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How Much Does It Cost to Own a Gerbil? (Updated in 2021)
Gerbils are cute little rodents that are easy to care for and fun to watch. They make excellent first-time pets and are often the first pet that a child takes care of. You can get them at just about any pet store and they’re pretty affordable, as far as pets go.
When you see that price tag at the pet store, you might think that bringing a gerbil home is cheap! While it’s not as expensive as many pets, there are some hidden costs that you need to consider. That $10 gerbil can cost several times more once you factor in things like its cage, food, bedding, and more.
If you’re looking to add a gerbil to your family, you’ll want to be aware of all these hidden costs, so you can get a fair idea of the true cost of purchasing and caring for a gerbil. In this article, we’re going to explore those hidden costs so there are no surprises when you commit and purchase your gerbil.
Bringing Home a New Gerbil: One-Time Costs
There are quite a few one-time costs to consider when purchasing a new gerbil, starting with the gerbil itself. You’ll also need quite a few items to care for the gerbil. For instance, a cage is a requirement, and it’ll need to large enough for your gerbil to run around in and burrow through the bedding or substrate, which is another cost you’ll have to account for. Overall, you can expect it to cost about $150-$250 to get your gerbil and everything necessary to care for it.
If you scroll Craigslist or other classified ads, you’re likely to find several gerbils that you can pick up for free. Many people purchase these pets but find themselves unable to care for them. You might even luck into finding a free gerbil that includes a cage and other necessities.
You might be surprised to find out that shelters sometimes have gerbils that you can adopt. Every shelter will have different adoption policies and prices, but generally, it’s a more affordable way to get a gerbil. They’ll often come with cages and basic accessories, which is really where you’re saving the money when adopting a gerbil.
Breeders are the experts on gerbils. If you find a reputable breeder, you’ll have a good selection of gerbils to choose from and a knowledgeable source for the information you need. Make sure that the breeder you choose is in good standing. You want to see healthy babies in a clean environment. If possible, ask to see the mother. She should be healthy and happy in a clean cage. Avoid breeders with dirty cages, animals that look sick or lethargic, or anyone that doesn’t want to show you their facilities.
There are more than 80 different types of gerbils. However, most are not kept as pets. Of all the different gerbil breeds available, only two are commonly kept as pets.
Mongolian Gerbil – $5- $15
Mongolian Gerbils are the most common and popular gerbils to keep as pets. They’re found natively across Mongolia and are often called Desert Rats. They live for about 3-5 years and can reach nearly 6 inches in length. Being so common, these are very affordable pets, with average prices falling between $5-$15.
Fat-Tailed Gerbil – Up to $100
Also known as the Duprasi Gerbil or Beer Mat Gerbil, this little rodent is a bit smaller than the Mongolian variety. These gerbils reach a max length of around 4 inches, with a lifespan of 5-7 years. These are the most docile gerbils around, and they’re native to Africa. These gerbils are quite rare compared to Mongolian gerbils, and their pricing reflects that, with specimens costing as much as $100.
Your gerbil is going to require several supplies to keep them satisfied. A wheel is necessary so they can exercise, keeping them healthy and preventing boredom. Remember, gerbil wheels are different from hamster wheels and you can’t interchange them. You’ll also need a water dispenser and plenty of food. Of course, a cage and substrate are the most important supplies since your gerbil will be housed in the cage and living on the substrate.
List of Gerbil Care Supplies and Cost
|Food||$50 per year|
$100-$500 per year
When considering annual expenses, you have to factor in anything that’s a recurring cost. For instance, the substrate will need to be replaced regularly. Food will have to be purchased whenever it runs low. Healthcare is necessary anytime your gerbil starts to display poor health or strange behaviors. At the least, you should expect to spend $100 each year on food and substrate.
$0-$200 per year
Gerbils aren’t like dogs or cats, but they still can get ill. Your gerbil only requires minimal medical attention, but if it starts to display symptoms of poor health, you’ll need to do something about it. While basic medication and checkups aren’t too expensive, if your gerbil needs surgery or specialized care, the cost can climb quite quickly.
$40-$80 per year
A vet checkup for a gerbil will generally cost around $40 each time. It’s recommended that you take your gerbil in for at least one checkup annually, and it can be a great way to ensure that there are no underlying problems you’re not aware of. Older gerbils should see the vet twice a year. If you take your gerbil for two checkups annually, you’ll probably spend about $80.
$0 per year
Although gerbils should have regular health checkups by a professional veterinarian, they don’t require any vaccinations.
$20-$50 per year
Gerbils constantly need something to chew on because their incisors never stop growing. They have to chew to keep them worn down to the right length. If your gerbil’s teeth are allowed to grow too long, it can result in many problems including weight loss due to lack of appetite. Luckily, you don’t need a vet’s help to keep your gerbil’s teeth in great shape. Just ensure you keep plenty of gnawing toys around and your gerbil will take care of this on its own.
