How long does a gerbil live? What life expectancy?


The life expectancy of a gerbil seems to vary depending on the species to which it belongs. The vernacular name of “gerbil” indeed applies to dozens of different species within which we observe significant differences in life expectancy. We are going around the question.

The most famous gerbils and their lifespan

It is very difficult to find sources that agree on the life expectancies of different gerbils. We mention here the lifetimes that seem the most consistent but it should be kept in mind that these are only indications.

This is also due to the very concept of life expectancy which indicates a number of years that the animal can hope to reach when all the factors are favorable: belonging to a robust line, preservation of diseases, adapted food …

Finally, the gerbil seems a small animal quite gifted for survival in nature but it remains vulnerable and can hardly hope to live there for more than a year, two years for the lucky ones.

The life expectancies indicated below therefore correspond more to what has been observed in animals in captivity.

Also called “Mongolian merione”, the fat tailed gerbil is the only representative of the genre Pachyuromys. It exists in captivity although its detention in France is not very common. In the wild, it is found in the arid steppes of the Asian continent: in Mongolia of course, but also in China and Russia. In captivity, she can hope to live on 5-7 years.

The bushy tailed gerbil has a tail as long as its body, covered with long dark gray hairs that resemble a feather duster. Present in Egypt and Jordan, the Sekeetamys calurus is not officially marketed. Informed amateurs have however managed to obtain them and hold some in captivity. The ideal is to feed her with live grasshoppers and crickets. Its life expectancy is estimated between 3 and 5 years.

The shaw gerbil belongs to the genre Meriones. It is found in the deserts of Morocco and Egypt. She has a long tail covered with short hair. His life expectancy is estimated at 5 years.
The Persian gerbil is another gerbil of its kind Meriones. Its long, hairy tail is reminiscent of the Bushy-tailed Gerbil, but its body is more slender than the latter. It lives in the Middle East and is up to 3,250 m above sea level. His life expectancy is estimated at 6-7 years.

The cheesman’s gerbil, Gerbillus cheesmani, occurs in the Arabian Peninsula and has a life expectancy of Four years. It is difficult to find “pure” Cheesman’s gerbils. These are most often Pallid’s gerbils (Gerbillus perpallidus) which look like them and are easily confused by non-specialists. Uncontrollably, crosses were made between the two species, resulting in hybrids with shorter life expectancies of between 2 and 3 years.
The little gerbil from Egypt has scientific name Gerbillus gerbillus. It is widely represented in pet stores and is found in the wild in northern Africa. His life expectancy is estimated at 3 years. Some claim that she can live up to 8 years.
It could be confused with the great gerbil of Egypt, Gerbillus pyramidum, present in the valley of the Nile, in Chad, in Niger and in Mali, which resembles it, in bigger size. But it is not marketed in France.

List of Gerbil Survival Strategies

When you are a small helpless rodent, you have to develop strategies to avoid predators, protect yourself from them, and even deter them. Gerbils therefore have characteristics and observe behaviors that can save their lives in many circumstances.

The color of the animal’s hair is one of these saving characteristics. Close to the color of the environment in which they live – sand; it is a species known as psammophile-, the different shades of gerbils’ hairs are variations around light brown. This allows them to blend in with the surroundings.

To overcome the difficulties in seeing their prey, certain predators of gerbils, such as the Desert Cat, have developed particularly sensitive hearing and smell. This allows them to locate them, even at night. Obviously, the gerbil is not left out and itself has very fine hearing: it is ultimately the most discreet and the fastest who wins!

In arid and desert areas where gerbils live, water is scarce. To survive, gerbils have found two solutions:

  • Reduce their need for water to a minimum. A gerbil only drinks 5 to 6 ml of water per 100 g of body weight per day,
  • And rarely urinate.

The fat-tailed gerbil has even turned its particularly thick tail into a store of fat and water.

To protect themselves from the heat, gerbils have become excellent builders of tunnels. Gerbils raised in captivity also retain this digging instinct and it is essential to provide them with a litter thick enough to allow them to satisfy their need to dig. The sand constituting an excellent thermal insulator, the temperature in the tunnels is stable, and protects the animal from significant variations in the surface, between intense heat of the day and freezing cold at night.

But that’s not all ! The gerbil is able to voluntarily put itself in a state of catalepsy and thus mimic death. She can even fake an injury by secreting porphyrin, a red substance that then flows through her nose. This may deter some predators who enjoy fresh meat.

The most common diseases that threaten the lives of gerbils in captivity

If the gerbil is crying for blood, the Harder’s gland, which secretes porphyrin, is malfunctioning, due to stress, allergy or illness. It is necessary to check the conditions of detention of the gerbil, to ensure that the environment is very dry and calm in particular. If his condition does not improve, it is necessary to consult a veterinarian.

The gerbil’s respiratory system is fragile: its litter must be chosen with care, otherwise the small rodent will quickly fall ill.

Parasites can threaten the gerbil but the provision of a sand bath on the model of that provided to a chinchilla allows the gerbil to maintain its coat and should keep the animal away from this type of problem.

Dental problems can also arise, especially when the animal does not have enough to wear down its continuously growing teeth.

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