Gerbils don’t need too much help when they are having babies, but it’s important to avoid making any changes in the cage for the first week, and then to give a hand once the baby gerbils can make the transition to normal food and water. Our recent article can help with more details on these rodents.
Do you have a pair of adorable gerbils and you are suspecting that the female is pregnant? If that’s the case and you are not sure what you are supposed to do next, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we are going to take a look at how to take care of baby gerbils in your home. The good news is that most of the work is covered by the mother in the entire process.
In fact, pregnant gerbils usually don’t show signs of their condition until a few days before the delivery date. Once the due date is approaching, the female gerbil will usually become heavier and the belly might increase and bulge slightly. As you probably already know, in the case of any pregnancy, babies have a growth spurt right before being born.
In the case of gerbils, there is nothing unusual in having pet owners being completely surprised to find baby gerbils in the cage since there are almost no signs that show the situation. On the other hand, the good thing is that gerbil mothers are completely able to take care of their young, so all you need to do is to make sure the environment remains the same.
Of course, you will also need to figure out what to do with the babies once they are able to leave the nest, but we’ll get to that in a bit. First, let’s take a moment and see what preserving the environment means.
The cage and the environment
You need to make sure that no changes are being made to the cage for the first week. If this happens and the environment is different around the mother, she will be spending a lot of time trying to put everything back the way it was, which means that she might neglect the babies.
That’s why you shouldn’t clean, remove, move, or add anything to the cage during this period. This includes bedding and toys, so as tempted as you might be to try to give the gerbil mother a hand, this would only stress her out, so refrain yourself.
You might also ask yourself whether the male gerbil should remain in the cage. The answer is a definite “Yes!” because he actually plays a very important role in caring for the pups. His absence might cause the female to be stressed out, so he needs to stay where he is, next to her and the baby gerbils.
On the other hand, what you can do is put a blanket over the cage, directly over the nest, as this adds a sense of protection and warmth which can calm the female right after giving birth. You should also avoid handling the baby gerbils until they are a week old.
After this period they should have developed a layer of fine fur, also known as down, and this means that it’s safe to handle them. After this phase, it’s actually a good idea to touch and handle them daily so that they get used to humans and thus become domesticated. The first time you pick up the pups, you might want to give the parents some cardboard to distract them.
You also need to be very careful when handling the babies, as even young ones can be very quick and they might either run or jump out of your hand. What you need to do is to enclose the entire baby gerbil in your hands as you are lifting it out of the cage and always handle any of them over a soft surface. This way, in case one falls, there’s a lower chance for it to get injured.
Things are usually not that complicated when it comes to their health. Baby gerbils don’t have too many such issues, but a few of them might develop, such as diarrhea or respiratory problems. If that’s the case, you need to take them to the vet as soon as possible. As a general rule, you can identify respiratory issues by hearing a clicking noise when they breathe.
Getting enough food
Food is crucial for any living organism, and the same goes for baby gerbils. That’s why watching for any signs that might indicate malnourishment is very important. Of course, this means getting enough milk from the mother, and if that doesn’t happen pups can develop bald patches on their backs or you may notice a lack of hair growth.
Furthermore, baby gerbils that are not eating enough tend to be smaller than the rest of the litter. In such cases, what you can do is remove the other ones from the nest and allow the little guy to feed uninterrupted. As you do this, make sure that the other ones are placed in a warm and enclosed area, so that they remain protected and safe as well.
Another very good piece of advice is to avoid stressing the mother or disturbing her as you remove the other pups for this process. If she thinks something is not ok or she gets upset, there’s a chance that she might reject the litter when you place the babies back in the nest.
If everything goes well and both the mother and the pups are ok, you can start introducing solid food after about three weeks. The babies will continue to nurse, but this is a gradual process, so getting started with some solid foods is a good idea. Things such as peeled sunflower seeds, uncooked oats, roasted peanut bits, or regular gerbil feed can work.
Every new element should always be introduced in a small amount and then you need to give it some time to see if any baby gerbil reacts negatively to it. The entire weaning process usually takes around two weeks.
Baby gerbils also need to drink water, but they need to learn to do this. What you should do is place a water bottle where the pups can reach it and help them a bit with figuring out how it works. They usually begin to drink water somewhere between three and five weeks after their birth.
Another trick that you can try is spraying some water on the side of the tank around the water bottle, as this can help them figure out the water source. You should never place a bowl of water in the cage, as baby gerbils can fall into it and, since they are so tiny, they can drown in a small amount of water.
Once the pups are comfortable eating solid food and drinking water from the bottle on their own, you can start to think about removing them from the nest. This should be done sometime around the age of six weeks, as the mother may have another litter around that time. It’s a known fact that rodents can quickly multiply, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
While the mother might not have a problem having more rounds of pups within the cage, it’s a good idea to help with the weaning and separation process a bit, so that it gets done in time for the new litter to have their mother’s full attention. If you don’t want your gerbils to have other litters, then the male needs to be taken to the vet where he can be neutered.
Once the baby gerbils are out of the nest, you should find them a nice home. You can get started by looking online for people who want to adopt baby gerbils. Using social media channels to show the world how cute these little guys are might also do the trick. Friends and family members might be looking for a new pet or they might know someone who is interested.
There are many pet lovers out there who would love to have a new little friend in their home. You should never release baby gerbils into nature as a way to get rid of them because they don’t really stand a chance to survive given that they are domesticated pets.