Gerbils live for two to four years, depending on genetics, environment, care, and predators. Their life expectancy is also influenced by whether they live in the wild or in captivity.
Rodents are generally considered a menace and spiteful beings, but there are some rodents that are loved by people across the world. Gerbils are one such rodent.
They are easy pets to keep and do not have complex dietary requirements making them a great choice.
Though gerbils make excellent pets, they have short lives and quickly bid their farewell to their owners.
This article explains the lifespan of gerbils and what you can do to increase your pet’s life expectancy.
Gerbils have short lives, living between two to four years. The Mongolian gerbil has the longest expected lifespan of up to five years. The gerbil’s lifespan is significantly dependent on its environment.
Gerbils are small rodents that have a relatively short lifespan compared to other rodents. For comparison, chinchillas live up to 20 years.
This means you won’t get to enjoy the company of your gerbil for long.
Different breeds of gerbils have varying lifespans. The Mongolian gerbil is the most common breed of gerbils kept as a pet. The name gerbil has become synonymous with Mongolian gerbils.
Here are the average lifespans of the most common gerbil breeds:
|Gerbil Breed||Average Lifespan|
|Mongolian Gerbil||2 to 5 years|
|Fat-tailed Gerbil||2 to 4 years|
|Pallid Gerbil||2 to 4 years|
|Great Gerbil||2 to 4 years|
|Shaw’s Jird||1 to 2 years|
How Long Do Wild Gerbils Live?
Wild gerbils live for two to three years. It is not uncommon for wild gerbils to die before reaching their first birthday, as they are affected by environmental dangers (such as climate, diseases, predators, and lack of food), as well as predators and diseases.
Gerbils are found in central and south Asia. The hot and dry climate of these regions makes it comfortable for gerbils to live.
Wild gerbils face several issues that affect their lifespan:
- Cold weather
- Lack of food and water
On average, wild gerbils live two to three years. A study conducted revealed that gerbils live longer in captivity compared to wild gerbils.
Most wild gerbils die within six to eight months of their birth, mainly due to predators.
How Long Do Gerbils Live as Pets?
Pet gerbils live up to five years with proper care, but the average is closer to three to four years. Without the right nutrition and attention, gerbils develop various diseases resulting in untimely deaths.
There have been numerous studies in the past indicating the life expectancy of pet gerbils. It is now a fact that pet gerbils live significantly longer than wild gerbils.
Pet gerbils live longer as they are not at risk of predator attacks and lack of food. These are some of the biggest threats to gerbils in the wild. The Mongolian gerbil lives up to five years in captivity with an average of three years, as it’s protected from these threats.
Improper diet, lack of attention, and untidiness are some of the most common dangers to pet gerbils.
Gerbil Life Cycle
Gerbils’ life cycle starts after almost three weeks of gestation. The babies are completely dependent on their mothers for about a month, whereafter they are weaned.
Like other rodents, gerbils have a high reproduction rate. In other words, gerbils breed a lot.
Gerbils breed up to three times per year in the wild, and pet gerbils breed throughout the year.
Their reproduction rate is high because they can start breeding again the day after giving birth.
It is important to keep male and female gerbils separate if you don’t want your gerbil population to grow exponentially. Keeping them separate also prevents inbreeding.
As for their life cycle, they go through three stages:
Female gerbils get pregnant fast and carry the fetuses in their belly for an average of three weeks. She then gives birth to a litter of four to seven baby gerbils.
Baby gerbils are also called pups. The pups remain with the mother inside the nest as they are completely vulnerable. They can’t even open their eyes for the first two to three weeks.
The pups are solely dependent on their mother’s milk for nutrition. They can’t eat solid foods until later in their lives.
When they reach one month of age, baby gerbils enter their weaning phase. This is where they start eating their solid foods.
Gerbil’s teeth start to grow during this stage and continue to do so for their entire life. The pups still derive much of their energy from their mother’s milk but supplement this with pellet mixes.
The weaning stage lasts up to a week, and gerbils get closer to leaving milk after this point.
After the weaning stage, gerbils eat a regular gerbil diet. At this stage, they are completely independent. They are no longer dependent on their mother for protection and warmth. Wild gerbils leave the nest and start living their short lives at this stage.
Soon after they grow up, gerbils start looking for mates. At the age of three months, female gerbils are ready for mating. Males become sexually mature slightly before that.
Factors Affecting Gerbil Life Expectancy
There are several factors that affect the life expectancy of gerbils, including genetics, environment, and diseases. These all play a crucial role when it comes to the lifespan of gerbils.
Nutrition is a key factor when evaluating the life expectancy of gerbils. If you do not feed your gerbil pellet mixes regularly, it can lead to malnutrition and diseases.
While nutrition is the most important factor, other elements also affect their lifespans. Here are the most common:
- Social contact
- Dental issues
Gerbils are social animals and love interactions with their owners. They also like to interact with other gerbils. Getting them in pairs helps prevent the stress and anxiety of living alone. Two or more gerbils keep each other company, groom each other, and play with each other.
This also reduces the amount of interaction needed from you. If you have a single gerbil, you need to give it much more attention compared to having two gerbils.
Isolated gerbils are not happy, which shortens their lifespan.
Epilepsy is the most common disease among gerbils. They develop this disease early on in their lives. Epilepsy is usually an inherited issue in gerbils and can be the result of inbreeding
It is not common for gerbils to die from epilepsy, and they usually grow it. Medication greatly reduces seizures, but it also has strong side effects, which is why many vets do not recommend it.
Tyzzer’s disease is another dangerous condition caused by the Clostridium Piliforme bacteria. The symptoms of this disease are easy to identify:
- Rough coat
Most of the gerbils who contract this disease die within two days. It is also a highly contagious disease that is quickly passed on to other gerbils. Keeping your gerbils’ cage clean from dirt or debris helps prevent this deadly disease.
Cancer is another leading cause of gerbil mortality. It usually affects gerbils older than two years. Skin cancer, ovarian cancer, and scent gland cancer are the most common.
A veterinarian can advise you on how to proceed with the condition and perform surgery if necessary.
Overgrown teeth are another issue gerbils face, which affects their health. Their teeth continuously grow throughout their lives.
Wild gerbils file their teeth by eating fibrous grasses and chewing rough surfaces. Pet gerbils need to chew toys to properly file their teeth.
If a gerbil’s teeth become uneven or too large, they hinder its ability to eat, which drastically impacts its health.
A veterinarian can file your gerbil’s teeth correctly. Take your gerbil to a vet if its teeth get too big or you notice signs of malnutrition.
Wild gerbils live for two to three years, and pet gerbils live for three to four years. They have short lifespans compared to other rodents. Shorter lives mean you don’t have to commit to your gerbil for the long term.
Several factors affect a gerbil’s life expectancy. Predators and diseases are the biggest killers of gerbils in the wild. Pet chinchillas can easily transfer bacteria and viruses, which is why infected gerbils should be kept separate from the others.
To avoid unplanned or inbreeding, keep your gerbils in different cages.
How Long Do Mongolian Gerbils Live?
Mongolian gerbils live two to five years. In the wild, Mongolian gerbils usually do not live their full life, as they are either hunted down by predators or die of other causes before they reach their first birthday.
How Long Do Libyan Gerbils Live?
Libyan gerbils have a lifespan similar to other gerbil breeds. They live for about 2 to 4 years on average.
Who Is the Oldest Living Gerbil?
According to the 2014 Guinness Book of World Records, Sahara was the oldest living gerbil at the time of its death in 1981. She was a Mongolian gerbil and had an age of eight years and four months.