Your gerbils need appropriate bedding, as this is material that they will spend much of the day living, sleeping, and tunelling in. Below we’ve listed the options recommended by experts and welfare organizations, along with those options that should be avoided.
Getting the bedding right is an important part of gerbil keeping
One important practical thing to note is that the drier the bedding, the more difficult it is for gerbils to build stable tunnels. Very dry bedding - i.e. shredded cardboard, as opposed to a 'wetter' material such as hay - will cave in, so the trick is to combine materials.
Good Bedding Options
- Hay - This is an excellent choice for gerbils as it is easy for them to dig tunnels through, and is completely natural. Unless the hay has been pre-treated in the store you buy it from, it's recommended to freeze it for 48 hours before use, to kill off any pests and parasites that could be lurking in there. Be sure to fully defrost it before use, though, and let it dry off properly before you put it in the enclosure.
NOTE: Hay isn’t very absorbent, and is best used in combination with other bedding materials, such as carefresh.
- Carefresh or cardboard shavings - This is soft, cozy bedding that is great for tunnelling. It’s digestible, and gerbils can't get tangled up in it.
- Shredded paper - A long as the paper is ink- and dye-free, shredded paper can be a good choice of bedding, and has the benefit of being cheap too. However, owners report that paper causes cage odours to build up quite quickly.
Bedding is really important to gerbils - they'll sleep in it, tunnel in it, and spend a lot of time playing with it
Bad Bedding Options
The following materials can be harmful to gerbils, and so we strongly advise against using them at all.
- Pine and cedar bedding - These are terrible options, as they cause respiratory problems in gerbils due to the fact that they break into tiny pieces and can be breathed in. Young gerbils are particularly susceptible to these problems.
- Newspaper - or magazines - the inks and dyes in these are toxic, and in the process of tunnelling and nesting your gerbils will chew and reshape their bedding material with their paws, poisoning themselves in the process.
- Fluffy bedding - this is made of long, thin fibres that can be harmful if your gerbil eats it. They naturally nibble any bedding material, so you need to ensure that it isn't toxic.
Another potential hazard with this type of material is that your gerbil can become entangled in it. It’s made of individual fibres, and the pets can easily get their feet caught in it, possibly resulting in a broken leg as your stressed pet tries to struggle free.