Gerbils are popular exotic pets, and it’s not hard to see why. They’re cute, fun to watch, relatively tame, and tiny enough to fit in any home or apartment. Gerbils also happen to be one of the fastest breeding mammals, with female gerbils coming into heat about every 4-6 days. If there’s a male gerbil that your female has bonded with, the chance your female will become pregnant is almost guaranteed.
The question is, how can you tell if a gerbil is pregnant? Several signs are a dead giveaway, but most are difficult to spot. If you have gerbils or plan to and want to know more about how to tell when they’re pregnant (and what to do next), read on. We’ll discuss the six signs to look for, plus some valuable tips and advice.
The 6 Signs a Gerbil Is Pregnant
1. Your Gerbil Is Gaining Weight
Gerbils are tiny creatures typically weighing about 2 ounces (58 grams). When pregnant, a female gerbil will gain between 1 and 3 grams of weight per day, which is a lot for her but is incredibly hard to notice for a human.
Most owners don’t realize that their female gerbil is pregnant until the day they open their cage and discover a nest of little, pink gerbil babies. Still, if you look closely as she approaches giving birth, you might notice your gerbil is getting larger.
2. Your Gerbil Is Eating More Than Usual
As with most mammals, a female gerbil will eat more when pregnant to ensure her body has all the nutrients needed to feed her unborn pups. Most will begin eating more immediately after becoming pregnant, although you might not notice the difference until the last 1 to 2 weeks. That’s when a gerbil will eat noticeably more food than normal.
3. Your Gerbil’s Behavior Has Changed
When a gerbil is pregnant, she often she becomes more aggressive or nervous. For example, your gerbil might usually let you handle her with no problem, but when pregnant, she might nip your fingers or run away rather than coming towards you as usual.
However, this aggressive and anxious behavior usually doesn’t appear until the last week of a gerbil’s pregnancy. The reason for the change in behavior is that your gerbil’s body is flooded with hormones. Also, she will be more defensive and skittish because she wants to protect her unborn babies.
4. Your Female Gerbil Stops Mating
Gerbils tend to mate towards the end of the day and show signs of sexual activity. For example, they will thump their feet, squeak excitedly, and, when ready, the female gerbil will place her body in front of the male.
However, once a female gerbil becomes pregnant, she will stop mating until she gives birth. The typical gerbil pregnancy lasts approximately 4 weeks. If you haven’t seen (or heard) your gerbil mating for over a week, chances are she’s already pregnant.
5. Your Gerbil Built a Nest
Most gerbils don’t build a nest until 1 to 3 days before they deliver their pups. Also, depending on the items you use in your gerbils’ cage, it might be difficult to see the nest. For example, it could be inside a tunnel or partition in your gerbils’ cage. If you’re lucky, your gerbil will build her nest directly on top of whatever substrate you use in her cage, making it much easier to spot.
6. The Shape of Your Gerbil’s Body Has Changed
This sign is easy to see, but it’s most visible during the last 1 to 2 weeks of pregnancy. Generally speaking, gerbils are slender animals shaped like a tube. When a gerbil is pregnant, her body will become rounder and, closer to her due date, will begin to look more like a pear (small on top, round on the bottom).
The 3 Things to Do When Your Gerbil Becomes Pregnant
Once you realize your gerbil is pregnant, there are a few things you should do to ensure she can deliver her pups safely. Some are relatively easy, while others require more work, time, and energy.
1. Remove all Gerbils but the Mating Pair Out of the Cage
If your setup has several gerbils living in the same cage, you will need to remove all of them except the female and the male she is bonded with.It is important to note that you should NOT remove the male from the female’s company, as both parents are involved in raising their young.
2. Give Your Female Gerbil More Water and Better Food
Like most mammals, a gerbil needs more food, water, and specific vitamins and minerals to stay healthy during her pregnancy. She also needs the extra calories to be strong enough to wean her newborn pups.
For these reasons, giving your gerbil more nutritious food and water when she’s pregnant is essential. These fat and protein sources can be added to your pregnant gerbil’s diet:
Remember that any “human food” you feed your gerbil should be plain with no salt, sugar, or other condiments or spices. In addition, please keep in mind that while providing your gerbil with extra nutrition is good, you should not overfeed her. Obese individuals have a more difficult time with pregnancy and delivering healthy pups. These dietary additions should only comprise about 20% of your female gerbil’s daily food intake during pregnancy.
3. Baby-Proof Your Gerbil’s Enclosure
If you’ve noticed that your gerbil is pregnant and know when she will give birth, put more nesting material in her enclosure a few days ahead of time. She will then use those materials to make a nest for her pups. Some of the best materials include uncolored, unscented white tissues, toilet paper, or paper towels.
Soft hay is also a good choice, as is paper pulp. You should avoid synthetic materials since your gerbil might ingest some nesting materials when building her nest. Toys and wheels can be dangerous for gerbil pups and should be removed from your gerbil’s enclosure. This should be done with a thorough cleaning and disinfection of the cage before the pups are born. The cage should not be cleaned and the parents should not be disturbed for the first few days after their pups are born.
Should You Bring Your Pregnant Gerbil to the Veterinarian?
All exotic pets should be examined by a veterinarian at least once per year to ensure they’re in good health. Gerbils are no exception to this rule. If you suspect pregnancy, it’s a good idea to have her examined by your veterinarian. Several conditions or ailments can result in malformed, aborted, stillborn, weak pups, or a small litter. Your vet can ensure that your gerbils (both male and female) are in good health to ensure they have healthy pups.
While it might not be easy, there are several ways to determine if your gerbil is pregnant. Most are more visible towards the end of her pregnancy or just before she gives birth. For example, your gerbil will be chunkier, act more aggressively towards you, and build a nest. It’s worth noting that many people don’t realize their gerbil is pregnant until the day they spot tiny, pink pups in her cage. They are, after all, tiny compared to most pets.
Featured Image Credit: DMegias, Shutterstock
The post How to Tell If a Gerbil Is Pregnant: 6 Vet Reviewed Signs to Look For appeared first on Pet Keen.