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Gerbil (Meriones unguiculatus)


Originating from the arid areas of Africa, India and Asia, they are also called "desert rats" by virtue of their adaptations to live in these environments, through urine concentration (to preserve the body's water reserves) and elongated feet to enable them to run on sandy soils. In nature there are several species; the Mongolian gerbil (Meriones unguiculatus) is the most widespread as a pet animal, given its diurnal habits and their extreme agility; being able to dig and climb.

Gerbils are social and strongly territorial animals. In the wild they live in large colonies within which there is a strict social hierarchy. For this reason, there will usually be no problem when bringing same-sex individuals together in captivity. In the event that it is decided to form a breeding pair, it must be taken into account that the gerbils are monogamous and that it will not be necessary to separate the male from the female after she has given birth, as the males actively participate in the raising of the young.

For their enclosure, a modular structure with the units connected by pipes, could be recommended. The litter must be abundant to allow them to be able to "dig" tunnels and underground chambers. In addition, pipes, boxes, hay, earthenware pots and twigs to gnaw on can be made available to them. The "gerbillarium" must not be placed in direct sunlight or near heat sources, to avoid thermal stress.

Coming from desert areas, for proper maintenance of their fur, it is essential that gerbils are able to carry out a sand bath (the specific one for chinchillas is fine): this will play an important role in the health of the coat and in thermoregulation. The gerbils are able to withstand a large temperature range, but in captivity the ideal temperature is around 20 ° -22 ° C. Excessive moisture rates can cause fur matting, exacerbated grooming and dermatitis.

The diet of gerbils in nature is closely related to the seasons and essentially consists of leaves, seeds and insects. Commercial foods, especially pellets, can be given in combination with vegetables and fresh fruit. The food can be hidden in various points around the cage to stimulate foraging behaviour and to keep the animals active. The average daily food consumption for an adult is around 4-10 g. Water must always be present.

Problems that could be encountered in the management of these mammals are: injuries to the tail due to incorrect handling; shaggy coat associated with malnutrition, excess moisture, dehydration, reduced ventilation and stress; gastric and intestinal constipation; dermatitis in the nostrils; obesity associated with an inappropriate diet, and in particular with the excessive administration of oilseeds (sunflower seeds).

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