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How Long Can Gerbils Go Without Food and Water? The Interesting Answer!


Feb 28, 2023
gerbil mice in humans hand


gerbil mice in humans hand

If you have a pet gerbil, it’s essential to learn everything about its nature, health, maintenance, and diet. One of the things that you need to learn is how long your beloved pet can last without food and water. A situation may occur where you need to leave the house for a few hours or visit another city for a day or two. Also, your gerbil might not seem hungry for a while, leaving you worried about its health.

Regardless of the reason, knowing how long gerbils can go without food and water will help you take better care of your pet and notice strange behaviors if they occur. In extreme situations, gerbils can last up to 2 days without food and 24 hours without water,1 but it would be best to avoid this situation if possible.

Read on to learn more about a healthy gerbil diet, their eating and drinking frequency, how long they can last without any food and water, and the problems that may cause a lack of thirst or appetite in gerbils.


A Healthy Gerbil Diet

Gerbils are omnivores,2 so they mainly feed on seeds, grasses, fruits, veggies, and insects. When you have a pet gerbil, you must ensure that it gets a well-balanced, natural diet with all the nutrients, minerals, and vitamins that they need.

It’s best to provide your gerbil with various foods throughout the day, including commercial food (pellet mixes) and small amounts of fruits and vegetables. Commercial pellet mixes should be the primary food source for your gerbil;3 the mixture should contain about 14% of protein. Otherwise, you may need to provide insects to your gerbil to ensure that its protein intake is high enough.

brown and white gerbil eating a pipe
Image Credit: DMegias, Shutterstock

Your gerbil should also consume small amounts of fruits and vegetables every day. Gerbils are not picky, and they love eating all kinds of veggies and fruits, including:

  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Peas
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Melon
  • Kale
  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Melon
  • Oranges
  • Strawberries

Another important thing in a healthy gerbil diet is something to gnaw on and chew. Their teeth are constantly growing, so they need to gnaw something to wear them down.

The best things to give your gerbil to chew include:

  • Banana peels
  • Coconut shells
  • Hay cubes
  • Untreated softwood
  • Soft cardboard

To live a healthy life, gerbils should have constant access to fresh drinking water, like a bottle with a metal sipper tube. You should always ensure that the water is fresh and that the bottle and nozzle are clean to prevent bacteria build-up.

How Frequently Do Gerbils Eat?

Each gerbil is unique, and there’s no one-fits-all schedule for how frequently they eat. That said, most of the time, gerbils should have one meal per day, with a few treats in between. They also need a constant supply of something to chew on, such as a banana peel.

It’s best to provide one meal daily and see how your gerbil acts. If still hungry, your gerbil will likely dig into the substrate, searching for food. This behavior is a clear sign that you need to provide more food.

How Much Water Do They Need Through the Day?

Pet gerbils need a constant supply to a source of fresh drinking water. Without enough water, your gerbil could experience multiple problems, such as weight loss, infertility, and even death.

That said, gerbils are small animals and don’t need that much water; 1–2 ounces of water is enough to keep them going through the day.

However, that doesn’t mean you should provide them with just a small amount of water or change their water every week instead of every day. Change the water inside the bottle daily, and clean the nozzle to keep your pet healthy.

hamster drinking water in a cage
Image Credit: Sukpaiboonwat, Shutterstock

How Long Can Gerbils Go Without Food and Water?

For a gerbil to be healthy and develop properly, it needs to eat and drink water every day. However, in extreme situations, gerbils can last up to 2 days without food and 24 hours without water. If that amount of time passes, your gerbil will likely display an array of problems, with the biggest issue being dehydration and starvation.

Dehydration in Gerbils

Dehydration occurs after your gerbil doesn’t drink water for longer than 24 hours. Typically, when dehydrated, the gerbil will express thirst by trying to lick the walls and dig under the water bottle.

If dehydration happens, your gerbil will slowly start to exhibit various signs:

  • Its skin will be less full.
  • Its eyes will sink in or close.
  • It might experience lethargy.
  • Its skin might be cool to the touch.
black and grey hamster lying on a tissue
Image Credit: Dr David Sing, Shutterstock


What Can Cause Lack of Appetite and Thirst in Gerbils?

If you’re providing enough food and water to your gerbil, but it hasn’t eaten or drank water in a while, it could be a sign that something is wrong.

Multiple health issues can lead to a lack of appetite or thirst, including:

  • Overgrown teeth
  • Lead poisoning
  • Tyzzer’s disease
  • Kidney disease

Since these issues could potentially cause more problems and even be deadly, it’s essential to learn how to recognize and identify them in your gerbil.

vet examines the teeth of the hamster
Image Credit: Irishasel, Shutterstock

Overgrown Teeth

Gerbils have teeth that are constantly growing, which is why they require something to chew or gnaw every day. If your gerbil doesn’t chew enough throughout the day, it could develop serious dental issues and have overgrown teeth, leading to a lack of appetite.

Therefore, always provide something that your gerbil can chew on to ensure that its teeth will remain in good shape.

Lead Poisoning

When providing something for your gerbil to chew and gnaw on, you need to ensure that you’re providing safe things that are lead free. Otherwise, you are putting your gerbil at risk of lead poisoning, which also causes loss of appetite.

Common signs of lead poisoning include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Dehydration
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Coordination loss
  • Death

Since lead poisoning could quickly result in death, you should immediately take your gerbil to the vet if you notice any of these signs.

Image Credit: Pixel Shot, Shutterstock

Tyzzer’s Disease

Tyzzer’s disease is a bacterial disease and one of the most common that affects gerbils. Your gerbil could easily get sick by consuming water or food infected by the bacteria that lead to Tyzzer’s disease.

If your gerbil is suffering from Tyzzer’s disease, it will showcase an array of signs, such as:

  • Appetite loss
  • Depression
  • Rough coat
  • Hunched posture
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Abdominal pain

This is a serious health problem that you shouldn’t take lightly; if you notice any of its signs, reach out to your vet to get a diagnosis and proper treatment.

divider-mouseFinal Thoughts

A gerbil can last up to 2 days without food and around 24 hours without water. However, leaving your gerbil hungry or thirsty for such a long period could cause extreme health problems later.

Always provide your gerbil with enough food and a fresh water supply to keep it in its best shape. If you’re not home, have someone feed your gerbil and provide it with fresh water.

Featured Image Credit: Milada Vigerova, Pixabay

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