When it comes to keeping gerbils as pets many people are put off by the possibility that they will smell bad. After all, gerbils live in cages where they defecate and urinate, so it’s got to stink, right?
Well, as usual, there is no simple yes or no answer, although it can be stated that of all the rodents kept in homes, gerbils definitely smell the least. In fact, they are almost odorless, and here is why!
Gerbils don’t smell bad at all for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they are small mammals known as ‘Desert Rats’ that are used to dry conditions which means that they don’t drink much water, therefore, produce very little urine.
Secondly, feces are another reason a pet smells. Gerbils have small, hard feces which have little smell to them.
Why Don’t Gerbils Smell?
Gerbils are small mammals that were once known as ‘desert rats’ due to their expertise in living in arid conditions.
They are capable of and do absorb almost everything that they eat and drink. The result of this is that they do not need to drink much water meaning that they also do not urinate that much. Less urine, of course, equals less odor.
As an added bonus gerbils also do not scent-mark in the same way as most other animals.
Instead of spraying their scent around their cage, they use a scent gland in their stomachs. This further eliminates the smell of urine from their cage.
Feces is naturally another potential source of bad odor from gerbils, however, since their poop is small and hard there really isn’t much smell.
Pet fur can also be whiffy, as any owner knows, but gerbils only have a really faint smell.
Most owners state that the smell coming from them is one that resembles the sawdust inside the cage and that the gerbil itself really has no smell at all.
But My Gerbil Does Smell – Why?
It is essential to know that there are times when a gerbil, or its cage, will give off a bad odor. Stressed or scared gerbils will give off an unpleasant odor as will those that are ill. Gerbils may also increase in smell as they age.
If none of the above are the reason that your gerbil has developed a stronger bad odor, then it is more than likely due to urine and feces build up.
Gerbils may well smell less than other rodents and need far less regular cleaning out, but they still need it from time to time.
The reason a buildup of urine smells so bad is that it contains urea, also known as carbamide. Urea is broken down in the cage by bacteria to ammonia, and as we all know, ammonia stinks.
The smell of ammonia will be worse if your gerbil has not been drinking enough and is dehydrated.
Please note if you are providing excellent maintenance and your gerbil still smells it is a good idea to have them checked over by a vet.
Using a cage bedding that is ultra-absorbent will help remove bad smells and make it easier for you to clean out their cage. We use Carefresh Pet Bedding for all our small pets. This product is available from Amazon-Click Here for the latest prices.
How Often Should I clean Out My Gerbil?
Whilst the small amount of urine that gerbils produce increases the amount of time you can leave between cage cleans, it does not negate them altogether.
Gerbils will need to have their cages maintained every two to four weeks dependent on the cage size and how many gerbils are living in it.
How Do I Clean My Gerbils Cage?
There are many ways to clean a gerbil’s cage, but the following is one of the best ways we have found:
1. First, remove your gerbil from their cage and put them somewhere safe. Playpens and exercise balls are ideal locations to keep them but ensure you keep an eye on them for their safety. The last thing you need is a full-scale gerbil hunt because they’ve managed to escape.
2. Put on a pair of rubber gloves and wash the base of the cage with hot soapy water. Ensure you also wipe down the wire caging, wheel, food and water bowls, and any toys. Leave the cage and accessories to air dry.
3. Once dry, spray the cage with a small animal safe disinfectant and leave for 15 minutes. Wipe clean again and allow to dry.
4. Sprinkle the end of the cage where your gerbil toilets with cage fresh granules and then cover the entire bottom with sawdust.
5. Sprinkle the opposite end to the toilet with gerbil food and then place bedding over the top. Bedding can also be placed at the toilet end too.
6. Fill both the food and water bowls and place back in the cage along with all other accessories.
7. And last but not least, pop your gerbil back in.
Are There Any Ways to Reduce Odor Between Cleans?
Though you really shouldn’t need to since gerbils have virtually no smell anyway, there are other ways to ensure the odor is kept to a minimum. These include:
- Providing plenty of bedding to absorb the waste
- Keeping the gerbil cage in a well-ventilated room
- Providing healthy food and sticking to one diet as changes may cause bad odor
- Regularly having your gerbil checked by a vet for health issues
Are there any products I can use to stop gerbils smelling?
You should never try to mask the smell from your small pets. What you should do is remove the offending odor by cleaning out their cage regularly.
Never spray anything in or near their cage to try mask or take away the smell. You can poison your pets!
However, that said there are some products that can help remove the bad smell by making it easier for you to clean their cage and remove the offending aroma quicker.
There are a number of companies on the market that produce a type of bedding suitable for most small pets that absorbs that urine and breaks down the smelly ammonia. This type of bedding will help keep your hutch or cage looking clean and smelling better.
Below are a few examples of hygienic bedding we found on Amazon:
Kaytee Extreme Odor Control Bedding
What the manufactures say: Kaytee Clean & Cozy Extreme Odor Control bedding gives you a whole new standard in super-soft, absorbent bedding. Clean & Cozy bedding keeps pets clean and dry.
Clean & Cozy bedding is soft and fluffy to encourage healthy burrowing or nesting while absorbing six times its weight in liquid. Plus, Clean & Cozy bedding is up to 99% dust free for a clean and healthy habitat.
This bedding is ideal for Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, Hamsters, Gerbils or Chinchillas.
Healthy Pet HPCC Natural Bedding
What the manufacturers say: The Critter Care Natural bedding for small animals suppresses ammonia odor caused by pet urine.
Its soft pieces are designed to absorb up to three times its weight in liquids from pet urine or leaky water bottles, keeping your pet warm, cozy and dry. And, because it is virtually dust free, you’ll experience less respiratory or allergy issues, as well as a cleaner habitat.
All Critter Care Brand Bedding is made from reclaimed wood pulp and is biodegradable and compostable after use. Your pet will love to play and burrow and will have a warm nest for sleeping.
Carefresh Pet Bedding
What the manufacturers say: Carefresh is made from scratch with pillowy soft, ultra-absorbent comfyfluff designed specifically for small pets.
Provide a safe and cozy home with carefresh natural. Made from 100% reclaimed natural fiber, it’s better for your small pets, your home and the planet.
Carefresh bedding offers superior odor control and absorbency for a cleaner, healthier home.
We use this one and find it absorbs a lot of the urine and waste quicker and doesn’t need changing as often as some of the other brands we used.
It has over 1800 positive reviews on Amazon.
Conclusion: Do Gerbils Smell?
It is a fact that you cannot bring a gerbil into your home and expect them to have no smell at all, especially when up close and personal.
However, gerbils really are one of the least odorous rodents, especially when cared for properly.
Correct cage cleans, a good diet, and regular health checks will ensure your gerbil is smelling their best. Throw in some grooming in the form of stroking and cuddles also and you’ll have one sweet-smelling pet!