Gerbils become fertile at about 10 weeks of age. There have been cases, however, where gerbils have produced offspring as young as 7 weeks. Despite this, many pairs will not have pups until the female is 5-6 months old. Once the female is sexually mature, she will go into heat close to every 6 days. Your gerbils will mate at this time, and will mate again at the next heat if the pregnancy didn't take.
The Mating Ritual
1) Courtship: The mating ritual starts with the gerbils thumping and the male chasing the female around the tank.
There are many reasons why you may choose to stop breeding. You may have more pups than you can currently rehome, too few financial resources, your female may be too old to breed or your breeding pair's offspring have shown genetic defects.
| What to do
if you want
Separating the pair
This is the simplest solution and does not cost any money. It leaves you the option of breeding again later if the conditions that prevent you from breeding improve.
Unfortunately, separating your gerbils also means having to split up a bonded pair. You will need to leave one same-sex pup with each of the parents
because gerbils must be kept in pairs.
Gerbils are very social animals and get incredibly lonely and depressed if housed alone.
In order to keep your gerbils' happiness in mind, you must be committed to having 2 litters before you can split your pair up. A female pup from the first litter can then help Mom raise the newborns of the second litter. The best time to separate your pair is a few days before the female gives birth, so that the male does not have another chance to mate with her. Gerbils breed immediately after the pups are born, so you must split your pair before this happens! At this time, the pups from the previous litter will be old enough to be removed from their Mom. You need to leave one of the female pups with Mom, to help her with the birth and the raising of the offspring. One of the male pups should go to live with Dad to keep him company. The rest of the litter can be rehomed.
Neutering the male
This is the choice that I've made for both of my retired pairs. I feel that neutering the male is best for the psychological well-being of the pair, because you do not have to split them up.
I think this is especially important if you are retiring a pair that is getting too old.
Your gerbils will then have spent most of their lives together and separating them seems cruel to me.
The problem with neutering the male, however, is that the operation is kind of pricey and there are not many vets that will do it. When I called the vets in my area, many of them laughed at me. Who in in their right mind would neuter a gerbil?
I finally found a vet experienced in the operation and the procedure cost me $60 CAN. Before you get this procedure done, make sure the vet will use internal sutures so that the gerbil cannot pick at them. To see what can happen if your vet uses external stitches, click here. The gerbil can and will rip out their own stitches.
- Protocol before the operation: The night before you get your gerbil neutered, there isn't any change in routine. In the morning, you are supposed to take away the gerbil's food
and remove the water an hour before he goes to the vet. Make sure to bring some food and the water bottle with you to the vet so that they can give them to your gerbil after the operation is done.
- Description of the operation: Once the gerbil has undergone a general anaesthetic, the vet shaves the fur on the pubic region and sanitizes the area. The vet then makes an incision directly over top of the first testicle.
The testicle is then pulled through the opening and the spermatic cord is cut and sutured. The remaining end of the spermatic cord is then returned into the body and the incision is stitched closed.
The same operation is then done on the other testicle.
- Care at home: I was told by my vet not to put the male back in the tank for 24 hours. I think there is no need to have a waiting period, and suggest you ignore any such requests.
If you had internal sutures put in, his mate cannot remove them and so will not worry the wound.
I feel that my male was much happier having his mate there for the recovery period.
Make sure that you have cleaned the tank before your gerbil comes home. You should completely change the litter every 3 days to prevent infections. You will likely be given a course of antibiotics that are mixed with sugar water. I was very suprised, but my gerbil did very well with the administration of his medication and I only got a few scratches. Make sure to hold the gerbil firmly between the neck and shoulders while cradling his body with the palm of your hand. This way you can prevent him from biting you before you perfect your technique.
The first day, the incision site will be quite swollen and it will look like he still has the crown jewels! Each day the swelling will reduce and the cuts will begin to heal. By the end of the week the operation site should be completely healed. Eventually, the hair will grow back over and he will look normal again (albeit a tad more feminine without all that baggage).
|One day post-op||Two days post-op|
|Three days post-op||Four days post-op|