You may think bar-chewing is simply what small mammals such as gerbils do. But it can actually lead to health issues in the mouth area. Keeping gerbils in a bar-free enclosure is a good idea, and you should also supply them with good things to gnaw at - wooden chews specifically made for gerbils, for example.
The commonest issue resulting from bar-chewing is 'bar rub'. This a condition brought on when a gerbil chews the bars so much that their skin becomes partially rubbed off and their teeth become misaligned. It affects small mammals kept as pets, usually when their cages are too small or when they lack stimulation and environment enrichment.
There's the rub - bar rub may be due to boredom, overgrown teeth, or poor environment
Bar rub can be a serious problem, not just a slightly irritating noise in the background. So it needs treating as soon as it becomes apparent, like any other illness. Below are some solutions to the problem.
Provide more enrichment
Sometimes gerbils can chew bars out of boredom. If they lack the right enrichment in their enclosure, they can chew bars out of boredom as well as the desire to escape the cage and find something entertaining.
Before you buy any extras to try to make your pets’ lives more interesting, it’s good to make sure that they have all the essentials - do they have enough bedding to burrow around in? Do they have a wheel that is large enough for them?
Provide a chew toy
Gerbils very often chew their bars in order to reduce the length of their teeth. These grow constantly throughout their lives, and gerbils living in captivity may no have enough hard food or wooden 'chews' for their teeth to wear down naturally. This means the teeth become overgrown. If this is the problem, the obvious solution for your pet is to chew whatever it can get its paws on - hard metal bars, if needs be!
Gerbils need something to chew on - but it doesn't have to be cage bars
Buying gerbil chews or gnaws from the pet store and placing one in the enclosure ensures that they have access to something safe and pleasantly chewy. The object will be made of a non-splintering, non-toxic wood, and it will be much better for their cheeks and teeth than chewing on metal!
Play with your pets more
Sometimes gerbils chew the bars of their cage simply because they want to get out. Regular handling and play time should help. If they get more time out of the enclosure to run around, then they may feel less inclined to reenact a scene from the gerbil version of The Great Escape.
Buy a bigger cage
A constantly-chewing gerbil may be telling you that its cage is too small. In other words, it's trying to escape into a bigger space. If you’ve tried all of the above and the problem still persists, then you may have to buy a bigger cage.