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As a first time gerbil owner, you must be wondering if your pet needs gerbil toys? They do! Gerbils are prone to boredom when their parents are distracted by other tasks. However, this is easily preventable with enriching toys.
Why are gerbil toys necessary?
When your pet gerbil doesn’t have access to adequate physical and mental stimulation, it will get bored. If you notice your pet is constantly scratching the floor or gnawing away at the cage bars, it’s leading a dull life.
The best way to prevent this situation is by interacting with your gerbil using gerbil toys. You may use these toys to teach your pet gerbil new tricks. It’s also a great way to exercise your pet.
Never neglect your pet gerbil. Keep checking on it regularly. You will know instantly whether it’s feeling bored or not. Set aside a few minutes every day to spend some quality time with it. This will help your gerbil lead a fulfilling life.
Gerbils are curious and active creatures. They need regular stimulation and input from their surrounding environment. This includes both mental and physical exercises. Apart from eating, sleeping, and defecating, your gerbil is seeking quality time. Without a source of stimulation, your gerbil will get restless. Some may become destructive, make lots of noise, and even sink their teeth into objects. To keep your gerbil happy and active, invest in quality gerbil toys.
What should you do before playing with your pet?
Think about playtime from a gerbil’s perspective. It lives in an enclosed space most of the time and engages in the same activities. It’s only natural for it to get excited if you enable it to interact with you and gerbil toys.
But before you rush and pick up your gerbil, you need to prepare it for play. Here’s how:
Bond with your gerbil.
Win its trust. If your pet does not trust you, it will not come close to you. To build trust with your pet gerbil, spend time near its enclosure. This helps them become familiar with you and your scent. Over time, it will know you are not a threat. Speak to your gerbil in soft and soothing tones. This is vital as it will help the gerbil stay calm when you start picking it up. After a few days have passed, start to slowly but gently pick up your gerbil. Place a treat in your palm and then pick up your pet. Enable your gerbil to eat the treat.
Avoid making sudden movements or loud noises. Do not grip the gerbil too tightly or move it around quickly. This will scare and threaten your pet. Once your gerbil becomes familiar with you, treats won’t be necessary. It will allow you to scoop it up without causing panic. Once this trust develops, your gerbil will love interacting and playing with you.
Wash hands before and after touching your gerbil.
Human hands are prone to acquiring odors. You might not notice them but your sensitive nosed gerbil will. In fact, it can smell many things including what you ate, what you touched, etc. Some of these odors may trigger negative excitement. For example, if you patted a dog, your gerbil will notice this smell and instinctively hide from you. This problem is avoidable if you wash your hands.
Similarly, you must wash your hands thoroughly after handling your pet gerbil. Gerbils love to keep their environment tidy, but this doesn’t mean you should neglect hygiene. The rules of hand washing apply to all pets.
Now that we’ve discussed why gerbils like to play, how you should set the stage for play, and things you need to do before playing, let’s discuss the benefits of gerbil toys.
What are the benefits of toys for gerbils?
Toys benefit gerbils in two important ways.
1) First, toys offer gerbils lots of physical exercise. Gerbils by their nature enjoy being adventurous and active. A cage with hay will feel bland for most gerbils. In the wild, gerbils like to explore new territories and dig into holes. They engage in mischief with their colony mates. If your gerbil is all alone in its cage without any stimulation, you will start seeing several behavioral issues.
2) Second, toys provide regular mental stimulation. Gerbils are social creatures. They love interacting with other critters in the wild. When they’re confined to an enclosure, it helps if they have company with another gerbil. But what if there isn’t another playmate? Gerbil toys can help.
Toys help offer lots of mental stimulation to your pet gerbil.
Note of caution
Before putting any toys inside your pet gerbil’s cage, ensure they’re safe. In other words, the toys should be meant for gerbils. For example, gerbils like to stick their heads into holes and explore. When selecting toys with holes, ensure the holes are large enough that your pet can easily get in and out. In addition, the toys should not have any sharp ends or loose plastic pieces that they can easily swallow.
