Gerbils are playful and curious creatures. If they get the opportunity to explore a room, they’ll get into every nook and cranny, investigating everything they see. Because they’re so small and easy to lose sight of, you’ll need to gerbil-proof the room to prevent them from getting lost, hurt, or escaping.
The objective of gerbil-proofing a room is to minimize the risk to your gerbil. Do this by clearing the space of all obstacles and burrowing opportunities while blocking up all vents, cracks, and gaps. Block all openings underneath your furniture to prevent your gerbil from hiding underneath. Never allow other pets into the room when the gerbil is free-roaming. Sometimes, a playpen in the middle of the room is safer.
Free-roaming is when a gerbil is allowed to roam its room without a cage or wheel. It enables the rodent to exercise sufficiently and explore an area beyond the limited scope of its enclosure.
How To Make A Room Safe For Gerbils
Gerbils need mental and physical stimulation to avoid boredom. One good way to provide this is by offering them a new environment to explore.
At first, your gerbil will want to run around the room, investigating everything it comes across. It’s easy for gerbils to get lost or hurt if the room’s not adequately cleared out first.
As a result, you’ll need to gerbil-proof the room before allowing your pet to roam freely. You can do this by following these ten simple steps.
Step 1: Find An Appropriate Room
Find the best room for your gerbil to live in. Gerbils prefer living in a quiet room that offers natural light in the day and darkness at night.
As described by Physiology and Biology, captive gerbils are crepuscular, meaning they’re most active at twilight. So, avoid rooms that alter the natural day-to-night transition, as it could disrupt their sleep cycle.
The room temperature also needs to be comfortable for gerbils to live in. The optimal temperature ranges between 65-75 degrees and should be maintained at a constant level to prevent your gerbil from either overheating or getting too cold.
Gerbils also have sensitive hearing, so choose a room that doesn’t have much through traffic from either people or animals. Noisy pipes or TV noise scares gerbils and causes them to go on high alert. As a result, aim to keep their living space as quiet as possible.
Similarly, gerbils can hear ultrasound, so ensure all electrical devices within the room are switched off.
Step 2: Clear The Floor
Gerbils can’t help but chew everything they see. They love to investigate new objects and will taste them to see if they’re edible.
However, small parts are a choking hazard, so they must be tidied away before your gerbil can get to them.
To prevent this, declutter the floor of all hazards to ensure a safe environment for it to roam, paying close attention to loose items that are hard to see without careful inspection.
Similarly, check the edges and corners of the room for things that may have been accidentally kicked into them.
You also need to be mindful of the room’s carpet, especially if it’s coming away in places. Some gerbils are partial to ingesting fabrics, which can cause blockages within the digestive tract.
Step 3: Remove Cables And Wires
Gerbils love to chew and nibble on anything, including dangerous cables and wires. Not only is this a hazard to your gerbil, but it’s a fire risk.
According to Cell Reports, rodents have continuously growing teeth because they have no roots. As a result, they chew on things to wear them down. If they don’t, the teeth become too long and cause a range of problems. Overgrowth teeth also prevent them from eating properly.
Replace wires in the room with branches and sticks that your gerbil can chew on. This will prevent your gerbil from electrocuting itself. You could also use:
- Toilet paper rolls
- Cereal boxes
- Corrugated cardboard
- Cardboard egg cartons
While it may not be feasible to remove all wires completely, you could tie them up into a bundle and tape them out of the way on the wall.
Similarly, you can get a hard-wearing plastic covering for the pipes that run along the floor. If you choose one tough enough, your gerbil won’t be able to penetrate it, even with its sharp teeth.
Step 4: Remove Plants
While gerbils are omnivores and eat plants, some are toxic for them. As a result, you’ll need to clear your gerbil’s room of all plants to keep the rodent safe from plant poisoning. Poisonous plants include:
If gerbils get hold of toxic plants and eat them, it can create digestive problems. Diarrhea is the most common sign of stomach upsets and precedes other poisoning symptoms, such as vomiting, loss of appetite, and convulsions.
Keep all plants as far away from the cage as possible to prevent your pet from nibbling on loose leaves. However, to reduce any risk of plants poisoning your gerbil, it’s best to avoid having them in the room altogether.
Step 5: Block All Vents
Gerbils can squeeze into the smallest gaps, disappearing in seconds. They’re also fast for their size, meaning they get away before you even realize they’re attempting to flee.
Unfortunately, this also means they’re excellent at escaping their cages, especially if you’re using the kind with bars instead of a glass enclosure.
If your gerbil gets out before you’ve made the room safe, it’s a tricky process to find and capture it. As a result, you’ll need to close all exit points to prevent this.
If there are any air-conditioning or heating vents in the room, they’ll need to be blocked up to stop your gerbil from crawling through them, even if the gaps look too small for gerbils to access.
Blocking vents doesn’t have to be complicated. Stainless steel mesh coverings are an excellent and inexpensive way to stop gerbils from getting through the gaps without the need for extensive building work.
