Gerbils are sweet little rodents that come in a variety of colors. They are friendly, sociable, and curious little creatures, but they do require care and are a big responsibility. If you have to travel a lot for work for long periods of time and don’t have anyone to look after your gerbil, you probably shouldn’t get one until you’re able to be at home more as they shouldn’t be left alone for longer than three days.
It’s risky to leave your gerbil alone and unsupervised for any amount of time, and although it’s not recommended, sometimes there isn’t a way around it. We’re going to discuss how to best prepare your gerbil’s cage for your absence and what steps you can take if you’re going to be away longer than 3 days. Let’s get into it.
Do Gerbils Suffer from Separation Anxiety?
Gerbils may keep themselves busy with toys, eating, and minding their own business, but they also enjoy human interaction and can be affectionate towards them. As with any pet, you need to build trust with your gerbil and be gentle with them, as they can become frightened and bite.
A gerbil doesn’t need a lot of attention, but you should spend time with them every day. Gerbils don’t typically experience separation anxiety from their owners and are more likely to lose interest in them if there is little interaction. Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about your gerbil pining over you if you go away on vacation for a few days.
On the other hand, gerbils are highly social and value being with other gerbils. A gerbil on its own will feel lonely because they naturally live in groups in the wild. Gerbils view their owners differently from other gerbils, and although they may not experience separation anxiety if you leave for a few days, they may become depressed or anxious if they’re separated from a gerbil they’ve bonded with.
How To Prepare for Your Absence
If you’ve got a short trip lined up and no one to look after your gerbil, consider these few things to ensure that your gerbil will still be well-fed, have enough water, and remain safe. It’s not recommended to leave your gerbil alone at home, but they should be fine for a few days.
Do A Test Run
If you’re going to be away for 3 days, leave out enough food and water for 3 days while you’re still at home to ensure that it lasts. By doing a test run, you will be there if anything goes wrong and can make improvements where needed for the time you will be away.
Leave Out More Food and Water
Your gerbil will need to remain well-fed and hydrated while you’re away. A hungry and dehydrated gerbil will become stressed and anxious—and if left for too long, death is a possibility. You must leave out enough food in their bowl for the days you’re away. If you have more than one gerbil, you need to leave out a tablespoon of food for each one for each day you’re away. Gerbils won’t overeat, so you don’t need to worry about them eating all their food on the first day.
Although gerbils don’t drink a lot of water, they must have access to it at all times. If you’re away, make sure that you leave more than one water dispenser up in case one suddenly stops working due to a blockage.
If you’re not there to play with your gerbil, add some toys, an exercise wheel, and a block of wood to chew on. It’ll keep them stimulated mentally and physically. A bored gerbil will try to escape and may become destructive. If your gerbil is chewing on their cage’s bars, it’s a sign that they’re bored.
Clean Their Environment
It’s a good idea to clean your gerbil’s enclosure before you leave on your trip. Clean the water dispenser, bowls, wheel, and toys, and replace their bedding. This will prevent the build-up of bacteria, and you won’t have to worry about arriving back from your trip to a smelly home.
Set The Right Temperature
Thankfully, your gerbil can live comfortably at room temperature, but you never know how conditions may change once you’re away. To prevent your gerbil from overheating or becoming too cold, set your thermostat to an ideal, constant temperature of between 68 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Use A Pet Camera
For peace of mind, place a pet camera in front of your gerbil’s cage for a continuous live feed to your phone. This will allow you to check in on your gerbil occasionally so you can be sure that they’re happy and safe while you’re away.
Make Sure They Can’t Escape
The last thing you want is to arrive home to an empty cage. Before leaving for your trip, have a look over their enclosure to ensure there are no gaps that your gerbil can escape out of. Also, test the lid and make sure it’s secure.
Risks Involved with Leaving Your Gerbil Home Alone
Your gerbil will most likely be okay on their own, but there is always the possibility that something may go wrong. It’s important to identify these risks, as knowing what could go wrong allows you to put measures in place to prevent them.
Below are the risks:
What To Do If You Don’t Know When You’ll Be Back
Sometimes trips away are unplanned due to emergencies. When your friends, family, or work needs you to attend to something quickly, you may not be in the space of mind or have the time to adequately prepare your gerbil’s cage. You may also not know how long you’ll be away.
In times like these, you cannot leave your gerbil to live on their own. They could run out of water or food before you’re able to get back, and you’ll be putting their lives at risk. Below are a few options you could choose from to ensure your gerbil receives all the care they need while you’re away:
Ask a Friend to Pet Sit
Gerbils are small creatures that aren’t incredibly demanding. Due to this, they’re pretty easy to care for, and most people would be happy to help you out while you’re out of town. You could ask a friend to stay at your home to keep an eye on your gerbil, or you could drop off your gerbil along with their cage at your friend’s house.
Make sure to pack everything your gerbil will need, such as food and extra bedding, so that your friend can top up their food bowls and replace their bedding when necessary.
Find a Pet Sitter
If all your friends are unavailable or out of town, get onto a pet-sitting website and find an experienced pet sitter who has looked after gerbils before. These websites will provide you with the pet sitter’s reviews to help you in your decision. Otherwise, you could contact a pet sitter that your friend has used and has recommended.
You can choose to have the pet sitter stay in your home to look after your gerbil while you’re away or to come past your house daily to play with and feed your gerbil.
Another option to consider is a pet boarding service. Look for one that accepts small animals, such as gerbils. Boarding services can be a great option because your gerbil will be cared for by people with a lot of experience, you won’t have to have a stranger in your home, your gerbil will receive constant care, and the boarding service will likely send you updates while you’re away.
Bring Them With You
If you have the option, take your gerbil with you on your trip. You’ll have to check with the accommodation you’ve booked if they allow small animals, as well as your mode of transportation. Driving to the destination in your own car is the easiest option when traveling with your gerbil because you won’t have to get approval, pay extra, or worry about other people.
A gerbil should never be left home alone for an extended amount of time because if something were to go wrong, no one would be there to help them. However, sometimes a trip is unplanned or out of our control. Leaving your gerbil home alone with extra food and water should be fine for 3 days to a week. However, longer trips will require you to get a pet sitter, use a boarding service, or take your gerbil along with you.
Featured Image Credit: borisenkoket, Shutterstock