Keeping your gerbil at a healthy weight is one of the kindest things you can do for them as a pet owner.
A gerbil with a good diet and plenty of exercise is a happy gerbil.
But that is often easier said than done, and it can be difficult to know when small animals are the correct weight.
With smaller pets, it might only take a small amount of fatty food to see an increase in their weight.
There are steps you can take to check whether your gerbil is overweight, in this article I’ll take a look at them and I’ll also give some advice on how to reduce the weight of a fat gerbil!
Your gerbil may be overweight if they have been given particularly fatty foods or if they aren’t getting enough exercise. A gerbil’s diet doesn’t require much fat. You can weigh your gerbil following my guide below to see if they may be overweight.
How much should a gerbil weigh
Determining what weight a gerbil should be is never gong to be an exact science.
So much depends on the natural size and shape of the gerbil, just like it does with humans.
There will also be differences in weight depending on the gender of the gerbil.
However, we can use broad guides to understand where on the scale of gerbil weight your pet is.
I’ve created this table below as a general guide. It’s based on the average weight of the most popular gerbil breed, Mongolian gerbils.
|Male||2.3 – 3.5oz||65 – 100g|
|Female||1.8 – 3oz||50 – 85g|
If your gerbil is 20% higher than these ranges then you might not need to worry too much, you might just have a naturally large gerbil.
But if you start edging towards 30% higher than these ranges then I would say there’s a good chance your gerbil is carrying some excess weight.
Of course, that also depends on the breed, some breeds are naturally smaller and larger than Mongolian gerbils, so if you have a different breed try to look up the average weight and apply the same percentage principle.
How to weigh a gerbil
The easiest way to weigh a gerbil is by using a digital scale.
Measuring the tiny weight of a gerbil will be tricky using traditional dial scales so a digital scale makes it much easier and more exact.
First, put a box on the scales, this is where your gerbil will sit but before you put them in make a note of how much the box weighs on its own.
Pop your gerbil into the box and you’ll see the weight increase. Then you can calculate the exact weight of your gerbil.
On most digital scales you are usually able to reset the scale to zero when you first put the box on so that when you add your gerbil it’ll just show their weight.
But if you don’t it doesn’t matter as you can just subtract the weight of both the box and gerbil from the weight of just the box.
If you do this every two weeks you’ll even be able to track whether your gerbil is losing or gaining weight.
Whilst gaining weight is usually the focus, a gerbil quickly loosing weight could be a sign of underlying health issues too.
What can cause weight gain for a gerbil
There are generally three reasons why a gerbil might gain weight.
Type of food
Compared to other pets, gerbils aren’t that greedy.
They usually only eat what they need to fill them up, then they will store any excess food away in a burrow.
It’s a clever survival instinct, but it also makes maintaining a healthy weight much easier than with some other pets.
The danger comes when gerbils are given a lot of high-fat food, especially treats.
Gerbil food will generally only contain around 6% fat which really isn’t much, so giving them fatty treats could easily lead to weight gain.
So the first thing to check would be the fat content of any foods you are giving them.
Some small animal foods are produced for all types of small animals and won’t be gerbil specific, that means the fat content might be a little higher than it needs to be.
The fat content is usually clearly displayed on the back of the packaging. So if it’s 6% or higher you may want to find one with less fat.
Not enough exercise
If your gerbil is just eating a basic daily diet mainly consisting of their gerbil food at around 6% fat then the most likely reason for weight gain would be lack of exercise.
This is very common and the pressure here is very much on you as the owner.
Gerbils who are taken out of their cage and played with are usually far more active than ones who spend most of their days in a cage.
The key to keeping a gerbil active is taking them out of their cage at least once every day.
If you do that, you’ll find they become more active in their cage too, as they have been mentally and physically stimulated. They will essentially be a more happy gerbil!
Make sure they have plenty of space in their cage and provide them with plenty of things to play with and enjoy, especially a running wheel.
If your gerbil is up to it, a good exercise can be climbing the stairs.
Make sure you follow them closely so they can’t have any accidents but some gerbils love to climb stairs and it’ll give them a bit of a work out that they can’t replicate in their cage.
If you think your gerbil has plenty of opportunities to exercise and is being fed a low-fat diet but they are still overweight then they could very well have underlying health conditions.
This could also be the case if they are particularly inactive due to illness, which of course means they won’t be getting enough exercise either.
Unfortunately there is very little you as the pet owner can do to fix this one at home.
If you suspect your gerbil has a health condition the best thing to do is to take them to a vet.
How to make a gerbil lose weight
It’s quite easy to make your gerbil lose weight if you are worried they have too much excess fat.
Really it comes down to two things, both totally in your control. Diet and exercise.
Feed your gerbil a lower-fat diet
Check your gerbil’s daily food.
On the back of the packaging, it should have a section called ‘Guaranteed Analysis’, there it should show the fat content.
You should look for gerbil food with a fat content of around 6% or lower.
If it’s more than that then you should switch to a lower fat content food.
Gerbils just don’t require much fat in their deit.
You should also cut out any fatty treats. They could be treats bought from the store or they could be ‘human’ foods you give to your gerbil.
Check to see how much fat certain foods have before giving them to your gerbil, you might be surprised.
For example, a peanut is 49% fat! So you can see how giving your gerbil a peanut every now and again could easily lead to weight gain.
You can still treat your gerbil occasionally but try to find a low fat treat. A good natural example is bell peppers, but even things like that should be kept to a minimum.
Make sure your gerbil has plenty of exercise
The next thing you need to do is increase your gerbils exercise levels.
By far the best way to do this is to take them out of their cage and play with them.
You should take your gerbil out of their cage at least once a day.
Let them crawl from hand to hand, let them crawl around on an open floor (making sure they don’t go anywhere dangerous).
You can even see if you can teach them to climb stairs, but again keep close to them so you can support them and stop any falls.
If you combine that with providing them with plenty of toys and entertainment in their cage, along with a running wheel, they should get plenty of exercise and it’ll be fantastic for their mental stimulation.
But taking them out of their cage is the key thing.
In my experience, all small pets become significantly more active when their owners make an effort to play with them outside of their cage.
If you follow those two basic principles of diet and exercise I’m certain you’ll quickly see a decrease in your gerbil’s weight, and they will be much more active and healthy.
If your gerbil still seems reluctant to do any exercise then they may well have a health condition and you might want to consult with your vet.
Why is my gerbil fat all of a sudden
Sudden weight gain could be an indication of a serious health condition.
Gerbils don’t tend to overfeed. They instinctively burrow excess food away for later rather than overeating.
So unless your gerbil has started eating a new, higher-fat food or treats, they shouldn’t be gaining lots of weight in the short space of a week or so.
This kind of weight gain could be a sign of a serious condition such as a tumor that can develop very quickly.
I would recommend that you take your gerbil to a vet if they gain a lot of weight in just a week-long period without any change to their diet.