. It contains the fat, protein, and carbohydrates your gerbil needs to stay healthy. Gerbils also enjoy chewing through the tough skin, which keeps their teeth filed to a comfortable length.
Fiber is another essential nutrient found in cucumber, which helps the digestive system work properly. However, because cucumber is mostly water, too much will give your gerbil diarrhea. It also lacks a few minerals and vitamins, so cucumber is mostly a tasty treat.
Dice your cucumber before feeding it to your gerbil, who will realize that it’s food.
Boiled or scrambled eggs make a tasty weekly snack. They contain plenty of vitamins and nutrients, including fat, iron, and B-vitamins. They’re too high in protein to be a regular feature in your gerbil’s diet, however, but they can be offered as a snack once or twice a week.
While we throw eggshells in the bin, gerbils can eat them. The shell contains nutrients that aren’t in the egg. They’re also useful for wearing your gerbil’s teeth down. As a result, consider leaving the eggshell attached whenever you feed your gerbil egg.
In the wild, gerbils live off grass, including mugwort, bristle grass, and lyme grass. They also eat the bulbs and seeds underground. You can recreate this diet by offering your gerbil hay.
While hay already makes up a large part of their dry food mix, gerbils love it so much that they’ll also enjoy it as a treat.
Grass from your yard isn’t healthy. That’s because it’s likely to be contaminated with pesticides and fertilizers. Instead, find gerbil hay and place it as it comes in your gerbil’s enclosure. Your pet will love gnawing on the tough strands to keep its teeth filed down.
Lettuce is one of the most commonly-given snack foods to gerbils. It’s safe for gerbils to eat and contains a variety of nutrients, including:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin K
Romaine, leaf, and butterhead lettuce are safe the most nutritious kind. These varieties are less likely to cause digestive problems.
Watch out for its water content, as it can be very high (between 94 to 96%). Gerbils can’t have iceberg lettuce for this reason. Similarly, lettuce is prone to carrying pesticides, so you must wash it thoroughly before feeding it to your gerbil.
Not all gerbils enjoy lettuce as it has a bland flavor. However, there’s no harm in allowing your gerbil to try it to see if it’s a fan.
Mealworms are one of the most popular animal protein sources for gerbils. That’s because they’re cheap, easy to buy, and packed with minerals and vitamins that gerbils need.
Mealworms aren’t actually worms but the larvae of mealworm beetles. Most are roughly 1 inch or smaller and contain around the same amount of protein as chicken gram-for-gram.
If you choose to feed your gerbil mealworms, you’ll need to be quick. Live mealworms quickly turn into beetles if you’re not careful. Feed them alongside other insects so that gerbils can get the calcium from other food sources that mealworms don’t provide.
Nuts are a highly nutrient-dense food, making them a safe snack for gerbils to eat. Gerbils happily eat them in the wild whenever they can find them, although there are few trees in their natural habitat. Safe nuts for gerbils include:
- Monkey nuts
- Brazil nuts
- Macadamia nuts
- Pine nuts
- Raw peanuts
These nuts contain plenty of carbohydrates for basic energy, which keeps your gerbil fuelled throughout the day. However, they are also high in fat and calories, which is why you must restrict nuts to an occasional treat.
Also, when feeding your gerbil nuts, try to offer a variety so that it doesn’t miss out on any essential nutrients. For example, if you only fed your gerbil monkey nuts, it would be at risk of developing deficiencies from the nutrients monkey nuts don’t contain.
Peas make a reasonably healthy snack, as they contain:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin K
All of these nutrients are beneficial to a gerbil’s health and wellbeing. Gerbils can eat either raw, fresh peas or cooked ones. Similarly, frozen peas are as nutritionally beneficial as the fresh type, according to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Raw peas are crispier, while cooked peas have a softer, easier-to-eat texture. While both are healthy, gerbils tend to prefer the raw, crunchier kind. They’re also better for their teeth.
Feed peas to your gerbil once or twice a week alongside a healthy gerbil food mix and other fruits and vegetables.
Popcorn is a surprisingly healthy gerbil snack, but only if it’s unsalted, unsweetened, and made without butter, oil, and flavorings.
It also has little nutritional value, so it’s a treat food that’s strictly limited to taste rather than health benefits. Although, popcorn is high in fiber and antioxidants, which can benefit your gerbil. It also has low levels of macronutrients, including:
- Vitamins B1, B3, and B6
Gerbils nibble on the popcorn before eating it, minimizing the risk of choking. However, try not to feed your gerbil any tough or burnt pieces, as they’re most likely to get stuck in your pet’s throat.
Pumpkin is a healthy and delicious addition to your gerbil’s diet. Not only is the flesh edible, but gerbils can also eat the seeds. Pumpkins are high in calcium, phosphorus, and carbohydrates, which are all essential nutrients gerbils need.
