Animals / Rodents

The Mongolian Gerbil

Синонимы и названия на других языках

The Mongolian jird; Sandaal (German)


Order: rodentia

Family: muridae

Subfamily: gerbillinae

Genus: meriones

Species: meriones unguiculatus


It is the most widely known species of the gerbil subfamily and the usual species to be kept as pets.  This species originated in Mongolia, where it can be found in deserts and semideserts. In Russia they can be found in Baikal region. They live on sandy soil covered with grass. 

Внешний вид

Gerbils are small rodents that remind of mice. They are a bit bigger though; their bodies are about 12 cm long and the tails are about the same length. Adult gerbils weigh around 50-60 g. They have long furry tails with a little tuft at the end. The main color of wild gerbils is agouti, but a wide range of color morphs have occurred through selective breeding: black, white, lilac, blue, cream, nutmeg and many others. 


Gerbils should be let out of the cage for walks and exercises. Usually they walk in people’s view and don’t clash with other pets. If you have other rodents or birds, the gerbil will most probably be on friendly terms with them. They are calm and friendly animals.

It is highly desirable to keep gerbils in couples and groups. They tend to get on with their specimens and with other animals and rarely get aggressive.

Содержание и уход

Mongolian gerbils are very sociable animals who cannot stand solitude so it is recommended to keep them in pairs and in groups, but it can be dangerous to keep more than 4 specimens in one cage because of fighting for the area. Two gerbils tend to get on even in a smaller cage. If gerbils have been brought up together they rarely fight.

Even compared with other rodents, they gnaw a lot, therefore they need extra strong cage or enclosure. The bottom of the cage has to be covered with a thick layer of straw or hay (15-20 cm), because gerbils love digging. You can put into the cage a bowl with fine sand: gerbils will use it as toilet or they will take sand baths. It is recommended to use fine soft sand without perfume agents. It is best not to use quartz sand.

It would be good to put an exercise wheel about 25-30 in diameter; its surface has to be solid, otherwise the animal can injure itself. Gerbils like climbing but they are not as good at it as rats; if they fall off the height over 20 cm, it can lead to serious injuries and broken bones.

Compared to mice, Mongolian gerbils hardly smell. You can clean the cage once every second or third week and change the sand in the bowl once every third day. Gerbils are very curious, they need a lot of exercise. In a cage they can get overweight, so you will need to let them outside regularly. But you will need to observe them carefully all the time. You should hide all the electrical wires in the room where your gerbil walks. 


In spring gerbils mainly eat grass and in summer their diet consists of seeds and grain. Mongolian gerbils eat most of the plants that grow in their habitat. They tend to stock food. The stock can reach up to 3 kg.

In captivity they eat commercial dry mixes for rodents added with vegetables (cabbage, peas, carrots, bell pepper etc). They can also eat small amounts of fruit, provided they are neither sour nor sweet. Sour fruit can cause indigestion, and sweet fruit can lead to constipation. Sometimes you can add to the menu boiled eggs and dry cat food.

A water bowl can be hung on the cage. A supply of fresh water should always be available. 


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. 

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