Gerbils are social creatures that enjoy the company of other individuals from the same species, but, sometimes, the company can turn into a lifelong commitment. This article will teach you everything you need to know about their pregnancy and baby delivery, so you’ll only have to worry about providing more food and finding bigger, more suitable gerbil homes for sale.
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.
How to spot a pregnancy
Unlike other animals where pregnancy is visible from the earliest stages, gerbils don’t change their behavior or look any different until a few days before delivering. This is why spotting your pet’s pregnancy is tough, but not impossible.
Keep in mind that females become fertile at a young age, around three or four months old, and they can mate a few times a year. Therefore, the first thing you should ask yourself is whether the female has been around any fertile males lately.
If you own a pair of gerbils or more but you’re not sure about the sex of each individual, all you can do is wait patiently. Eventually, you will notice if the population has doubled.
Another way to spot if the female gerbil is pregnant is to monitor her weight. Just like all other animals, gerbils gain weight during pregnancy, and their bellies turn bigger.
Also, a few days before delivering, you will see female gerbils building a nest. They will collect plenty of bedding materials to build a new nest and it’s in this place that they will give birth. It is extremely important to allow the female to do so and not interfere with her actions prior and right after she gave birth — otherwise, it could lead to stressful situations for all the family members.
Mood swings and cravings
The behavior of pregnant gerbils was closely studied by scientists and animal lovers and, although we cannot say anything about cravings, you might notice certain mood swings in your pet. Right before giving birth and soon after, all females are more territorial and might become anxious, nervous, and even bite you if you get too close.
Again, it is highly important not to disturb the female gerbil after she gave birth and not touch the babies in the first days. Otherwise, the mother might lose interest in her babies and abandon them. What you can do is try to offer her more treats, especially fresh fruits and veggies, as well as pellets that contain crude proteins.
How to care for the mother and her newborns
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.
If you change the environment in which she gave birth, including the bedding, the new mother may spend all her time trying to put back everything, neglecting to look after her newborns. Thus, you shouldn’t clean, add or remove any items from the cage except food and water supplies.
Moreover, unlike other rodent breeds where the male must be separated from the cubs immediately, gerbil males will actually look after their children and assist the female in various ways. In fact, removing him from the cage will only cause additional stress and sadness to the new mother, which will eventually affect the babies, as well.
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.
Looking after the babies
As with other rodents and animals, it is important to avoid touching them or handling them until they are at least one week old. Baby gerbils are born without fur and should remain solely in the care of their mother until they develop their first fine line of fur called down, about one week after birth. This will give enough time for the babies to get used to the smell of their mother and vice-versa.
Once the first week is over, you can safely handle the babies and it is recommended to do so as often as possible in order to get them used to humans. However, pay attention as even the youngest babies can be very fast and try to escape.
Therefore, we suggest you handle them carefully by enclosing them in your hand and gently lifting them out of the cage. Always try to put the babies on soft surfaces so that they won’t fall and injure themselves.
Monitoring the cubs
Baby gerbils are usually strong and healthy, but this doesn’t mean they cannot get sick and require the help of a vet. Try to closely monitor their activity in the first month of life and notice any changes in their eating behaviors or health.
Baby gerbils have sensitive stomachs, meaning they can suffer from diarrhea. Respiratory problems shouldn’t be ignored either so, if you notice any concerning signs, you should take the cubs to a vet as soon as possible.
You should also look for signs of malnourishment, right after their birth. Cubs that don’t get enough milk from their mothers will be smaller than the rest of the crew and might also develop bald patches on their backs.
If you notice one of the pups may be malnourished, it is important to cater to its needs right away. Remove the other pups from their mother and allow the small fellow to feed uninterrupted. However, don’t take the other babies away from their mother for too long and handle them with care.
Take them off the cage as gently as possible and place them on a soft and warm surface. At the same time, try not to stress the mother as she might become upset and refuse to feed the other babies once they return to the cage.