Like most rodents, gerbils require a layer of litter or bedding for the floor of their cages. This is necessary not only for replicating their natural environment, where they enjoy digging and burrowing, but also to absorb urine and keep the cage clean and fresh-smelling.
As desert animals that commonly come from Mongolia, they neither drink much, nor produce much urine. For that reason, they do not require any additional perfumes added to their cage, their litter, or their bedding. However, that being said, the floor covering does remain essential to a hygienic and fun home for your gerbil pet.
Inexperienced gerbil owners, and gerbil keepers who have owned mice and hamsters in the past commonly make the mistake of using cedar wood chips and pine wood chips for their gerbil bedding. This can be extremely dangerous to your gerbils, especially if you intend to breed your gerbils.
Cedar and pine wood shavings contain phenols (the “scent” of the wood) that will commonly cause severe irritations among gerbils. These irritations include respiratory problems and liver damage. This is most common in gerbil pups, but will also occur among adult gerbils.
Pine shavings can be used safely as long as they have been kiln dried, but cedar should be avoided at all costs.
The best bedding option for your gerbils is hardwood chips such as aspen, or specially made small litter made out of wood pulp. These are both readily available at pet stores and online. These are perfectly safe for your gerbil, and will not cause irritations.
By choosing the right gerbil litter for your pet, he or she will live a longer and happier life. You'll appreciate your decision for the right gerbil bedding when your gerbil lives a long, healthy life with you.