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How Do I Care for a Baby Gerbil?

Sherry Holetzky
Sherry Holetzky

Caring for any pet is a big responsibility. Pets are dependent on the people who care for them for everything, so meeting their basic needs must be a priority. Providing fresh, healthy food, clean water, and a comfortable place to rest and receive shelter are the basics. When basic needs are met, along with a good dose of love, pets thrive. This is also true of the baby gerbil.

Keep in mind that in the first days of life, the baby gerbil will be cared for by the parents. Gerbils are recognized for taking good care of their babies, called puppies. If there is a problem with the parents, you may need to step in and assist them with providing proper care for their newborns.

An adult gerbil. Pet owners may need to care for a baby gerbil if the mother abandons it.
An adult gerbil. Pet owners may need to care for a baby gerbil if the mother abandons it.

If the mother has no interest in caring for her babies, you need to ensure that the puppies are kept warm. A heat lamp on a low setting may be helpful, but don’t put it too close to a baby gerbil. Make sure the heat is not too strong for fragile new pups.

In some cases, scents or odors that the mother gerbil finds offensive may lead her to abandon the baby. Due to this issue, you should always make sure your hands are washed and rinsed thoroughly before handling a baby gerbil. As with any baby animal, it is always important to be extremely careful and gentle.

Another situation in which you may need to assist in caring for a baby gerbil is if the mother is not able to provide proper nourishment for her pup. If one puppy appears smaller than the others, he or she may not be getting enough sustenance. Supplemental feeding may be necessary. Many baby animals can be fed with a clean eyedropper. You may wish to consult with a veterinarian to determine the best type of milk to use and the proper amount to feed the puppy.

If a baby gerbil appears to be sick, it is probably a good idea to separate him or her from the other puppies as well as the parents. Doing so can help prevent the others from becoming ill as well. If you feel the ailment is serious, it is best to consult with a veterinarian for advice. Never try to give animals medicine that is intended for humans unless it is under the direct advice and supervision of a professional.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of habitat is best for a baby gerbil?

A baby gerbil thrives in a spacious, secure glass tank or wire cage with a solid floor, as wire floors can injure their tiny feet. The enclosure should be filled with a thick layer of bedding, such as paper-based or aspen shavings, to allow for burrowing. Avoid cedar or pine shavings due to respiratory risks. A nesting area and chew toys should also be provided to mimic their natural environment and support dental health.

How often should I feed a baby gerbil and what is the ideal diet?

Baby gerbils should be fed a balanced diet consisting of gerbil-specific pellets and a small amount of fresh fruits and vegetables daily. Fresh water must always be available. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), treats should not exceed 10% of their total diet to prevent obesity and nutritional imbalances.

How do I ensure my baby gerbil is getting enough social interaction?

Gerbils are social animals and require interaction with their own kind for mental well-being. It's best to keep them in same-sex pairs or small groups, especially if they are siblings, to prevent loneliness. Human interaction is also important; handle your baby gerbil gently and frequently to build trust and socialization, but always supervise to prevent accidental falls or injury.

What are the signs of good health in a baby gerbil?

A healthy baby gerbil should be alert, active, and curious. Its eyes should be bright and clear, and its coat should be clean and well-groomed. There should be no signs of diarrhea, which can be a common health issue in young gerbils. Regular, even breathing and a good appetite are also indicators of health. Any deviation from these behaviors warrants a visit to a veterinarian experienced with small rodents.

How can I tell if my baby gerbil is stressed or unhappy?

Signs of stress or unhappiness in a baby gerbil include excessive chewing on the cage bars, over-grooming to the point of creating bald spots, and changes in eating or sleeping habits. A stressed gerbil may also become more aggressive or try to escape frequently. Providing a stimulating environment with plenty of space, hiding spots, and opportunities for exercise can help reduce stress.

What are the most important veterinary care considerations for baby gerbils?

Preventive veterinary care for baby gerbils includes regular health checks to monitor growth and development. A vet can also provide advice on proper nutrition, dental care, and parasite control. It's crucial to find a vet who specializes in exotic pets and has experience with gerbils. Early detection of health issues, such as respiratory infections or tumors, can significantly improve treatment outcomes.

Discussion Comments


@ZipLine-- Just don't touch the babies, or the mother will never take care of them. You don't want to get your scent on the babies.

It can take a while for the mother to start caring for her young. Sometimes it may look like she's kicking them around when she's fixing her nest. Gerbils know what they're doing instinctively. Aside from providing food, water, bedding material and heat when necessary, you don't need to do anything.


@ZipLine-- I'm not an expert on gerbils, but I think that the gerbils have to be at least a few weeks old for you to nurse them and take care of them. They're too young right now for you to do that. The mother needs to nurse them and keep them warm. They usually burrow a nest and put the babies in there. Does the mother appear to be making a nest?

I'd wait longer to see if she starts looking after them. But if she doesn't start by tomorrow, you need to find another nursing gerbil or rat to adopt them in order for them to survive.

Also, make sure that you don't make any changes to the cage and nest because sudden changes can upset gerbils and cause them to ignore their young.


My gerbil gave birth to five pups last night, I discovered them in the morning. But she doesn't seem to be taking care of them. It's afternoon now and she hasn't nursed them. I've been watching the cage constantly and the mother is just sleeping or playing around. Can I take care of the baby gerbils or should I wait longer for her to do it?

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    • An adult gerbil. Pet owners may need to care for a baby gerbil if the mother abandons it.
      By: LockStockBob
      An adult gerbil. Pet owners may need to care for a baby gerbil if the mother abandons it.