One of the main reasons gerbils are recommended as pet rodents is because they don’t smell, but still, it’s a rodent that lives in a cage where it urinates, defecates, and keeps food so do gerbils smell or no? this is the question we’ll be answering in this article along with many others.
Do gerbils smell? NO is the answer, gerbils do not smell if you keep their gerbilarium clean, change their bedding, and give them a sand bath regularly.
Gerbils once known as desert rats don’t urinate very often, a natural way to preserve the water that is hard to find in their natural desert habitat, so their cages don’t get filthy and smelly as fast as some of the other rodents and their excrement is very small dry and hard it barely produces any smell.
Table of Contents
Do gerbils smell bad?
All rodents have a unique smell to them that is strong and can become very annoying if they’re not taken care of regularly but gerbils make the exception they have the same smell but it’s unnoticeable especially if the gerbil is bathing every week.
In normal conditions, these nice little rodents barely make any smell and are great for kids because they can keep them in their room without the fear of any bad smells.
However, if not taken care of they could smell bad but mostly not the gerbil itself but rather the cage in which they urinate and eat without proper cleaning.
Do male gerbils smell?
Some animals have a different smell between males and females and especially males, they tend to have a stronger scent to them mostly to attract females.
Male gerbils do scent-mark for sexual purposes but the smell is only noticed by females and isn’t strong enough to make them smell bad.
All in all, male gerbils do not smell and it will all depend on their environment and how often it is cleaned.
Do female gerbils smell?
Female gerbils are the same as males and also do not smell, females do not produce any strong scents to let males know they’re ready for reproduction.
So, just like their male companions, female gerbils do not smell as long as their cages are clean and taken care of frequently.
Do gerbils smell more than hamsters?
On the contrary, gerbils do not smell nearly as bad as the other rodents like hamsters, most hamsters, and other rodents have a distinctive urine-like smell but not gerbils.
The natural habitat of the gerbils is the main reason they do not smell like hamsters and other rodents.
Gerbils’ bodies are built to preserve as much water as possible to survive the desert so their excrement is always dry and that’s why they don’t smell like hamsters.
Do gerbils use smell?
Although gerbils do not smell still, a gerbils’ sense of smell is very advanced.
It allows them to differentiate groups of gerbils by the sense of smell without the help of sight. This sense allows gerbils in the wild to keep to their own living territories and avoid confrontation from other family groups.
In order to help the gerbils feel comfortable with their caretakers, the caretakers should avoid perfumes, lotion, or strong aromas when you handle the gerbils.
Gerbil Scent Marking
Male gerbils scent mark by rubbing their bellies on objects that protrude from the substrate. This marking response deposits odorous secretions from the male’s ventral sebaceous gland.
Gerbils have a scent gland in the middle of their abdomen. It is long, thin and yellow in color, and is sometimes mistaken for a wound or tumor. It is used to mark items in their territory. Gerbils that rub their stomachs on their cage furnishings are simply marking their territory.
Does gerbil pee smell?
Pee is pee and it smells bad but the factor here is not how bad it smells but how much urine gerbils produce.
Like we explained earlier gerbils don’t urinate very often due to their desert accommodated system that values water so it doesn’t matter if their pee smells it’s the fact that they don’t pee often.
Do gerbils need baths?
Like all pets gerbils get dirty and need to bath, however, rodents don’t bathe in water like most pets but instead, they take a sand bath where they roll in sand/dust to clean themselves up.
These sand baths are essential on a weekly basis to keep gerbils from smelling and to keep them and their cage clean.
Gerbil sand bath
Usually, you only need to prepare a container or a bowl dedicated for your gerbil’s sand baths, fill it with sand (special bath sand) and let your gerbils roll in it.
Generally, gerbils don’t need any help with their baths and would roll in it on their own but if yours is not doing it you can lure him in with a treat and maybe a little push.
However, don’t pour sand over your gerbil let him do it on his own, he would get in and out of the container and rollover rub it’s feet.
All in all, the gerbil’s sand bath is fun to watch and they love it and it’s a playful activity for them, here is a great demonstration of a gerbil bath.
Can you give gerbils a water bath?
Gerbils don’t usually bathe in water and it is only recommended in a few extreme cases where your gerbil got covered in something only water can wash away.
Water takes some away some important molecules from the gerbil’s coat and potentially causing skin conditions, so only consider this in cases of emergency if your gerbil gets covered in something really toxic that he should not lick.
Non the less, if there is any other alternative it would be best not to use water, maybe a repeated sand bath, or maybe using water only on the spot that needs to be clean instead of a full-body wash.
How often should I clean my gerbil cage?
There is no perfect formula for cleaning your gerbil’s cage, in general, most people recommend you do it every two weeks, but it will depend on how much time you have and how many gerbils you have per cage.
It is always advised to have at least two gerbils in one cage since they do not do very well living alone. But you need to make sure the cage is adequately sized for the number of gerbils you have in it.
Generally, it will depend on how tolerant to smell are you, but two weeks is fine for a complete thorough cleaning of the cage and you can do some spot cleaning for dirty areas in between to keep things clean.
There is one exception to this general rule, in case of a heavily pregnant gerbil or one that just has given birth very recently where it could be stressful to the mother to clean up the whole cage and would be best if you only spot clean during this time until the mother and the new baby gerbils are big enough.
How do I stop my gerbil from smelling?
As we’ve read during this article so far gerbils don’t smell unless they’re not taking care of in terms of cleaning them and their cage.
But the questions you might ask are how to clean your gerbil’s cage? what to use? what kind of bedding should you be using?… and all these questions are key to having a clean gerbil and a clean cage that prevents bad smells and keeps your gerbil healthy.
