The Cost Of Owning A Gerbil
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Gerbils are cute little animals that make wonderful pets for first-time pet owners.
Not only are they small and relatively low maintenance, but the startup costs are much lower than they are for a larger pet. A gerbil itself will likely cost you under $10, but any pet requires certain supplies.
Your gerbil will need a suitable environment with bedding and an exercise wheel to get started, plus monthly costs for food, medications, and replacement bedding.
Before you bring home a new pet, it’s important to understand the responsibility and to know whether you can give your gerbil the best care possible.
Here’s what you need to know about how much it costs to purchase a gerbil upfront and to keep him on an annual basis.
Bringing Home a New Gerbil – One-Time Costs
As you wander through the pet store thinking about what kind of pet you want, it’s easy to just look at the price on the cage. A gerbil may only cost you $5 to $10, but you need to think about what else you’re going to need.
Where are you going to put the gerbil and what else does it need to be happy?
When purchasing a pet, factor in the one-time costs such as the cage and supplies. It’s also important to think about other initial costs like a vet visit, vaccinations, and spay/neuter surgery.
These costs aren’t required for every pet, but it’s worth thinking about them as part of your decision.
Here’s what you need to know about one-time costs for pet gerbils:
Buying a Gerbil
Most of the pet gerbils you see today are descended from a wild species known as the Mongolian gerbil (Meriones unguiculatus). These gerbils grow up to 5.5 inches long (not including the tail) and weigh between 2 and 4 ounces.
Mongolian gerbils come in as many as 20 different coat colors and they tend to live about 3 to 5 years in captivity.
The only other breed you’re likely to find available for purchase is the fat-tailed gerbil. These gerbils only grow to about 4 inches long and live 5 to 7 years with proper care.
When purchasing a gerbil, you have to think about where you’re going to get it.
You can find Mongolian gerbils in pet stores and online but don’t forget to consider adoption.
Small pet rescues and local pet shelters often receive gerbils and other small pets – you may be able to find a lower price and the pet may come with food and supplies.
If you’re looking for a fat-tailed gerbil, you may need to find a breeder as you’re less likely to find this breed in stores.
Gerbil Cost by Breed
|Breed||Average Cost (Low)||Average Cost (High)|
Supplies and Setup
Gerbils are small animals, but they are very active, so you need to provide your pet with adequate space to work off his energy. If you’re planning to keep more than one gerbil, you may need a larger cage.
Just keep in mind that it’s best to keep gerbils in same-sex pairs to avoid accidental breeding. This also helps you avoid the need to have your gerbil spayed or neutered.
Because gerbils are small, they can generally be kept in a 10-gallon to 20-gallon aquarium – this should cost you no more than $25 to $60. Wire-bottom cases aren’t recommended because your gerbil’s feet can get stuck. If you use an aquarium, however, be sure it has plenty of ventilation.
A gerbilarium is a good option as well – a cage with a solid bottom and a wire top. These are a little more expensive, around $75 for a premade cage.
In addition to your gerbil’s cage, you’ll need certain supplies. An exercise wheel is a must and you’ll need places for your gerbil to climb and hide. Food bowls and a water bottle are required, and you’ll need some food and bedding to get started.
When you purchase a gerbil from a breeder or at the pet store, it’s a good idea to have him checked by a veterinarian within the first week or two. Gerbils don’t require any vaccinations, but an annual vet checkup is recommended.
You should expect to pay about $35 to $50 for an exam and you may need to shop around a bit to find a vet that sees small animals.
Gerbil Supplies and Setup
|Cost Type||Average Cost (Low)||Average Cost (High)|
|Initial Food and Bedding||$10||$25|
|Spay/Neuter Cost||Not required||Not required|
|Initial Vet Visit||$35||$50|
|Total = $90 – $200|
Cost of Gerbil Ownership – Annual Expense Breakdown
Once you’ve purchased your gerbil’s cage and supplies, it’s time to set everything up!
It’s always a good idea to purchase your cage and supplies separately so you can get everything ready before you bring your gerbil home.
Once he’s home, give him some time to settle in and get used to his new surroundings.
It can be overwhelming to find yourself unexpectedly in a new place.
Before you make the final move of heading back to the pet store to pick up your gerbil, do a quick calculation of annual costs to make sure you can handle them.
You’ll need to think about recurring costs like food, treats, and bedding as well as more occasional costs like veterinary treatments and medications. It also doesn’t hurt to factor in some extra funds for emergencies.
