The Midday Gerbil
Species: meriones meridianus
The midday gerbil is native to sandy deserts of Afghanistan, China, Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Mongolia and Russia.
The midday gerbil can be found in many areas of central and eastern Asia. Its range extends from the Caspian sea through Kazakhstan and southern Russia to northern China and southern Mongolia. Its southern limit is northeastern Iran and northern Afghanistan. Its typical habitat is sandy deserts, plains and sandy areas in hilly deserts with scarce vegetation.
The midday gerbil reaches 9 - 14 cm and their tails measure to further 10-12 cm. Adult gerbils weigh around 30-60 g. The upper part of the gerbil’s body is pale yellowish-grey or darker brown. The belly is white with a light brown strip across the chest. The tail is brown above and slightly paler below. The claws are white.
Midday gerbils are nocturnal animals so it is not clear where the species’ name comes from. In autumn they are active all day long in order to stock food for winter.
They are social animals and always live in colonies. They build complex structures of holes connected with tunnels. They try to stay within the reach of their holes.
Unlike other species of gerbils, midday gerbils are more nervous and skittish. In order not to scare your pet, approach it without abrupt movements or loud noises. You should put a house or a hiding place in the cage so that they can hide when they feel threatened.
Gerbils are extremely active, and you have to remember this if you want to keep one at home. They need spacious cages with a thick layer of hay or straw (15-20 cm) at the bottom so that your rodent can dig. If you have a latticed cage, it is best to put a tray under it because gerbils will accidentally throw out the bedding. It is recommended to put in the cage a bowl with sand – your pet can use it as toilet or for sand baths.
Don’t buy for your gerbil a multi level cage and don’t install high shelves: they are very fragile and can injure themselves badly if they fall. You can put an exercise wheel in the cage for the gerbil to get out energy. But it is not enough: you should let it out of the cage under careful observation.
The diet of the midday gerbil mainly consists of seeds and fruit with a small amount of insects and vegetables. Gerbils tend to store food for the winter, around 300-500 g, which they eat in winter when the weather gets particularly harsh.
In captivity gerbils need healthy and varied diet that contains all the nutrients and minerals they need. This may be a compound pelleted ration or a mixture of different seeds; commercial rations are formulated to meet their biological needs. Fruit (pear, melon, apple, oranges) and vegetables (cucumber, carrot, pumpkin and fennel) can be used to supplement your gerbils ration. Do not give your pets’ grapes or rhubarb as these are poisonous to rodents.
Fresh clean drinking water should be constantly available, in a drinking bottle with a metal sipper tube. Check the water bottle daily for leaks and/or blockages.
On average gerbils live for 3-4 years. It is strongly not recommended to keep them alone. They cannot be handled.
Gerbils have the same illnesses as people, therefore they are carefully observed in the laboratories and by doctors. Teeth problems, inner ear disorders and tumors often occur.