Gerbils need a varied diet. While most of what gerbils eat should be a premade food mix, you can supplement that with seeds or give gerbils seeds as a snack.
Sesame seeds contain vital minerals like magnesium and calcium, plus lots of protein and fat too. Pumpkin seeds are similar, and have a hard outer shell that’s good for gnawing. Sunflower seeds and melon seeds can also be good in moderation. A mix of all of these seeds is good for your gerbil’s health.
So, feeding gerbils seeds is only a good idea if they’re an occasional snack. If you do, be mindful that your gerbil could become overweight. Weigh it occasionally to avoid this from happening.
Can Gerbils Eat Seeds?
Gerbils live in a part of the world called the Mongolian steppe. The steppe is a dry grassland. There are almost no trees, but there are lots of bushes and plants. As you can imagine, food can be scarce.
To survive in such an inhospitable place, gerbils in the wild eat a varied diet. They can and will eat plant roots, grains, nuts, seeds, and tiny insects. They will forage all day to find as much food as they need. They will even hoard some, in case times get bad.
Seeds are a vital part of this wild diet. This becomes obvious when you compare the different parts of a gerbil’s diet. Grains and plant roots are high in carbs, which are necessary for immediate energy.
But seeds are high in protein and fat. Protein and fat are difficult to find in this inhospitable landscape. Besides that, seeds contain lots of vitamins and minerals, which are vital.
In captivity, it’s your job to replicate this diet as well as you can. If you don’t, your gerbil could become sick. That’s why seeds are a part of many commercially available gerbil food mixes. It’s also possible to supplement additional seeds if necessary.
But that’s not all. Seeds are good for another reason. They are solid and crunchy, so your gerbil has to use its sharp teeth to break into them. This stops your gerbil’s teeth from growing too long.
In short, gerbils can eat seeds. They offer lots of nutrients that your gerbil couldn’t otherwise find in the wild. They should form a part of your captive gerbil’s diet, too.
Is It Safe for Gerbils to Eat Seeds?
All that being said, seeds aren’t the perfect food. There are two main problems that they present.
Gerbils have hard, sharp teeth that can easily break into a shell like that of a seed. But the problem is that these shells can fly off when cracked open. This could hurt your gerbil’s eyes.
Also, seeds might not be safe or healthy because of their fat content. Seeds are densely packed with nutrients, because the plant or tree that produces them wants its ‘offspring’ to survive.
Most seeds are around 50% oil by weight. Gerbils, like all animals, need fat in their diets. But they don’t need anywhere near that much. If your gerbil were to eat nothing but seeds, it would quickly become overweight.
That’s why seeds are best served as occasional snacks, rather than a core part of your gerbil’s diet. Again, most gerbil food mixes have this proportion right. They are mostly made of grain, but contain the correct small amounts of nuts and seeds.
What Seeds Can Gerbils Eat?
In the wild, gerbils have access to a few different kinds of seed. According to Seed Science Research, the Mongolian steppe has both woody and herbaceous perennials that produce seeds. But markets have access to seeds and nuts from all across the world.
Can Gerbils Eat Sunflower Seeds?
Sunflower seeds are collected from sunflowers. They are indigenous to the Americas; all but three species are from North and Central America. The other three are from South America. They were first domesticated and grown by people in Mexico.
Like all seeds, sunflower seeds are packed with nutrients. Around half of a sunflower seed is oil by weight, while only a fifth is carbohydrate. The same proportion of one fifth is made up of proteins. Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of fat.
In the wild, gerbils have only limited access to fatty foods, like sunflower seeds. Your pet will eat as many of them as it can. It’s best for your pet’s health if you limit access to high-fat snacks like these.
Can Gerbils Eat Pumpkin Seeds?
The last time you will have seen pumpkin seeds is at Halloween. The center of a pumpkin is chock full of large, solid seeds. When people carve pumpkins, they usually go to waste.
Pumpkin seeds are nutritious, even more so than the flesh of the pumpkin itself. You can roast them, coat them in salt, and eat them as a delicious snack. They work as a snack for gerbils, too.
Pumpkin seeds are substantially less fatty than sunflower seeds. Only a third of a pumpkin seed is oil by weight. Again, a fifth of each seed is protein and a fifth is carbohydrate.
But pumpkin seeds have far more fiber than many other seeds, which accounts for the rest of the weight. Gerbils need lots of fiber in their diet to keep going to the toilet regularly.
Pumpkin seeds contain lots of magnesium. Magnesium is good for gerbils because it makes seizures less serious. Somewhere up to half of all gerbils experience seizures.
Pumpkin seeds are also solid, and their outer shell is fibrous without being too hard. Your gerbil will enjoy cracking open the shells to eat the seed inside. But it will also enjoy gnawing on the shell itself, which is safe to ingest.
There are also reasonable amounts of iron and calcium in pumpkin seeds, but little else. The main reason they are good for gerbils is their magnesium content.
Can Gerbils Eat Sesame Seeds?
Sesame seeds are collected from a flowering plant that grew wild in Africa and India. It has been domesticated and is now a crucial crop in much of Africa and Southeast Asia. This is reflected in how widely sesame seeds and oil are used in recipes from these places.
Either way, sesame seeds are highly nutritious—even more so than pumpkin seeds. Again, pumpkin seeds are roughly half fat by weight, with one-fifth of a seed being protein and one-fifth carbohydrate. They are lower in fiber than pumpkin seeds.
But it’s the vitamin and mineral content of sesame seeds that set them apart. According to Nutrition Value, they have more magnesium than pumpkin seeds, as well as lots of:
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin B6
Their wide range of nutrients makes sesame seeds an excellent, if surprising, health food. Many of these things are suitable for gerbils, too. So at the same time as providing much-needed fat and protein, sesame seeds offer lots of vitamins and minerals too.
