Gerbils, like all rodents, have teeth that continuously grow and need to have things to chew on to keep their teeth at a healthy length. Therefore, if you keep gerbils as pets, you must provide plenty of chew toys for them to nibble on. If your gerbil does not have anything to chew on, their teeth will grow to unhealthy lengths and start to cause pain. Thankfully, it's an instinct for gerbils to chew on anything they can find to prevent this from happening. But can gerbils chew on pinecones, specifically?
As you continue to read this article, we will discuss why gerbils like to chew on anything they can get their paws on. Furthermore, we will provide a list of items you can put in your gerbil cage for them to chew on. Finally, we will provide a list of items that you should avoid letting your gerbils chew on.
Why Do Gerbils Chew on Everything?
Gerbils have a knack for chewing on anything they can get a hold of because it helps wear down their teeth. They are a type of rodent and, as such, have a unique characteristic where their teeth don't have roots, allowing them to grow continuously.
In order to prevent their teeth from growing too long, gerbils chew on just about everything. If a gerbil can't find a way to wear its teeth down, its teeth will continue to grow and can cause a severe or even fatal injury. Without proper care, their teeth can grow so long that they can pierce their lower and upper jaws.
This is where the problem can start. Gerbils have an instinct to gnaw on anything hard enough to wear down their teeth, which can lead to chewing on things that are unhealthy, and if you are keeping gerbils as pets, the first thing they will look to chew on is their cage, especially if it’s made of metal.
Most rodent cages and wheels made of metal will have a coat of paint to make them look nice, and this paint is not the best thing for your gerbils to ingest. Thankfully, if you provide your gerbils with some wood or chew toys, they will focus their chewing habits on them instead.
What Can I Give My Gerbil to Chew On?
There are tons of safe stuff for your gerbil to chew on. If you visit any pet store, you will find numerous chew toys for hamsters, gerbils, rats, and other pet rodents. Nearly all of these chew toys are great for gerbils to chew on. We only recommend staying away from painted or dyed chew toys.
Natural Wood and Chew Toys
One of the best things about gerbils, besides their cuteness, is that you don't have to purchase chew toys. There are tons of safe, natural woods that you can give. Also, if you have some trees in your backyard or at a local park, there is a good chance that you can use some fallen sticks as well.
However, you need to be 100% sure what type of tree that stick belongs to because some trees have natural toxins or aromatics that will make your gerbil sick. And remember, the wood you give your gerbils needs to be dry.
Here’s a list of safe woods you can give to your gerbils:
Ash (Not the seeds)
Birch (White, Gray, Broadleaf, Silver, Common Only)
Pinecones are a fantastic chew toy for gerbils. It has several scales that your gerbils can individually pull off and are tough enough to help them wear down their teeth.
Pinecones make for a fantastic free chew toy that is easy to find. However, you will need to clean and disinfect the pinecone before putting it in your gerbil cage. But don’t worry, it’s super easy and can be done in a few ways.
The first way you can sanitize pinecones is by filling a bowl with warm water and letting them soak for about 30 minutes. While the pinecones are soaking, preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and periodically switch the pinecones around to clean off any dirt or hitchhiking bugs. Once your oven is preheated, place some tin foil on a baking sheet and place the pinecones on top. Then bake the pinecones for about 30 minutes to an hour. If the pinecones you found were small and closed up, you will know they’re done when they’re fully open when you take them out of the oven. Finally, let them cool off before placing a few in your gerbil cage.
The second way you can sanitize pinecones is by freezing them. Like before, you should let them soak in warm water and swish them around a bit to clean off any bugs or dirt. After about 30 minutes, take the pinecones out of the water and let them air dry for a day or two, or until they open up, then place them in the freezer for a few hours. This will kill any leftover bacteria and bugs left on the pinecones after washing them. Finally, let them warm up before placing some in your gerbil cage.
Popsicle sticks are a decent option for gerbils to chew on to keep their teeth in check. However, there are some caveats you need to keep in mind.
Nearly all sticks used for corn dogs, popsicles, and skewer sticks are made of common birch wood, which is safe for gerbils to chew on. However, there’s no guarantee that this will be the wood from which the sticks are made, and most brands won't state what their sticks are made of.