Here’s what you need to know about annual costs for pet gerbils:
Annual Medical Expenses
As a small pet, the gerbil has a fairly short lifespan averaging 3 to 5 years. Aside from your annual checkup, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about veterinary expenses. Keep in mind that gerbils are prone to injury due to their size, however, and they can develop certain health problems.
Here are some of the common health problems known to affect gerbils:
- Digestive upset
- Parasites (like fleas, lice, and mites)
- Tyzzer’s disease (a bacterial infection)
- Dental problems
- Respiratory infections
- Seizure disorders
The best way to keep your gerbil healthy is to keep up with annual vet visits. Your vet will be able to answer questions about your gerbil’s health and provide medications when necessary.
Gerbils don’t require vaccinations and dental cleanings like many pets, so veterinary costs tend to be pretty low. That being said, if you do need to take your gerbil to the emergency vet for an injury, you could find yourself paying hundreds of dollars.
Many dog and cat owners purchase pet insurance to help limit their veterinary costs. Few pet insurance companies offer plans specifically for gerbils, but you may be able to find one that offers coverage for small animals.
Compare the price of the plan to your expected annual veterinary costs to see whether it’s worth it (and don’t forget to check the details of what the plan really covers).
Estimated Medical Costs for Gerbils
|Cost Type||Frequency||Average Cost|
|Veterinary Checkup||Annually||$35 – $50|
|Flea, Tick, and Worm Treatments||Occasional||$10|
|Emergency Expenses||Occasional||$100 and up|
Food and Supplies
Gerbils follow a diet of seeds, primarily the seeds of various grasses and other plants. To make sure your gerbil’s nutritional needs are met, it’s a good idea to feed him a nutritionally balanced commercial gerbil pellet, though you can supplement it with a seed mix for variety.
Certain fresh fruits and veggies can be offered as treats but avoid too many nuts and high-fat seeds. Because gerbils are small, you shouldn’t have to buy food more than once a month.
In addition to food, your gerbil needs fresh bedding on a weekly basis. You can purchase small pet bedding online or at the pet store but avoid pine or cedar shavings because the oils can irritate your gerbil’s respiratory system.
Factor in costs for additional supplies as well like replacements for items that get damaged and toys like pieces of fruit wood your gerbil can chew on.
Food and Supply Costs for Gerbils
|Cost Type||Frequency||Average Cost|
|Food and Treats||Monthly||$15|
|Total = $40|
Also Read: What Do Gerbils Eat?
Total Cost of Owning a Gerbil
By now you may be questioning the assumption that gerbils are inexpensive to own. The reality is that no pet is cheap – they all have specific requirements and ongoing needs for food and care.
If you want to bring a pet into your life, it’s your responsibility to ensure that you can cover the costs to keep him safe, healthy, and happy for the duration of his life.
Here’s a quick summary of the estimated cost for keeping a gerbil:
- Initial Purchase and Setup = $90 to $200
- Annual Veterinary Costs = $35 to $60
- Monthly Food and Supplies = $40
Keep in mind that these figures are estimates and actual prices will range depending where you live and what kind of additional supplies or care your gerbil requires.
It’s a good idea to make sure you can cover all of these estimated costs before you bring home a gerbil and it doesn’t hurt to set aside a little extra as an emergency vet fund, just in case.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does a gerbil cost?
You’re most likely to find Mongolian gerbils in pet stores ranging from $5 to $10 each. Purchasing directly from a breeder may cost more and adopting from a rescue may cost less. If you’re looking for a fat-tail gerbil, expect to pay $20 to $40 for it.
How much does it cost to neuter/spay a gerbil?
Surgery is riskier for small pets like gerbils than for larger animals like dogs and cats, so it’s generally best to keep gerbils in same-sex pairs to prevent unwanted breeding. If you do plan to have your gerbil spayed or neutered, you should expect to pay $150 to $300 for the surgery.
How much does a gerbil vet checkup cost?
You can expect to pay $35 to $50 for a vet checkup, depending where you live. Keep in mind as well that not all vets cover small pets, so do your research.
How much does it cost to microchip a gerbil?
The average cost to have a pet microchipped is about $45 and it is a one-time fee. There’s little point in having a gerbil microchipped, however.
How much does gerbil food cost?
You can purchase a 1-to-2-pound bag of gerbil food for under $10 which should last at least a month.
How much does a gerbil cage cost?
Many gerbil owners keep their gerbils in 10-gallon tanks which cost an average of $25. You’ll need a top, however, and may want to consider turning it into a gerbilarium with a wire cage topper for additional space and ventilation. Expect to spend about $25 to $75 to purchase your gerbil cage.