Both male and female gerbils participate in raising their young, which are born pink, hairless and no more than an inch long. In rare circumstances the mother cannot nurse the litter, or a litter produces a pup that is noticeably weaker than the others and needs supplemental feeding. The best option if the mother cannot care for her newborn gerbils is to foster them with another nursing female. Gerbil owners can also provide replacement milk to the young until they are old enough to be weaned at 4 to 5 weeks old.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Powdered kitten milk replacement
- Needless syringe or eye dropper
Wash your hands before handling the gerbil pups.
Place a towel or pillow on your work surface. Newborn gerbils will not move around much, but by the time they are about a week old, they may squirm out of your hands.
Mix the kitten milk replacement powder with warm water according to the instructions on the label. For gerbils you may need only a tablespoon or less of milk per feeding, depending on the number of gerbils you have. The milk mixture should be just slightly warmer than room temperature.
Draw up the milk into the syringe or eyedropper, which may be purchased at drug or medical supply stores. Needless syringes are preferable because they have small tips that can fit in a baby gerbil's mouth.
Place the end of the syringe or dropper into the gerbil's mouth. Slowly depress the syringe plunger or squeeze the end of the dropper, allowing the baby to take in milk at its own pace. The gerbil pup may drown or breathe milk into its lungs if too much milk is given too quickly.
Tips and warnings
- Newborn gerbils need feeding every few hours around the clock, said Donna Anastasi, the president of the American Gerbil Society. Older babies need less frequent feeding.
- You should only breed gerbils if you have a plan to care for the litter. Gerbils can mate at eight weeks, so separate males from females if you don't want more babies.
- Handle gerbils with care, and never lift them by their tails.
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