Treatments for Parasites
$0-$50 per year
Although gerbils don’t get any vaccinations, they are susceptible to parasites known as blood lice. These little buggers feed on your gerbil’s blood and are transferred from unsterilized bedding. You can get a treatment from a pet store that will cure this condition. Treatment is only necessary when an infection occurs, so you won’t have to spend money on this every year. You might never have to if you’re lucky.
$0-$250 per year
We always hope to avoid emergencies, but they happen all the same. If an emergency arises with your gerbil, you’ll need immediate medical attention. While a standard checkup is only about $40, if your gerbil needs surgery, you should expect a bill that’s closer to $200. Luckily, you won’t have to pay for this often; hopefully, never.
Medications for On-Going Conditions
$0-$100 per year
Naturally, if your gerbil has no on-going conditions, you won’t have to spend money on medications. Thankfully, these medications aren’t that expensive anyway. Rodent medications are very affordable; often costing $10 or less per package. If your gerbil needs on-going medication, it likely won’t cost more than $100 each year.
$60-$150 per year
Insurance is there to help whenever the unexpected occurs. Those emergency visits can be much cheaper if you’re paying for insurance. Since gerbils are such tiny creatures with inexpensive healthcare costs, insuring one is rather affordable. You should expect to spend about $60 to insure a single gerbil and about $100-$150 to insure two or more.
$50-$100 per year
There are lots of options when it comes to feeding your gerbil. You can feed it foods that you purchase from the grocery store, such as fruits, vegetables, and seeds. Alternatively, you can purchase pre-formulated gerbil foods that provide all the nutrition your little furry friend needs. These are more convenient and come in large quantities to make things simple.
$70-$100 per year
The number one thing you’ll need to do to upkeep your gerbil’s environment is to change their substrate. You can also spot clean the areas with waste to make it last longer, but you’ll still need to change it all out regularly.
Gerbils aren’t very smelly rodents, so you might not experience any odor issues. If you do, don’t spray your gerbil’s cage, as it can mask their natural scent markings. But you can spray in the room around the cage to prevent smells from permeating through the room.
If your gerbil becomes smelly, you’ll want to bathe it. However, gerbils don’t bathe in water. You’ll need to give your gerbil a sand bath. Reptile sand is the best choice for this as it’s sterile, safe, and readily available at pet stores.
|Deodorizing spray or granules||$20/year|
|Dedicated trash can||$20|
$20–$100 per year
Truthfully, you could spend as much as you’d like on toys and entertainment for your gerbil, though it’s not really necessary. They definitely need a running wheel and some chewing/gnawing toys to wear down their teeth. These chewing toys will require regular replacing as they get worn out. Any other toys are nice extras and you can provide as many as you like, so long as your gerbil still has plenty of free space in their cage.
Total Annual Cost of Owning a Gerbil
$140-$500+ per year
At the very least, you’ll need to continually supply food, substrate, and chew toys for your gerbil. These will add up to at least $100 each year, plus the cost of a regular vet checkup. If any health concerns arise, then the cost of caring for your gerbil increases exponentially.
Owning a Gerbil on a Budget
If you’re looking to purchase a gerbil because you expected it to be a cheap pet to keep, then you might be disappointed at how expensive caring for one can be. Don’t despair! There are plenty of ways to own a gerbil without spending much.
Look on classified ads such as Craigslist. Many people are giving away their gerbils with cages, water bottles, and more. You can find these for free or a modest rehoming fee, saving you loads of money and time that you’d have to spend purchasing and setting up your gerbil’s environment.
Also, remember to check at the local animal shelter if you’re having trouble finding a gerbil. Adoption can save you loads of money and might include the necessities like a cage as well.
- Related Read: 5 Gerbil Sounds and Their Meanings (with Audio)
Saving Money on Gerbil Care
There are many hidden costs associated with keeping a gerbil. But there are also ways to save some money and reduce the cost of caring for these rodents.
One way to save money is to spot clean the substrate, rather than replace it all. When you see waste, remove that bit of substrate. You’ll still need to replace all the substrate eventually, but it will last several times longer with proper spot cleaning.
You can also choose to feed your gerbil some of your own food, being careful not to provide anything toxic or unhealthy. This can help to save some money each year over feeding solely pre-formulated gerbil food.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that $10 gerbil costs just $10 to bring home. You’ll also have to spend $30-$90 on an appropriate cage, plus a wheel for them to run in, substrate to fill the cage, and a water bottle to keep them hydrated. Don’t forget about the chew toys needed to keep their teeth in check!
And there are care costs to be accounted for as well. Those yearly vet visits will cost about $40 each time. If an emergency occurs, you might have to shell out a few hundred! Of course, a good insurance plan can keep your gerbil protected for just a few bucks a month, but that’s still another cost to figure into your budget.
Featured Image: Kurit afshen, Shutterstock
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.
- Bringing Home a New Gerbil: One-Time Costs
- Gerbil Breeds
- Annual Expenses
- Environment Maintenance
- Total Annual Cost of Owning a Gerbil