The common pet gerbil originated in Mongolia. They became so numerous there that the Mongolian people could no longer sleep at night because the gerbils were constantly running on their squeaky little exercise wheels. Taking heed of P.T. Barnum's advice, the Mongolians shipped all of the gerbils to the United States where gullible consumers bought them as pets. Mongolia is now one of the richest and quietest countries in the world.
Like all rodents, a gerbil's front teeth are constantly growing so it must chew on things to keep them filed down to sharp points. They can chew through metal with ease, sort of like if you or I were to chew on a steel girder. In fact, the word "rodent" is Latin for "Ouch! That must really hurt!"
Gerbils originally lived in the desert, and can cause great harm if released in warm climates. California and New Mexico have laws against importing gerbils. Despite these laws, some gerbils have escaped into the wild where they have bred like rabbits. In the southwestern United States, it is now very common to see roving packs of feral gerbils taking down full-grown cattle.
Since gerbils are so good at chewing, care must be taken in selecting an appropriate cage so that your pets will not be able to escape. Wood and plastic cages will not last very long. The best type of cage is a glass aquarium with a tightfitting lid. Many first-time gerbil owners forget to drain the water out of the aquarium and soon discover that gerbils (being desert animals) are not very good swimmers. Luckily, gerbils are very inexpensive to replace.
Many pet stores sell cedar and pine shavings for small animal bedding. While these may be sufficient for a mere hamster or guinea pig, gerbils prefer shredded dollar bills. This bedding should be changed daily.
Gerbils build nests to provide shelter and to keep warm while sleeping. Many people give their gerbils bits of burlap or cotton fabric which are quickly shredded into a warm, fluffy nest. However, researchers have found that gerbils prefer angora sweaters and silk dresses for nesting material.
Pet gerbils are usually fed a mixture of seeds, grains, and rabbit pellets. In the wild, however, gerbils prefer steak, caviar, lobster thermidor, and pa^te` de foie gras. Gout is very common among wild gerbils.
Gerbils rarely squeak, usually you can only hear them if they are fighting or frightened. Scientists have discovered that gerbils actually communicate quite frequently, but since it is ultrasonic, we cannot hear it. Using sophisticated recording instruments, these scientists have been able to slow these sounds so that they fall within the normal range of human hearing. They have reported that gerbils spend most of their time saying "Turn me on, dead man" and "I buried Paul."
Many gerbil owners provide their pets with playwheels and mistakenly believe that they have satisfied their gerbils' exercise needs. Nothing could be further from the truth. An adult gerbil requires a bare minimum of a treadmill, stair climber, exercise bike, and free weights. An occasional round of golf is also quite beneficial.