Cam has kept gerbils for several years and likes to supplement her pets' diets with the occasional healthy treat.
Like most rodents, gerbils will eat almost anything we consider food, but what's healthy for our pets is another story entirely. Gerbils' diets should consist primarily of formulated gerbil mixes and pellets. Some common types of food that gerbil-keepers use as healthy treats for their pets include:
Within these categories, there are many specific foods that are healthy for gerbils. There are, however, some foods that fall into these categories that should be avoided at all costs, as they may be harmful to your gerbils' health. Some "good" and "bad" foods from each of these categories are listed below.
1. What Nuts Can Gerbils Eat?
Nuts are yummy to gerbils, but you must be careful when choosing what kinds you give them. While nuts are a safe food overall, the types of nuts that humans can eat and the types of nuts that gerbils can eat are different.
Healthy Nuts That Gerbils Love
- Macadamia Nuts
- Brazil Nuts
The above nuts are all very healthy in small amounts for gerbils. However, many packaged nuts sold in regular food stores are prepared in ways that make them unhealthy for gerbils.
Nuts That Gerbils Should Not Eat
- Salted nuts
- Cooked nuts
- Flavored nuts
Nuts that are cooked, salted, or flavored are often toxic and sometimes deadly to gerbils. Cooked nuts are the least offending of the above, but they are still unhealthy for pet gerbils. Salted is the next worst on the list. Flavored nuts take the lead as the worst type of nut to give to a gerbil.
2. What Seeds Can Gerbils Eat?
Seeds are another healthy food that gerbils enjoy. Seeds with soft shells can be given to gerbils with their shells still intact. Gerbils will chew right through them and wear down their constantly-growing teeth in the process, much as they would when consuming seeds in their natural environment.
Healthy Seeds That Gerbils Love
- Sunflower (in moderation—sunflower seeds are very fatty)
- Seeds of grasses, bulbs, and herbs
The above seeds are all very healthy for gerbils. Like nuts, however, many packaged seeds sold in stores are prepared in ways that make them unhealthy for gerbils.
Seeds That Gerbils Should Not Eat
- Salted seeds
- Flavored seeds
- Cooked seeds
- Fruit seeds (many fruit seeds can be poisonous to gerbils)
When feeding your gerbils seeds or nuts from the store, it's always a good idea to read the packaging and ingredient list to make sure that the nuts are plain, raw, and free from cooking, salt, and flavoring.
3. What Fruits Can Gerbils Eat?
Like humans, gerbils find most fruits delicious. Due to their sugar content, however, fruits should be given to pet gerbils only occasionally and in small amounts.
Healthy Fruits That Gerbils Love
All of the above make great treats. Gerbils have a sweet tooth, and fruits can help them keep their fur coat clean and shiny. Fruits may also keep their minds and bodies active.
Fruits That Gerbils Should Not Eat
- Avocados (these can cause poisoning and death in gerbils)
- Grapes (some sources report that grapes may be poisonous to rodents)
- Apple seeds (apples are fine but their seeds contain cyanide and are poisonous to gerbils)
- Other fruit seeds (many other fruit seeds also contain cyanide, and almost all are very difficult to digest)
4. What Vegetables Can Gerbils Eat?
Vegetables provide important vitamins and minerals to humans, and they can benefit gerbils in the same way.
Healthy Vegetables That Gerbils Love
- Bell Pepper
- Green Bean
- Corn (in small amounts)
- Cabbage (in moderation, the high water content can act as a laxative)
- Lettuce (in moderation, the high water content can act as a laxative)
The above are all very healthy for gerbils in small amounts. In addition to providing important vitamins and nutrients, vegetables can help keep gerbils' teeth clean and free from rot and disease.
Vegetables That Gerbils Should Not Eat
- Rhubarb (some sources report that rhubarb can be poisonous to rodents)
- Garlic and onion (these can cause blood abnormalities in some rodents)
- Raw potato
Fruits and vegetables need to be washed to remove any harmful substances or pesticides from their surfaces. Wash produce in warm, clean water, then scrub to remove any dirt.
Nuts, seeds, and store-bought food mixtures should be put in the freezer for at least 5 hours (ideally overnight) before they are fed to your gerbil. These can sometimes contain small insects or insect eggs. Putting the food in the freezer kills any bugs or eggs that may or may not be there. If your gerbils get in contact with certain bugs, they may experience discomfort, disease, and in extreme cases, even death. Please be cautious and freeze your food.
Store-Bought Gerbil Foods
Store-bought mixes are fantastic foods for gerbils. These should comprise the majority of your pet's diet. Ideally, look for gerbil food mixes that contain a large amount and variety of nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Silvia on August 07, 2020:
I have 4 gerbils (14) weeks old. They will not eat Fruit or veg.is this ok. Thank you
meme on February 27, 2020:
Lucy on February 13, 2020:
Evelyn on September 05, 2018:
Its really helpful and easy set out. One question... Why do the food makers let bugs come into there produce?
Thanks so much
Rena from Ohio, USA on February 04, 2017:
I began feeding my gerbil some pumpkin seeds. They were roasted but not salted. My gerbil was normally friendly and I was able to hold her every day and pet her. Now, IF I can catch her, she is terrified, fights like a banshee to get away and this includes biting me. I can no longer hold her at all. It doesn't seem logical that this behavior is related to the diet, but the two happened near the same time. Does anyone know why my gerbil went psycho on me?
Archieb3 on June 14, 2012:
Thank you so much for this information! having Gerbils when I was twelve and having them now in my 50's is a challenge. However I am enjoying it, a gift for my nephews we started with 2 males 2 females and the a total of 15! The boy's lost interest so uncle has the last four!
Again I will refer to this site in the future!
kiren on May 01, 2012:
my 9 yr old, micah, just got 2 gerbils today from the neighbor and it was very nice 2 be able 2 come on this website and find out what it eats until we can get to a pet store. thank you.
Ally on April 20, 2012:
I am so excited to get a gerbil and this web site really helped me prepare! TTTHHHAAANNNKKK YYYOOOUUU SSSSOOOOO MMMUUUUUCCCCHHHHHHH!!
Vanessa on April 07, 2012:
Thank you so much! I just got a new black gerbil and I wanted to give him a variety of things. Thank you so much for your hard work on putting up this website. :)
nina on January 31, 2012:
i have 2 very VERY VVVEEEEAAAARRRRYYYY FAT gerbils and there like my baby boys even though im just 9 but now they are looking in shape but i also heard that you shouldn't put just sunflower seeds for your gerbils but thanks so much!!!!!Thanks HubPages!!!!!
Aspen on January 24, 2012:
Wow thanks I going to use a lot of this info
Emily on June 15, 2009:
Thank you so much!! I needed to find this because I am getting two new gerbils and I need to be prepared! Thanks HubPages!!