Popsicle sticks will have a sweet and sticky residue after eating your popsicle. This residue is unhealthy and should not be given to your gerbils. However, you can clean the residue off the sticks easily by washing them in hot water. Avoid using soap.
The splinters are another thing you need to worry about when giving your gerbils popsicle sticks to chew on. If you ever chewed on a popsicle stick after finishing your popsicle, you should know how easy it is for them to break into long and sharp splinters. So, if you plan on giving your gerbils popsicle sticks, remove any long splinters as they can poke and hurt your gerbil's gums.
Toilet Paper Rolls
Toilet paper rolls are another great choice for a gerbil chew toy. Toilet paper rolls are not treated with chemicals and are very fibrous, so your gerbils will love chewing on them. The only downside to toilet paper rolls is that they are not hard enough to wear down your gerbil's teeth, but this is not all bad. If you are going to give your gerbils a toilet paper roll, just make sure you pull off all of the toilet paper.
You might not know what corrugated cardboard is, but you have definitely seen it before. Corrugated cardboard is a type of cardboard that has three flat layers of cardboard with a wavy layer between them.
Corrugated cardboard is a good choice for a gerbil chew toy because they are not treated with chemicals, can be freely available, and is stiff enough to wear down gerbil teeth slightly. There is only one issue with using corrugated cardboard as a chew toy: if it's made of recycled material. Corrugated cardboard made from recycled material will contain residual ink from recycled material like newspaper. However, we have never had an issue, nor have we heard about gerbils getting sick from chewing on recycled cardboard. Still, it’s best to be careful.
What Should I Avoid Letting My Gerbil to Chew On?
Due to their chewing instincts, gerbils can get sick if they get their hands on something they should not be chewing. There’s a long list of things you should not let your gerbil chew on, but we will talk about the most common objects.
Certain Types of Natural Wood
There are so many types of trees, we can't list them all in this article. Most of them are safe for your gerbil to chew on, but there are several types of weed that your gerbil should avoid.
All these types of wood contain natural toxins or aromatics that can make a gerbil sick if ingested. One of the types of wood that you might have noticed is pine. Pine contains natural aromatics which are harmful to gerbils. However, pinecones do not contain these aromatics, which is why they are safe. Furthermore, pine can be safe for gerbils, but in order to make it safe, the pine wood needs to be thoroughly dried in a kiln.
It’s very common for gerbil owners to keep them in a metal wire cage. The metal wire lets in plenty of fresh air and allows the cage to ventilate. However, gerbils will be tempted to chew on the metal because it’s hard enough to wear down their teeth quickly. While chewing on the metal cage is not the worst thing your gerbils can do, the paint that usually comes on the cage is where the issue starts.
Nearly every metal rodent cage that you can buy at a pet store will have the metal bars painted to make them look more appealing. Unfortunately, the paint on the metal bars comes off easily when your gerbils chew on them, which is not great. Thankfully, the paint used on these cages is safe to ingest, but it’s best to stop this behavior whenever you see it. The same thing goes for metal exercise wheels.
However, if you provide plenty of objects for your gerbils to chew on, like wood and pinecones, they will usually chew on these instead.
Plastic is one of the worst things a gerbil can chew on. In addition, some plastics are toxic if ingested, and plastics that are not toxic can cause blockage in your gerbil's intestines. To be safe, avoid keeping your gerbils in a plastic cage, and do not place plastic of any kind in their cage.
Rubber and Wires
If you like to let your gerbil out of its cage to run around and explore, you need to keep a close eye on them. Your home is filled with stuff your gerbil should not chew on, like treated wood furniture or the fabric your couch and chairs are made from. In addition, wires are hazardous for your gerbil, even more so if plugged in.
The rubber that encases the wire will cause blockages in your gerbil's intestines, and the copper wire inside the rubber is toxic. Furthermore, if your gerbil gets its hands on a wire that is plugged in, it will be in for a lethal shock.
Gerbils need to chew on stuff to wear down their teeth. If a gerbil does not chew on hard objects like wood, its teeth will continuously grow, which can cause pain or injuries. Thankfully, chewing is a natural instinct for gerbils, and you should be more concerned about stopping them from chewing on the wrong stuff. If you provide your gerbils with safe chew toys like some natural wood or sanitized pinecones, you can rest assured your gerbil’s teeth will stay nice and healthy.