Using an adequately sized cage for your gerbils
The first and most important thing to having a clean gerbil that doesn’t smell is choosing the right sized cage.
When you have too many gerbils in a small cage the concentration of urine, excrement, and food is too high for the living area and therefore it gets dirty and smelly very fast no matter how often you clean it up.
A small cage means you’ll have to clean it more frequently which will disturb your gerbils and potentially disturb their diet and make them even more smelly and unhealthy so it is best to avoid all this by simply providing your gerbils enough living space.
The minimum recommended is to provide ten gallons of space per gerbil but the larger the better, and it should be deep enough to install a minimum of six inches of bedding.
The best option for a gerbilarium is for it to be deep since they really love to dig tunnels and have toys and private spots to hide when they feel like it.
I personally like and recommend the Savic Habitat Cages for Gerbils (check the current price on Amazon) for first-time gerbil owners with two to three gerbils max. It is deep and it has no sharp edges or any edges the gerbils could gnaw on. I would lose the plastic tube and install other toys but all in all, it is a great setup for a small number of gerbils.
Regular sand baths
Like we explained earlier gerbils don’t take water baths but instead they bath in the sand and this keeps them clean and therefor their cage also clean.
Gerbils should have baths at least once a week and twice a week is even better, you could use a dedicated container that you can install in their cage for a while or you can simply take them out of their cage and let them have their bath then take them back in.
Do not use any sand to bath your gerbils, as it could contain potentially harmful substances instead use special bath sand, we recommend chinchilla sand(Check the price on Amazon) (not chinchilla dust it could cause respiratory issues) it’s cheap and best for gerbils.
You might want to get a dedicated small sand bath bowl for your gerbils instead of using any bowl you’ve got at home.
The ones you can see in the pictures are cool and look like a bathtub and they’re deep enough for a gerbil and look great in their tank.
It is very cheap and easy to clean, you can get it here at Amazon
Frequently cleaning your gerbil’s cage and toys
Do gerbils smell if their cage is not frequently cleaned? Yes, they do and the odor would get very strong if left for a long time or not cleaned up properly.
Cleaning your gerbil’s cage frequently prevents smelling and keeps your gerbils healthy, it is best to clean it every week or a couple of weeks at most with extensive spot cleaning in between thorough cleanups.
The weekly cleaning consists of completely emptying the cage and placing your gerbil in a safe place and removing the water bottle, food dish, and toys.
- Start by preparing the cleaning tools you need to make this as quick as possible.
- Place your gerbil in a safe place like a bucket or something similar and place a toy or something from the cage to keep things familiar while he is in there.
- Remove the water bottle the food dish toys and the bedding.
- Use water and mild liquid soap to clean the cage (no special cleaning products are needed especially ammonia-based products)
- Use a soft cloth to wash the cage with water and soap and inspect for any potentially sharp edges or chewed up parts.
- Keep cleaning until all odors and dirty spots are removed.
- Rinse enough until all soap suds are gone and make sure there are no soap suds on the bars of the cage that your gerbils could lick.
- Clean the toys the water bottle and any items that you place in the cage.
- Make sure the cage is completely dry before you start reinstalling it.
- Start by installing the bedding of course it has to be new every time you clean the cage.
- Then reinstall the water bottle the toys and all the items you usually keep in the cage.
- Finally, your gerbil can get back in his cage and start working again on his tunnel system.
Using good quality bedding
Do gerbils smell if you use low-quality bedding? Not if you change it frequently, a good quality bedding will surly absorb pee and help your cage smell better but low-quality bedding could cause health issues or simply make life harder for your gerbil.
Gerbils like to dig tunnels and some bedding just won’t hold making your gerbil work even harder to maintain his tunnel system.
But a good quality bedding will take longer to smell so if you want to keep your gerbil from smelling it would be best to get a good bedding.
We strongly recommend you avoid any cedar or pine wood shavings as they are the worst for gerbils, many pet stores present a lot of varieties of bedding for gerbils since they release fumes and oils that could harm your gerbil.
Aspen wood shavings are perfectly safe for your gerbils but it doesn’t hold much and sometimes we noticed that gerbils get sore noses in it.
We use and recommend two brands only but you can find plenty of other alternatives just make sure they are good enough for your gerbils.
Boxo comfort bedding (check the price on Amazon) is great bedding and the one we use for our gerbils we’ve been using it for a while and gerbils love it and it’s better than wood shavings at keeping its form for digging tunnels.
Healthy Pet Natural Bedding (check the price on Amazon) is also another great brand it is perfectly safe and great for gerbils and is better at keeping its form and molding it to whatever shape your gerbils want.
We’ve had better results when we mixed these two together along with a handful or two of aspen and hey, so you might want to give it a try yourself.
Using good quality food
Feeding your gerbils good quality food is not only good for their health but it can also help reduce smell, gerbils love to hoard food especially seeds so providing good quality seeds and fruits will prevent them from rotting and smelling bad.
You want to give your gerbils fruits and vegetables like (bananas, apples, and carrots…) to balance their diet but make sure you only give them enough to eat so they don’t keep it too long that it starts rotting.
Final verdict: do gerbils smell?
All in all, gerbils do not smell and they are the best rodent pets when it comes to hygiene especially for kids.
To keep your gerbils from smelling you need to properly clean them and their cage on a regular basis.
- Give your gerbil a sand bath at least once a week.
- Clean your gerbil’s cage once every week or two weeks at most.
- Do some daily spot cleaning to keep the cage nice and clean.
- Use water and soap to clean the cage and all the toys and items placed in the cage.
- Use good quality bedding and change it every time you clean the cage.
- Use good and healthy food and don’t leave rotting food in the cage.