With all the products available for gerbils, it is difficult to determine which toys qualify as being both safe and enjoyable. Cardboard has long been used in gerbil cages for numerous purposes and is generally safe for your rodent to chew. Learn the benefits of providing cardboard toys to keep your gerbil happy.
Carboard for Teeth
As your gerbil's teeth continue to grow over the course of her life, she will need chewing material to wear down the excess. You may even see her gnawing at the bars of her cage or running wheel to do this. Hard plastic toys can cause mouth sores and are harmful if swallowed, while treated wooden toys also cause digestive problems. This is where cardboard comes in hand. It is a plain material of varying thickness that will not hurt your pet.
Cardboard for Play
This desert creature loves to dig through an underground tunnel system. Since overfilling her cage with bedding is neither ideal nor cost-effective, cardboard tubes in the form of toilet paper and paper towel rolls allow the gerbil to exhibit this natural tunneling behavior. Pet supply stores also sell larger cardboard rolls as well. However, make sure there is always plenty of room for your gerbil to run around and that the cardboard does not dominate all areas of her cage.
Gerbil owners quickly discover that you can never go through toilet paper and paper towel rolls fast enough to satiate the gerbil. See if friends and family are willing to save their household rolls, but think larger to give your gerbil variety. A visit to the kitchen will offer up cereal boxes, egg cartons and pasta boxes. Tissue boxes also provide the gerbil with chewing fun. Remember to remove all plastic from the cardboard and never use it if it is wet or soiled with food. Be aware of any packing cardboard containing strings, as these can be harmful to the gerbil. Once you have enough cardboard stocked up, you won't need to buy toys from the store anymore.
A Substitute for Huts
Gerbils appreciate a private area, though the hard plastic of some pet store huts can cause damage. You can make a hut from the suggestions above, or even sheets of cardboard folded in half or thirds. Even if the gerbil chews this hut, you can replace it with more cardboard boxes. Once the cardboard is thoroughly chewed, it makes a soft nest for the gerbil. Place the new cardboard hut here, where your gerbil has already set up her bed.
Pam Smith has been writing since 2005. In addition to her work for Demand Media, her articles have been published online at CBS Local. She also wrote for the Pennsylvania Center for the Book's Literary Map while earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in English at the Pennsylvania State University. She is currently an editorial assistant for Circulation Research.