Space heaters are also dangerous, especially when they’re turned on as they become boiling hot. If your gerbil gets into one, there’s a chance it could get burnt or catch fire. To protect your gerbil, remove it from the room altogether.
Step 6: Ensure There’s Nothing To Burrow Into
Gerbils love to burrow. While they don’t climb vertical surfaces, like walls and furniture, they’ll jump onto anything that looks suitable for burrowing. This could include bedding or sofas with noticeable gaps.
This is an instinctual behavior for gerbils, both wild and captive. In their natural habitat, gerbils live in groups and hide from predators and other dangers by creating a network of underground tunnels. When allowed to roam your room freely, gerbils will look for things to burrow into to replicate this environment.
However, inside the home, this can be fatal if you don’t know where your gerbil’s gone, and you sit down onto the furniture they’ve burrowed into.
Similarly, clothes piles shouldn’t be left in your gerbil’s room, especially on the floor where gerbils can easily access them. Gerbils are drawn to piles of clothes because they’re the perfect weight and texture to burrow into.
Unfortunately, if you don’t know your gerbil has burrowed into them, they can get caught up in the pile and harmed when you deal with the clothes.
Step 7: Clear Hiding Places
Similar to removing burrowing spots, you’ll need to clear any potential hiding places to prevent your gerbil from getting lost or stuck. This also reduces the risk of you accidentally stepping or sitting on your gerbil while it’s hiding. Popular hiding spaces include:
- Broken drawers
Similarly, your gerbil can chew through fabric furnishings, such as bean bags and upholstered footstools. As a result, there are two dangers to be mindful of:
- Your gerbil is at risk of ingesting harmful materials that can cause digestive problems and, in the worst cases, death.
- Your gerbil could tuck itself away, and you’ll never find it, especially if you haven’t noticed the damage to your furniture.
As a rule of thumb, ensure that nothing’s left on the room floor except for your gerbil’s playthings, food, water, and chew toys.
Step 8: Block Gaps Under Furniture
Gerbils can get in the smallest spaces. If they manage to squeeze into gaps under furniture, it isn’t easy to get them back out.
Similarly, if you move the furniture in an attempt to capture your pet, you’re at risk of harming the animal.
This is also likely to be a highly stressful experience for both you and the gerbil. Stressed gerbils display the following symptoms:
- Foot stomping (drumming)
- Aggression towards you
- Red tears
- Increased urination and defecation
If the room isn’t adequately gerbil-proofed, your gerbil may choose to hide under furniture to escape from the environmental stress.
To keep your pet safe, block up all gaps underneath your bed, drawers, wardrobe, and anything else housed in the room. Also, don’t forget to block underneath all doors, even when the gap’s small.
While it’s preferable to have a clear room, this isn’t always possible. Don’t use foam or anything edible to block gaps, as gerbils will chew through the material. Hard-wearing plastic or wood are better options.
Step 9: Take Pets Out Of The Room
This should be a no-brainer, particularly when you have predatory pets in the house, such as cats.
Even friendly dogs become over-excited by a new plaything and have been known to swallow rodents whole, both by accident and on purpose. Some dog breeds, such as the schnauzers and terriers, are instinctive rodent hunters and will attack without warning.
Don’t be tempted to introduce your larger pets to your gerbil, even while supervised. While gerbils enjoy living in groups of their own kind, they see all larger animals as predators. This will cause distress.
This stress is heightened when they don’t have anywhere in the room to hide. Similarly, never allow gerbils and other pets to play with each other, as things quickly turn sour.
Many pets will scratch at the door, begging to be let into your gerbil-proof room. But resist the urge to let them in, as your non-gerbil pet is likely too excited and riled up to be deemed safe around the gerbil.
Step 10: Provide A Playpen
While you’re planning to go to great lengths to gerbil-proof your room, it’s still not without its risks. As a result, you might want to consider a gerbil playpen instead.
Playpens give gerbils the chance to roam around the room but allow you to set boundaries, keeping them safe from dangers within it.
Playpens also vary in size, so choosing the largest one available allows your gerbil to roam freely around the room. Pens allow you to supervise your gerbil without worrying about what it’ll do next, giving you greater peace of mind.
You can also make the experience different from inside its cage by adding new toys and obstacles to keep your gerbil entertained. This is the best option to eliminate all risks.
Tips For Catching An Escaped Gerbil
Despite how hard you work to gerbil-proof your room, gerbils are master escape artists. They have the uncanny ability to find the one gap you’ve forgotten to seal. If your gerbil does escape, follow these steps to get it back:
- Put its cage on the floor with the door wide open. Place treats on the cage door or near to it (if you have a glass enclosure) to entice it back in.
- Similarly, add titbits of food around the room in open areas so that you can grab it when it emerges.
- Check any loose boxes, bags, or clothes very carefully to see if your gerbil is hiding amongst them.
- Use a torchlight to check underneath all furniture, remembering to look inside them.
When allowing your gerbil to free-roam, you must supervise it to keep it safe. Never underestimate a gerbil’s ability to escape, even if you feel you’ve covered all bases. In some cases, gerbils can’t be trusted and may not be suitable for free-roaming.