The Northern Three-Toed Jerboa
The hairy-footed jerboa
Species: dipus sagitta
The Northern three-toed jerboa is native to Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, China and Mongolia. In Russia it can be found along the river Don and in the Caspian region. It lives in deserts, semi deserts and pine forests with sandy soil. In the Altai mountains it can be seen up to 3 000 m above the sea level.
The Northern three-toe jerboa is around 10 – 15 cm long with a tail that measures extra 14-19 cm. An adult jerboa weighs between 50 and 100 g. It has a short body, a big head, a short and wide snout. The ears are relatively short and round. The coat is dense and soft. The color of the upper body, cheeks and thighs varies depending on the terrain and can be light yellow or gray-brown. A wide band stretches from the base of the tail across the hips. The chest and the belly are pure white. The bands around the eyes are gray-white. The tail is yellow and white and has a long bicolor tuft at the end; its main part is black and the tip is snow-white.
Northern three-toe jerboas are very active animals, they run and jump a lot, and it is essential for tem, so they are not the best pets for home keeping.
If you have decided to keep a jerboa, you will have to provide proper care in order for your pet not to lack physical activities, otherwise it can result in hypodinamia and lead to the rodent’s death. They should be kept in spacious pens or cages; don’t forget that they can jump up to 1.5 m high. The cage shouldn’t contain any plastic objects including the tray; your jerboa will easily chew them and escape. You shouldn’t keep several jerboas together: they get very aggressive towards each other. The environment in the pen or in the cage should be as close to their natural terrain as possible. You should put some sand on the bottom or cover it with turf. Jerboas live on soft soil, and hard cage bottom can result in serious feet injuries. Jerboas require sand baths, so you will have to put in their cage a bowl with calcined sand. Apart from bedding, your pet will need a food bowl and a water bottle. Put in the cage small sticks, roots, dried grass, so that the animal will be able to build a nest which it will use as shelter and home. The benefits of the turf bedding is that jerboas will be able to dig it. If jerboas don’t have a chance to dig holes, they will get stressed.
Jerboas are very neat animals. They groom themselves and relieve in the same place. Therefore you will have to clean their cage when it is necessary.
Jerboas cannot be tamed and they don’t get used to people. The Northern three-toed jerboas are nocturnal animals, so contact with people causes serious stress and ruins their lifestyle. Even if the jerboa learns not to be scared of people and can be handled, it will remain a wild animal for the rest of its life. You cannot let them out of the cage, since they will try to escape at the slightest chance and get into furthest and most unexposed corners of your house (behind the cupboard, under the sofa etc). Jerboas are capable of gnawing a half meter long tunnel in a brick wall during one night.
You should try to keep your jerboa’s menu as close to their natural one as possible. Don’t ever give them people’s food, in particular sweet, salty and spicy food, seafood, exotic vegetables and fruit like mango, avocado etc. The staple of jerboa’s diet is the seeds of melon, water melon, sunflower, pumpkin; dandelion’s leaves, apples, carrots, beetroot, potatoes, pears. They also like roots of plants, and during winter time they need thin branches of maple, willow and asp. In order to get balanced menu, your jerboa has to get plant feed: crickets, grasshoppers, mealworm etc. They drink little water, but it has to be present in their cage at all time. All the food and water has to be changed daily.
Jerboas don’t get tame. You cannot let them out of the cage. They can gnaw on anything.
One of the most common diseases that occurs among jerboas in captivity is the edema of hind legs. It occurs due to overcrowded accommodation and insufficient space for running. Jerboas are excellent runners; their movements remind somewhat of kangaroo jumping. Jerboas can develop speed up to 30 km per hour. Edema can lead to wounds and ulcers on the feet. Then the jerboa becomes lethargic and slow.
If your jerboa develops ulcers and wounds on its feet, you will have to apply antiseptic agents, e.g. solcoseryl. The main prevention of edema is proper husbandry and sufficient space for your jerboa. It is best to keep them in a spacious pen.
Other common diseases include respiratory infections which manifest themselves in sneezing, lethargy and low appetite.