Another good thing about sesame seeds is their size. They’re small, which means you can easily control portion sizes when you feed them to your gerbils. You can sprinkle them over your gerbil’s bedding, and it will enjoy digging for them.
Can Gerbils Eat Melon Seeds?
‘Melon seeds’ is a broad term that includes seeds from cantaloupes, watermelons, honeydews, and so on. Each of these seeds has roughly the same nutrients and health benefits, as many seeds do.
Melon seeds have a different nutritional profile to the seeds listed above. Half of each seed by weight is made up of fat. But a full third is protein, while only one-twentieth is carbohydrate. This means that melon seeds have fewer carbs and much more protein than the seeds listed above.
When you look at the minerals they contain, melon seeds still stand out:
- Lots of magnesium (as much as in sesame seeds)
The only issue is that melon seeds don’t contain many vitamins. This is where they fall short slightly of other seeds.
However, melon seeds make a useful tool you can use in certain scenarios. Being so high in fat and protein, these seeds make an excellent supplement for an underweight gerbil. Alongside regular, high-carb food, they help your pet gain its weight back.
Can Gerbils Eat Poppy Seeds?
Poppy seeds are harvested from poppies, a kind of flower that originates from the Mediterranean. They can be found growing wild across southeast Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Most are bright red, but there are many species with different colored petals.
Poppy seeds are tiny and black, even smaller than sesame seeds. Straight away, this makes them a little awkward for your gerbil to eat. They’re easy for your gerbil to bite into, too, so they don’t help your pet grind its teeth.
As for nutrients, poppy seeds are a good choice for your gerbil’s health. They contain large amounts of manganese and copper. They also offer calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.
So, in many ways, poppy seeds are the same as the other seeds in this list. Where they differ is their fat and carbohydrate content. Their average protein content of one fifth per seed is less important than their decreased fat levels (two-fifths) and increased carbohydrate levels (one-third).
This means that poppy seeds are more in line with the rest of a gerbil’s diet. There’s less chance of overfeeding your pet with them.
Can Gerbils Eat Butternut Squash Seeds?
Butternut squash seeds are similar to pumpkin seeds. All squashes are quite similar, even if they are different shapes. They’re even a similar shape to pumpkin seeds.
This means that the nutritional benefits of squash seeds are similar to those of pumpkin seeds. Like pumpkin seeds, butternut squash seeds are half fat by weight. Their carbohydrate and protein levels are similar, too.
Feeding your gerbil a seed mix is a good idea. But if you do, there’s little point putting both butternut squash seeds and pumpkin seeds. Their nutritional similarity, even their taste similarity, means that there’s little point.
Can Gerbils Eat Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds are a modern-day superfood. People eat them thinking that they’re good for almost anything. The Journal of Food Science and Technology states that they contain plenty of Omega-3, antioxidants, and many healthy ingredients.
Chia seeds are different, nutritionally, to most other seeds. One difference is that chia seeds have slightly less fat, at 31g per 100g serving (roughly one ounce in every three). This means it’s easier to feed the correct amount of chia seeds than other seeds.
They also contain far more carbs than other seeds, at 42g in every 100g. However, almost all of this is dietary fiber, which means it’s good. Chia seeds have a normal amount of protein for a seed.
In terms of minerals and vitamins, chia seeds are like many other seeds. They contain lots of copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and selenium. They also have vitamins B3 and B1.
So, should you feed chia seeds to a gerbil? They offer the same minerals and vitamins as other seeds. But they’re lower in fat, which means they’re a healthier snack. Your gerbil can eat more of these seeds than other seeds.
Are There Seeds That Are Poisonous to Gerbils?
Of the seeds you can find commonly available in stores, none are poisonous to gerbils. Some people think that the seeds in grapes might be poisonous to rodents.
As a rule, stick to foods you know to be non-poisonous. There are more than enough kinds of seed or nut for gerbils to eat which we already know are healthy.
What Seeds Should You Feed a Gerbil?
Perhaps the best are sesame seeds. That’s because they contain lots of things your gerbil needs, like magnesium and calcium.
The only drawback of sesame seeds is that they don’t have a hard, fibrous shell. Many seeds have a hard shell, which is perfect for chewing. So, ensure that your gerbils have something to chew on other than their food if you feed them sesame seeds.
However, far better than feeding one kind of seed is feeding a mixture of seeds. Gerbils benefit from having a varied diet in the same way that we do. So, consider buying a seed mix rather than only one kind of seed. We suggest a mixture of:
- Sesame seeds, for wide nutritional benefit
- Pumpkin seeds, for their high fiber content
Also, steer clear of any roasted or salted seeds. If the seeds are sold ‘raw’, that’s best. The flavored coating that some manufacturers put on seeds can contain lots of salt.
There are good arguments for steering clear of seeds and nuts entirely. They are so high in fat that it’s easy to overfeed them. Your gerbil’s food mix should also already contain all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals a gerbil needs.
How Often Should You Feed a Gerbil Seeds?
If you do want to feed your gerbil seeds, you shouldn’t do so every day. They are so nutrient-dense that you risk making your gerbil overweight if you do.
Instead, seeds should be an occasional snack at most. Feed them once at the end of each week. Gerbils need around 10g of food per day. On one day a week, you can replace half of your pet’s food mix with seeds and nuts.
Again, there’s no strict need to do this. If you feed your pet a quality gerbil food mix, it will already contain everything they need.
When you do feed your gerbils seeds, check whether they hoard them. Gerbils like to hoard calorie-dense foods. This behavior was learned in the wild, because there are times when food might be scarce.
If your gerbil were to hoard lots of seeds, then it may eat them all at once. This could cause sudden weight gain. Frequently checking on your pet, and changing its bedding, will prevent this.