With bright eyes gleaming, fur shining and whiskers twitching, gerbils bring a smile to the face of every observer. The fun only starts there, for gerbils are among the friendliest and easiest-to-care-for small animal pets. While every “pocket pet” has its charms, gerbils have a lot to offer the small animal lover. By the end of this article, see if you too decide that you simply “gotta get a gerbil!”
All pet gerbils available in the United States today are members of the species Meriones unguiculatus, or “clawed warrior.” The reference to claws won’t surprise anyone who has seen an adorable gerbil standing up in its classic prairie-dog style, looking around with its tiny clawed paws tucked up into its chest. But you might be puzzled about how this gentle creature earned the name warrior. It refers to gerbils’ strong territorial instincts, which are vividly on display among wild gerbils in their native Mongolia.
In the wild, gerbils live in nuclear families — a mother, a father and several generations of young (called pups) that share a large, multi-entrance burrow. Strangers are promptly chased out of a territory by the dominant male.
For the full article, pick up the 2012 issue of Critters USA or click here to buy the issue.