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Question
Hello! I have two gerbils, and one of them constantly bites on the bars of the cage, always in the same spot. They have ample space: they live in a ten-gallon tank with a tank topper. They also have plenty of things to chew on: they sleep in a wooden hut, there are constantly toilet paper rolls and other things to chew on in the cage, and there are even things to chew on right next to the bars where my gerbil is chewing. Only one of my gerbils is doing this. I know it can be detrimental to her health, and as she chews on the bars, the bars are slowly warping... I'm worried that if she continues, there will be a big enough space for them to escape. What can I do to stop her from chewing on the bars, and is there any reason that she might be doing this in the first place?

Answer
Hi Kelsey

Thanks for your question.

It is incredibly frustrating when this type of behaviour occurs and it is very difficult if not impossible to stop.

Ordinarily I would advise that you make sure there is loads to chew on (especially cardboard) but it sounds as though you are already doing this.

The problem is, as you have found, that once they start on one area they keep going back to it and the danger is that they will make a big enough hole to get through.  I've had several who have chewed their way out of cages and it is amazing how small a hole they need to get through. In the end I got glass tanks for my gerbils so that there was no way they could chew their way out, although one always tried to get the lid off and chew the plastic trim so I had to tape the lid shut so they couldn't lift it enough to squeeze out.

The first thing would be to check her teeth.  Their teeth grow all the time, hence the reason why they must keep chewing.  However, sometimes, and especially if they keep chewing bars, they can break a tooth which makes the other teeth grow lopsided.  If you can, have a look to make sure all teeth look even and aren't overgrown.  Perhaps you could compare them with the other gerbil's teeth.

Some people try putting a little lemon juice on bars to stop them chewing as gerbils don't like the flavour as it is too acidic for them.  I'm not sure if this works, but you might want to try it.

How deep do you let them get their bedding?  One advantage of having gerbils in a glass tank is that you can let them have very deep bedding - When mine were cleaned out I would put in loads and loads of toilet rolls for them to chew to make their bedding.  The bedding would get to around 7 inches deep (gerbils are very clean creatures as I'm sure you are aware and mine would use one of the platforms for their toilet area which I could clean out weekly, so their bedding could be left for a few weeks before being removed).  In this I would put various tubes for them to run through.  They would play for hours burrowing which seemed to take their attention away from trying to escape.

You could try covering the area that is bothering the gerbil - perhaps with a piece of wood that could somehow be fixed along that side of the cage.  

I'm afraid there is no easy answer to your question and it might just be a case of experimenting with different things to see if this makes any difference.

Good luck with this!

Regards
Sheila

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Sheila Adby

Expertise

Syrian hamsters are my specialty, however, I have kept Campbells,Winter Whites and gerbils in the past. I can advise on most subjects associated with hamsters, including housing, bedding, feeding, handling, new borns and catching escapees. I have had some experience of various health problems with hamsters and can offer my opinion and advice on basic health issues, however I am not a qualified vet and therefore cannot recommend drugs etc. My website is www.thehamstersite.com

Experience

I have been keeping hamsters and other small animals for more than 12 years. My favourites are Syrian hamsters and I foster litters and 'difficult' hamsters for a rescue centre. My job is to tame hamsters ready for re-homing, which is extremely rewarding. I also enjoy looking after new litters and raising the pups. I have co-written a book on hamsters with my local vet and have a website: www.thehamstersite.com

Publications
Hamsters in Sickness and in Health - Sheila Adby and Dan O'Neill ISBN186163218-5 (Capall Bann Publishing)

Education/Credentials
Educated to A Level standard in the UK.

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