A recent discussion I had with a very sweet family who are hoping for a pair of my gerbils inspired this post. Though it can be hard sometimes to make the decision to wait on a breeder rather than get a pair of sub-adult gerbils at a pet store, there are some great perks to reward your patience! And though pet stores are often a reliable source for gerbils, there are a lot of cons that go along with them.
- You don’t know the exact age of their gerbils. Though the associate may be able to give you a rough estimate, you can’t be completely certain if their gerbils are in the ideal age range to be happy, well socialized pets.
- Gender confusion. Some pet stores may indeed have young, well-enough socialized gerbils, and think they know which are male and which are female, but they are often wrong. This is how I ended up with my very first litter!
- Health history. Pet stores have no idea if the parent gerbils were healthy, free of deformities, had good temperaments or if they were related (in-breeding can cause serious health concerns).
- Lack of color variety. Believe it or not, color is important! Gerbils of more rare colors, such as spotted gerbils, or color point gerbils (gerbils with dark points at the nose, ears, tail and feet) are more likely to be calm and easy to tame than the more common colors such as “Agouti” (brown with black ticked fur), or black.
- Lack of socialization. Sadly, in a pet store environment with customers to tend to, many cages to clean and a whole store to manage, even if there are associates who enjoy handling gerbils, they simply don’t have the time to spend taming and socializing each and every animal in their care. Often times this can lead to nippy or fearful behavior.
With a breeder, all of these “unknowns” become known!
- Responsible breeders keep good records. A breeder should keep close records of their pups birth dates, the parents behavior, how many still borns each pair has had, and more! And will monitor the pups progress closely.
- Breeders are more accurate at sexing young gerbils. Though I will admit that sexing young gerbils is not my strong suit, most breeders are fabulous at it. Due to my struggle, I wait to place the babies until I am completely sure. And if ever I were wrong, I would rectify it as soon as possible.
- Breeders are picky. A good breeder will choose only the best for their breeding stock, and are careful to avoid in-breeding and any obvious health issues such as kinked tails.
- Better color options. Breeders like to play around with genetics and try to produce the most visually appealing gerbils they can. Especially spotted and color point varieties, which means you are more likely to get naturally calm, easy to tame gerbils. (And they’re pretty, too!)
- Well socialized. A good breeder knows that good socialization starts from day one! Just gently touching and examining new born gerbils helps to get them used to the feel and smell of humans. By the time they’re ready to depart to their new homes, they know that people are friends!
Though the wait is hard, the pay off is worth it! Knowing what you’re getting makes all the difference in the world, and having a breeders contact info on hand in case of questions, concerns, or emergencies (“My gerbil ran under the fridge! What do I do?!”) is a great relief to a new gerbil keeper.