Gerbils excrete small, pellet-shaped feces that are firm and dry. They don’t have a noticeable odor, which is something many owners appreciate.
Pooping is a daily occurrence for gerbils. They keep their waste well-hidden in one specific area of their gerbilarium. Compared to other animals, gerbils produce a standard amount of poop.
Similarly, because gerbils eat their poop, it doesn’t always seem like there’s much in the gerbilarium. That being said, owners must still spot-clean the gerbilarium every day to keep conditions sanitary.
Do Gerbils Poop A Lot?
Gerbils poop a few times every day. Depending on how much they eat, gerbils can produce between 5 to 20 pellets a day.
However, compared to other rodents, this is normal and not excessive by typical animal standards. This makes them ideal pets for young children.
The truth is, gerbils will poop whenever they need to. If you notice that your gerbil poops continuously throughout the day, there’s a chance it’s feeling stressed or scared. Gerbils react to their environment in many ways, and some express their displeasure through their feces. This is a normal reaction to stress.
Where Do Gerbils Poop?
Gerbils like to be clean and are well-behaved when it comes to their toilet habits. As a result, they poop in one particular area of their gerbilarium, keeping the rest of it clean. Many gerbils also bury their poop within their substrate, hiding it from view.
Unfortunately, some gerbils choose their running wheel as their pooping spot. This means that when they use it, their feces fly everywhere, causing a mess. It’s almost impossible to litter train gerbils, so this is a habit they must break on their own.
Thankfully, because gerbils are one of the cleanest rodents, it’s easy to tell if something’s wrong. For example, if they begin to poop in various areas of their enclosure instead of confining it to one spot, they might be upset about something within their environment, including:
- Loud noises
- Other pets
- Ultrasound noises
- Aggressive tank mates
All of these things can have a negative effect on your gerbil’s welfare, so try to limit your gerbil’s stress levels to encourage it to keep its gerbilarium clean.
Do Gerbils Poop When They Are Scared?
When gerbils are stressed or scared, they’ll poop more often. They’ll also poop where they’re standing, which is unusual given that they prefer to go to the toilet in one corner of their enclosure.
Young gerbils who you’ve recently introduced to your home will be more prone to pooping out of fear. That’s because they’re in a new, scary environment that they’re not used to. As soon as they’ve gotten comfortable in their surroundings, they should start to adopt their own toilet area.
However, pooping can also be a sign of excitement. You might find that your pet poops all over the floor after letting it loose in a gerbil-proofed room. That’s because it’s having fun exploring its new surroundings and feels comfortable enough to poop when it needs to.
Do Gerbils Poop On You?
Unfortunately for you, when gerbils need to go, they’ll go. If you’ve been cuddling your pet for a long time, it’ll poop on you because it can’t hold it any longer. It’s nothing personal but a simple matter of biology.
Many gerbils are also scared of their owners. That’s because they’re much smaller and feel vulnerable by your much-larger size, even if they’ve known you for a long time.
And even though gerbils have sharp teeth and can defend themselves, they know they’re outmatched. This frightens them. Your gerbil might also be scared of you because:
- You’ve only just bought it and it doesn’t trust you yet
- You handle it too much
- You don’t handle it enough
- You’re not holding it properly
- You create too much noise
- Your movements are too quick
- You’re not treating your gerbil with kindness
All of these reasons are enough to cause your gerbil to poop on you. While there are plenty of steps you can take to make your pet feel more at ease in your presence, the pooping’s unlikely to stop as it’s a natural reaction to fear. As far as your gerbil’s concerned, you’re a potential predator.
Do Gerbils Eat Their Poop?
Gerbils eat their own poop, according to the Journal of Nutrition. This phenomenon is known as coprophagy, which is something most rodents do.
While this may seem unsanitary, it’s actually beneficial for gerbils. That’s because it’s a regular part of their digestion and can help them consume undigested vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
It also allows fuller digestion of plant matter, which is tough and fibrous. The gut struggles to digest it fully the first time around, so gerbils eat their feces to process what’s left of it.
Coprophagy is also instinctual. In the wild, gerbils eat their poop to hide their scent. Otherwise, their feces could alert predators to their whereabouts, making them vulnerable. Therefore, if you see your gerbil eating its poop, leave it be. Coprophagy is nothing to worry about and won’t cause your gerbil harm.
Can Gerbils Get Diarrhea?
Healthy gerbil poop should be hard and dark. It also shouldn’t have a noticeable odor. If your gerbil’s poop is:
- Light in color
Then your gerbil has diarrhea. This is a serious condition that can kill gerbils in only a matter of days. It also causes severe dehydration. Because gerbils rarely drink water, this depletes their bodies of much-need fluids and is a serious problem.
Diarrhea is also a sign of wet tail, which is a bacterial disease also known as proliferative ileitis. It’s caused by stress and kills within 24 to 48 hours. Confusingly, gerbil wet tail is different from the kind hamsters get, but it causes very similar symptoms.
As the name suggests, wet tail affects the base of the tail, causing diarrhea and loose stools. This means that the fur around the tail and anus remains constantly wet and smelly. It can also create infections and open wounds.
Diarrhea in gerbils is also a sign of Tyzzer’s disease. As described by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the condition is common amongst store-bought gerbils.
Tyzzer’s disease is similar to wet tail. It causes repetitive diarrhea but, unlike wet tail, it attacks and leaves lesions on the liver, killing the gerbil quickly.
A poor diet causes diarrhea. While this is less common, too many fruits and vegetables will cause loose, watery stools. That’s because they contain lots of water that gerbils aren’t used to.
How Often Do You Clean Out Gerbils?
Gerbils are one of the cleanest rodents. Because they come from the desert, their droppings are dry, meaning they don’t make much mess. And because gerbils predominantly eat a fibrous diet, their poop doesn’t smell too bad. In fact, you shouldn’t be able to notice the smell of healthy gerbil feces.
That means you only need to do a deep clean using disinfectant every 3-4 weeks. It’s also wise to do a partial-clean every week or so to keep on top of the smell. However, to keep things sanitary, spot-clean your gerbilarium every day. To do this:
- Remove all the feces you find using a litter scooper, remembering to check the sand bath.
- Remove wet pieces of the substrate and replace them with fresh, dry bedding.
- Scoop out all old gerbil food, including the seeds, to prevent them from going moldy or germinating.
- Wipe down wet shelving and accessories with a baby wipe or cloth.
- Wash the food and water bowl with soapy water and dry thoroughly.
When you clean out your gerbil’s feces, keep an eye on it to make sure the poop is dry and hard. This signifies that your gerbil’s healthy.
If you ever spot stools that appear watery or loose, your gerbil has some form of diarrhea. If so, take it to the vet immediately for emergency treatment. As mentioned, diarrhea is fatal for gerbils.