Gerbils are rodents, mouse-like mammals who are kept as pets in Africa and Asia. Like any other pet, they also require beddings for themselves. However, most people ignore it and form the same beddings which they use for other pets.
An ideal best bedding for gerbils option for a gerbil will be the one which is dust-free, digestible, edible, non-toxic, biodegradable and can be used for tunnelling. Hay and paper-based beddings usually are the best in cases of gerbils.
Moreover, the bedding is to be changed once 3-4 weeks. Now back to the question.
Why gerbils need bedding?
There are following reasons, for why a gerbil needs a bedding option. They are as follows:
- It soaks up the urine and keeps the cage dry.
- It soaks the spilt water/wet food.
- Gerbils have a natural instinct to dig a tunnel, a thick substrate would allow them to dig tunnels.
- Substrate/bedding would also save them from any harm if they fall on it. It will act as a soft landing spot if they climb on the cage and fall.
- It would also keep them cosy and warm in winters and they can sleep comfortably.
As gerbils spend most of their time digging and scampering here and there, a substrate with thick layer would satisfy their natural instinct and would allow them to enjoy their time freely. Depression may strike a gerbil if he is unable to dig or scamper around. As it would become monotonous for him.
Different bedding options
Aspen actually comes from the Aspen tree. It is the shaving of the tree-log. As gerbils love to chew on these shavings, it is one of the best bedding options. However, these shavings need to be cleaned first, as dust may be entrapped in it and it may cause skin and eye irritation to the gerbil. Still, Aspen is one of the most affordable options available and is easily available everywhere.
Hemp is generally preferred over wood shavings as they absorb more water and are generally more biodegradable. However, it is more expensive than aspen.
Hay is also a good bedding option as it is available everywhere. Also, as hay is included in most animals diets, it is biodegradable. It is not edible in case of a gerbil, however, they can chew on them. Also, the smell of hay hides the scent of faeces.
Soil, as simple it may sound, is a good option for bedding as it gives a natural way of tunnelling around. It is also literally free as it is available everywhere. However, the downside to this idea is that gerbils will actually get dirty while playing around in the soil. Also, it is difficult to maintain.
Sand is porous and definitely good for tunnelling. Still, as sand is too fine-grained, it gets thrown everywhere and thus needs to be maintained frequently.
With the help of corn substrates, corn cob is made. It is actually a good alternative to paper and soils substrates. Moreover, corn cob is safe to swallow as well. Therefore it provides no harm to the gerbil. Further, it is better for controlling odours. The only downfall it has is that it is not easily edible and may grow mould if not taken care of.
Good bedding may also consist of a mixture of above components in any ratio. A good amount of soil is to corn ratio can create a bedding layer which is firm and would allow tunnelling and a cosy environment for the gerbil.
Now we have seen what all things are required for bedding purpose. However, as a responsible pet owner, you should also have a piece of knowledge of what not to put up as beddings. So here are some suggestions as to what you should avoid as beddings:
Cat Litter is an excellent absorbent, however, it is not suitable as a substrate because it is not chewable. Moreover, it may cause illness as well to the gerbil. Even when perfumed it may become toxic and can cause irritation to the gerbil as well.
Both of them are mostly inked, and as inks are toxic in nature, it cannot be used as bedding. However, you can use fewer ink papers which will actually provide good bedding. Also, strips of plastics may also get included with the paper, as they are inedible they may cause serious illness to the pets.
Cotton may sound like an excellent substrate, but because of it’s inedibility it is very dangerous to eat cotton and thus it is used in human beddings than pets.
Humans think of collecting substrate from outside, in terms of thrown waste, leaves and other items. However, they may contain dust particles which in fact can affect the condition of the gerbil.
Gerbils actually chew their own beddings and spit them again and therefore the beddings get spoilt. They also chew on these substrates because they want to file down their teeth as well. Most gerbil owners perform cleaning once or twice per week. Gerbils usually go to the toilet in the same place each time. Therefore you’ll have to replace this area of bedding frequently. And while changing you can also try different beddings each time as they would also like to dig tunnels differently.
Moreover, the best bedding for gerbils is quite fascinating creatures. They are mostly like mice and love to be in company. Being mammals and warm-blooded they would require a warm and cosy environment and extra care is needed in winter and rainy season. Moreover, check for different predators around to keep them safe. Check up on them once or twice a week so that the gerbil doesn’t feel depressed and is always energetic. The bedding is to be approximately 8 inches thick so that there is enough space for tunnels.
If the gerbil seems disinterested in the bedding you need to change it. It is basically a trial and error method to find out which combination is the best for the rodent. Also, remember using a non-toxic element for bed.