Gerbils are lively little pets that need to be physically and intellectually stimulated in order to keep at optimum health – and not to develop bad habits that will drive you crazy. Toys help satisfy the gerbil’s need to explore and basically goof about while also burning up calories to keep fit. But not all toys listed as being for gerbils in a pet store are good for gerbils.
All toys will be nibbled upon by the gerbil. They are like babies in that they stick anything in their mouths. Right away, you should eliminate toys of Styrofoam or light plastic because they will be destroyed and the plastic may not pass through the gerbil’s digestive system. Ignore anything with bells, because the gerbil will eat it.
Although there are some wooden toys made specifically for small pets, usually small wooden ladders, platforms, tunnels or toys made with non-toxic materials are in the pet bird department. Wooden children’s blocks may be suitable if you know the paint is non-toxic. If unsure, do not put it in with the gerbils.
Gerbils sometimes enjoy carrying, hiding and chewing up small wooden sticks made for small animals. Although these are in different colors, they haven’t been painted and are safe for gerbils.
If you have access to small branches from trees that have not been sprayed with chemicals, these can work as both ladders and chew toys. The safest tree types are apple, ash, willow, maple and manzanita.
Check the toys regularly. If they begin to stink of urine or become heavily splintered, throw them away.
Gerbils do like wheels, although some people will only place the wheel in the cage for a couple of hours in the morning and at dusk so the gerbil when the gerbil is most active. Do not get a plastic wheel, because it will soon be destroyed. Get a free-standing wheel with a solid floor instead of bars because a sold floor is safer for the gerbil’s tiny feet. The wheel needs to be large enough so the gerbil does not have to arch its back in order to use it. This position can hurt the gerbil’s spine. A wheel about nine inches (or nearly 23 centimetres) across should be good.
Gerbils love tunnelling, perching and hiding. All three can be had with the cardboard rolls from paper towels or toilet paper. Push the rolls deep into the bedding in order to make an instant tunnel. Keep one on top of the bedding to see how the gerbils react. Some will try and run on the top as it rolls along. Not all gerbils will do this, though.
According to “Gerbils” by Sue Fox (TFH Publications; 2007) cardboard egg crates also make nice hidey-holes. Shoe boxes or other little cardboard boxes with an archway cut out of one side also makes a convenient den. So does a clean paper bag without a lot of decorative ink on it. You must be sure to remove or replace these toys once they get urinated on or substantially nibbled.
“Gerbils.” Sue Fox. TFH Publications; 2007.
“Gerbil Care Handbook.” American Gerbil Society. http://agsgerbils.org/Learn/Gerbil_Care_Handbook/index.php
Pet Education. “Safe Gerbil Toys: Providing Mental and Physical Exercise for Your Gerbil.” http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=18+1799&aid=1624