There is a fair bit of sugar and acidity in a pumpkin, but small amounts are unlikely to affect your gerbil too significantly. Give them enough that they can hold comfortably in their hands – this is the right amount for a treat.
Raisins are sweet and chewy, making them the perfect delicious snack. Dried fruits and vegetables are often found in gerbil food mixes, where vegetables are slightly more common than fruits. However, this alone suggests that raisins are safe for gerbils to eat.
Raisins are high in fiber and low in fat. They also contain several vitamins and minerals, including:
- Vitamins B2 and B6
However, raisins contain too much sugar to be healthy, so you must only feed your gerbil a couple of raisins a week. You can also provide them alongside something more nutritious so that your gerbil gets all the vitamins and minerals it needs.
Rice is another surprisingly healthy gerbil snack. All forms of rice are safe for gerbils, including cooked and uncooked, brown, white, and puffed rice.
Rice contains lots of carbs, which is good for gerbils. Brown rice also has plenty of fiber, which keeps your gerbil’s digestive system running like clockwork.
Uncooked rice doesn’t expand in the stomach when eaten, so your gerbil can have marginally more of it. It’s also tougher, which is more beneficial for your gerbil’s teeth. Some gerbils also prefer the texture.
However, plain boiled rice is the recommended kind. Whenever you cook rice, set some aside for your pet before adding salt and other ingredients.
Seeds are a vital part of a gerbil’s diet in the wild. They’re crunchy and solid, meaning gerbils need to use their teeth to bite into them, filing down their teeth in the process. They’re also high in carbs, which gerbils need for energy. Safe seeds for gerbils include:
- Sesame seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Melon seeds
- Poppy seeds
- Butternut squash seeds
- Chia seeds
Seeds are also high in protein. That’s why you’ll find them in your gerbil’s dry food mix.
While there are benefits to seeds, they are high in fat and calories. This is what makes them a snack – too many can cause your gerbil to gain too much weight.
Strawberries are healthy in moderation. They contain fiber, manganese, and carbohydrates. While strawberries aren’t as nutritionally-dense as other treat foods, you’re more likely to have strawberries in your fridge that you want to share with your pet.
The good news is strawberries won’t harm your gerbil unless you overfeed them to your pet. Gerbils can also eat the leaves, so keep them on the strawberry when you feed the fruit to your gerbil.
Some gerbils prefer the leaves just as much, if not more so than the strawberries themselves. Just remember to wash the strawberries before giving them to your gerbil.
Superworms are similar to mealworms, but they’re much larger. They contain much more protein too, but less fiber. Gerbils enjoy them as a tasty treat, especially when you feed them live.
For the most nutritionally-dense snack, feed superworms alongside other protein sources, including mealworms, crickets, locusts, and waxworms.
Also, make sure you pick up the right kind from the pet store. Some stores sell giant mealworms but label them as superworms. These are merely ordinary mealworms pumped with chemicals, which isn’t healthy.
In moderation, tomatoes make a tasty and healthy snack. All parts of the tomato are safe for gerbils to eat, including the flesh and the seeds. Raw tomatoes are the healthiest kind, although gerbils can also eat roasted tomato as long as it’s not been cooked with oil or any other flavorings. The primary nutrients found in the fruit include:
- Vitamins A1, B6, and C
The calories from raw tomatoes come from:
- 71% carbohydrates
- 10% fats
- 17% proteins
10% fat is in the safe range for gerbils, so your pet shouldn’t gain weight eating them.
Things to watch out for are the water content and acidity. Too many tomatoes can give your gerbil an upset stomach and diarrhea.
Waxworms are the larvae of wax moths. They contain lots of vitamin E and are high in fiber, which is essential for good gut health. However, compared to other “worms,” waxworms contain less protein.
Waxworms are an acquired taste. Some gerbils prefer them to all other insects, while others won’t touch them at all. They’re larger than mealworms, so you should watch how many you feed to your gerbil in one go.
However, if your gerbil doesn’t like waxworms, switch to superworms or mealworms instead.
Alongside granary, wholemeal bread is much healthier than other types of bread. Brown wholemeal bread isn’t bleached, unlike the white kind. It keeps all of the healthy grain and contains plenty of fiber, which softens stools and keeps them regular. It also forces the gut to work harder.
Wholemeal bread also contains more magnesium than other breads. As mentioned, this can help make seizures less frequent and severe. Wholemeal bread usually has seeds sprinkled on top, which improves its nutritional value and overall taste and texture. Prioritize the crusts with seeds as a good gerbil snack. This will increase your gerbil’s fat and protein levels.
As long as you feed these tasty treats to your gerbil in moderation, it’ll benefit from the additional vitamins and minerals. Not only that, but it’ll get the mental stimulation it needs from the various textures. However, as discussed, you mustn’t overfeed your gerbil watery, sugary treats, as it’ll get sick.