Gerbil Diet: What Foods Can They Eat?

An illustration of a happy gerbil surrounded by a variety of gerbil-safe foods, including vegetables, fruits, and grains, in a whimsical, colorful style.

Gerbil Diet: What Foods Can They Eat?

Gerbils are small, curious rodents that make delightful pets for many animal lovers. They have specific dietary needs that must be met to ensure they lead a healthy and joyous life. Understanding what foods are best for your gerbil and which ones to avoid is paramount for their well-being. This article will explore the ideal diet for gerbils, focusing on what foods they can safely consume.

Staple Diet

The staple of a gerbil’s diet should be a high-quality, balanced gerbil food mix, which typically includes seeds, grains, pellets, and dried vegetables. It’s vital to choose a mix designed specially to meet the nutritional needs of gerbils, as it ensures they receive the right balance of proteins, fats, and fibers necessary for their health. Feeding them with a well-balanced primary diet helps in preventing obesity and nutritional deficiencies.

Safe Fresh Foods

Aside from their staple diet, gerbils can also enjoy a variety of fresh foods as treats. Some safe and healthy options include:

  • Vegetables: Carrots, peas, broccoli, and leafy greens like spinach are excellent choices. These should be given in moderation due to their water content, which can lead to diarrhea if overfed.
  • Fruits: Apples (without seeds), bananas, and berries can be given sparingly. Fruits are high in sugar and should be considered a treat rather than a regular part of their diet.

Always introduce new fresh foods slowly to your gerbil’s diet to monitor for any adverse reactions, such as diarrhea or allergies, and ensure the food is washed and free from pesticides.

Grains and Nuts

Small amounts of grains such as oats, barley, and brown rice can be offered to gerbils, as well as nuts like almonds and walnuts. These should be unsalted and not treated with any additives or flavorings. Nuts are high in fats and should be given sparingly, as a special treat.


Gerbils need a source of protein in their diet, which can be provided through commercial gerbil food mixes. For additional protein, boiled eggs, mealworms, and small pieces of cooked chicken (without spices or sauces) can be offered occasionally. These should be given in moderation due to their high protein and fat content.


Access to clean, fresh water at all times is crucial for gerbils. A water bottle with a sipper tube is the best way to provide water, as it keeps the water clean and prevents spillage. The water bottle should be checked daily to ensure it’s working correctly and doesn’t leak, and the water should be changed regularly to keep it fresh.

Foods to Avoid

Some foods are toxic or harmful to gerbils and should always be avoided. These include:

  • Chocolate and caffeinated products
  • Onions and garlic
  • Citrus fruits
  • Raw potatoes
  • Any sugary or salty snacks intended for humans

Ensuring your gerbil avoids these foods will help prevent health issues and ensure a healthy diet.

FAQs about Gerbil Diet

How often should I feed my gerbil fresh foods?

Fresh foods should be seen as a supplement to your gerbil’s main diet, provided in small amounts, and should not constitute more than 10% of their total diet. It’s best to offer fresh foods every 2-3 days to avoid digestive issues and ensure your gerbil’s main diet remains the focus.

Can gerbils eat dairy products?

Gerbils are lactose intolerant, meaning they can’t digest dairy products properly. Feeding them dairy can lead to digestive upset. Therefore, it’s best to avoid all types of dairy foods, including milk, cheese, and yogurt.

Is it safe to feed gerbils foods meant for other pets, like hamsters or rabbits?

While some foods are formulated for small animals in general, it’s important to use food specifically designed for gerbils where possible. Foods for other small animals might not meet the specific nutritional needs of gerbils and can lead to health issues over time. Always check the ingredients and nutritional information to ensure they are appropriate for gerbils.

Can gerbils eat insects?

Yes, gerbils can eat insects, and in fact, insects such as mealworms can be a great source of protein for them. However, these should be provided sparingly as part of a balanced diet. It’s also important to source insects from a reputable supplier to avoid the risk of parasites or diseases.

How can I ensure my gerbil’s diet is balanced?

To ensure your gerbil’s diet is balanced, focus on providing a high-quality gerbil food mix as the base of their diet. Supplement this with occasional fresh vegetables and fruits, a small number of grains and nuts, and some protein sources like cooked chicken or mealworms. Avoid overfeeding fresh foods and treats to prevent nutritional imbalances.

What signs should I look for if my gerbil’s diet is not balanced?

If a gerbil’s diet is not balanced, you might notice signs such as weight gain or loss, lethargy, fur loss, or digestive issues like diarrhea or constipation. If your gerbil shows any of these symptoms, it may indicate a dietary issue, and you should consult a veterinarian.

How much food should I feed my gerbil each day?

The amount of food necessary for a gerbil depends on its size, age, and activity level, but generally, around 5-10 grams of dry food per day is recommended. Monitor your gerbil’s food intake and adjust as needed to prevent overfeeding or underfeeding. Always ensure there is fresh water available.

Can gerbils eat peanut butter?

While gerbils may enjoy the taste of peanut butter, it’s sticky and can be difficult for them to digest properly. It can also stick to their cheeks and cause discomfort or even choking. If you choose to give peanut butter, it should be in very small amounts and infrequently. A safer alternative is to offer unsalted peanuts as an occasional treat.

How do I introduce new foods to my gerbil’s diet?

When introducing new foods to your gerbil’s diet, it’s important to do so gradually. Start by offering a very small amount of the new food and observe your gerbil for any signs of digestive upset or allergies over the following 24-48 hours. If there are no adverse reactions, you can gradually increase the amount. Always make sure new foods are washed and safe for gerbil consumption.

Can gerbils have a completely vegetarian diet?

While gerbils can thrive on a diet primarily consisting of grains, seeds, vegetables, and fruits, they also require some animal protein to meet all their nutritional needs. Hence, a completely vegetarian diet might not provide all the necessary nutrients for your gerbil. Including small amounts of animal protein, like boiled eggs or mealworms, will ensure a balanced diet.

Understanding and adhering to the dietary needs of your gerbil is key to providing a foundation for a healthy and happy life. By offering a variety of approved foods in moderation and avoiding harmful ones, you can enjoy the vibrant company of your furry friend for years to come.


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