A “special” food for gerbils is unnecessary. Their diet is somewhat more restricted than that of the hamster but nevertheless provides plenty of variety. A simple guide is to give ample food but not sufficient for the food to go to waste. Food which has been fouled by urine or has deteriorated with age can be a major cause of sickness. If the general advice given for hamsters is followed, there should be no feeding difficulties. One meal a day is adequate but no gerbil objects to tit-bits now and again.
The main diet should consist of seeds and grains of most sorts : mixed bird seed, oats, wheat and so on. Made-up diets, such as hamster food, rabbit pellets or dog meal are beneficial, especially if one does not wish to bother with individual items. Sunflower seeds are specially nutritious but are best given sparingly as a special treat. Currants and sultanas are usually eagerly accepted. Fresh fruit in the form of small slices of apple or pear and pieces of carrot should be offered. Gerbils appear to be particularly fond of a proprietary breakfast cereal known as “Alpen”. All of the above should be given in small containers, such as shallow tin lids and the like. This avoids contact with the sawdust—at least for a time because the gerbil cannot resist raking over the food in a search for tasty morsels!
Water should always be provided in the form of a standard water bottle, affixed to the cage, with the drinking spout within easy reach. Gerbils have a smaller water requirement than many other rodents, so do not worry if little is consumed. Do not neglect the bottle on this account, however. Always keep the bottle well-filled and regularly cleaned.
Going on holiday can be a trying time for most pets. Like hamsters, gerbils can be left for a week or so without attention, provided they do not run out of food and water. The provision of food is rarely a problem because most of it is dry and, so long as it remains uncontaminated, will remain wholesome. It is wise to count the number of days which elapse before the water bottle requires a refill. If this is less than the time you will be away, buy another bottle and fix this to the cage temporarily. It is much better of course, to ask a friendly neighbour or relation to call in and look at the gerbils, particularly if you are to be away for longer than a week.