Top 6 gerbil toys for your pet
Like hamsters, gerbils love to run on wheels. Any type wheel that has a solid back and surface will do. Ensure the wheel does not have cross-supports or rungs as their body parts or tail might get caught in it. A solid wheel for running is always the best choice. Opt for a medium-sized wheel. These are usually large enough to support your gerbil while running. Keep in mind, not all gerbils like wheels. So do not be discouraged if your gerbil doesn’t seem too excited. Give them some time.
Houses and holes made from untreated wood are excellent choices. Even small cardboard boxes make great hideouts. Keep in mind that the cardboard house will quickly be pulled apart and need frequent replacement. Don’t forget to choose cardboard without ink as well. The wooden house will also be chewed but it will last longer than its cardboard counterpart.
Apart from houses, you can opt for hollowed logs and small logs. These are easily available at the pet store. Can’t go to the pet store? No problem. Use half a coconut shell instead. Plant pots made of clay or ceramic work very well too. Place them on their side so that your gerbil will tuck away in it.
There’s nothing gerbils love more than chewing. It is important to include a few chewing gerbil toys as well. The paper towel roll or toilet paper roll (without the paper) works very well. In fact, it might become your pet’s favorite toy.
Another great option is critter cages, critter tubes, and other specific chew toys meant for rodents. Small paper bags without ink are great for hiding, playing, and shedding too!
In addition, untreated wood with or without vegetable is fine. It’s perfectly safe for your pet to chew. You may easily purchase them or make it out of untreated wood pieces. Got a backyard full of trees? Grab a branch for chewing. Willow or apple tree branches work well. Avoid giving your gerbil evergreen tree branches.
Tubes and climbing toys
Your pet gerbil loves to climb on to everything it finds, especially wooden houses. You may opt for wooden ladders, see-saws, and other wood toys. These are easily available in the bird or small pet section of most pet stores.
Check for driftwood, grapevine wood, or cholla wood. These make excellent chewing and climbing toys for pet gerbils. Natural grass, plant fiber, and wicker tunnels offer great places to hide. Even huts made from these materials are perfectly safe for some gnawing action.
Plastic climbing tubes like those used by hamsters are fun for gerbils. Avoid tubes made from flimsy plastic as these can easily break up into small pieces and your pet may swallow them. To be on the safe side, offer plastic tubes only when you are able to monitor your pet gerbil.
PVC pipe sections make excellent gerbil toys as well. These are easily found at hardware stores. PVC is more resistant to chewing than most plastics, making them better for rodents.
Bamboo tubes are relatively new tubes for gerbils. However, these are durable and tougher. Ceramic tubes are also fairly indestructible.
Place a glass or heavy ceramic dish laden with several inches chinchilla dust inside your pet gerbil’s cage. Get ready for lots of digging and rolling action! Gerbils love messing about in chinchilla dust. It helps them keep their fur clean and conditioned. Gerbils are infamous for enjoying their dust baths. From time to time, do give them this treat. It’s also a fun activity for them. When offering chinchilla dust, opt for a heavy ceramic or glass dish. The chinchilla dust is easily available at most pet stores. It’s a fun sight to see your gerbil enjoying itself in the dust.
This is a habitual activity for all rodents, including gerbils. To encourage a little digging action, fill a corner with their enclosure with extra hay or substrate. Place wood shavings or a wooden shelter in it. This gives gerbils an underground place to burrow or sleep. You may also place a ceramic tube in this burrow for more stimulation.
Should you buy gerbil toys?
Yes. Gerbil toys provide important mental and physical stimulation for your pet. Without toys, your gerbil will feel bored and engage in destructive behaviors. Choose a variety of toys such as hides, climbs, dust baths, chew toys, and digging toys so that your gerbil is happy and stimulated.