Gerbil Goodness

Rosalyn and Pearl

Meet the two new additions to our family! Rosie and Pearl are delightful gerbils who are getting used to the sights, sounds, and smells of our home. We’re eagerly waiting until they’re comfortable with us so we can hold them in our hands.

With the kids doing school from home this year, we revisited the idea of owning a pet. The kids have always wanted a pet, and Jenni and I love cats, but my allergy to cats and dogs was the main deterrent.

Our first few weeks of school was a rough transition, trying to figure out new systems and balancing the workload. The idea of a classroom pet gave us something to dream about. As the weeks went on, the dream became something that we would all enjoy and wanted to make a reality.

We researched different kinds of pets to see what is possible. We wanted a pet that wouldn’t be too much maintenance so that the kids could be the primary caretakers.

We owned three goldfish six years ago. My dad got them randomly before my mom and he traveled to China for a few weeks. We were only suppose to watch them temporarily, but we adopted them since the kids enjoyed them so much. They lived with us for about a year before they passed on. They weren’t too much work to take care of.

But you can’t really cuddle and play with fish. So we didn’t want to get fish again.

We entertained a kitten since it’s the pet we all really want. We investigated hypoallergenic cat breeds, such as Balinese, Javanese, Siberian, or Russian Blue. However, Jenni really despises cleaning their litter and the cost of their care is substantially more. And it was difficult to find any place that would sell such a cat without a long wait time.

Next, I explored the idea of reptiles. YouTube was a great resource to see what people recommended for reptile pets. We considered turtles and lizards. The biggest obstacles against reptiles were that they needed a very hot location to thrive and their diets often consisted of insects, which we would need to store in our refrigerator.

We avoided rodents early on because of our problems with rats and mice in the past. But when I opened up my pet search criteria to low-maintenance, gerbils came up.

What drew me to gerbils were:

  • They do not create a lot of waste because they are desert animals and water and food are scarce. This reduced their odor in our house.
  • They are active and friendly. They are trainable.
  • They are small and their enclosure does not need a lot of space.
  • They do not live too long. While this sounds selfish, but the idea of taking care of a pet for the next 50 years (turtles) did not seem appealing to me in case we want to go vacationing.
  • Their food consists mainly of grains, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. Jenni enjoys spoiling them with a variety of vegetables.
  • They’re low cost to own. They don’t need a lot of expensive supplies to keep happy.

I picked up a 20-liter aquarium on Craigslist, egg crate lid from Home Depot, and various supplies from neighboring pet stores before waiting until a shipment of gerbils arrived at our nearest Petco. One difference with gerbils was that they are social animals, so we needed to get two or more. Unfortunately, it turned out that Petco had gotten a shipment of guinea pigs instead, so we settled for the two female gerbils that were already there.

We’re so thankful to have welcomed two cute gals to our home. The kids have been excited to take care of our new pets, doing in-depth research on their diets, enrichment ideas, and required supplies. They could barely sleep the night after we got them.

We didn’t have names when we first got them. We brainstormed for two days before choosing the birth stone and flower for the month of June, when they were born. That’s how we named them Rosalyn (rose the flower, Rosie for short) and Pearl (the gemstone).

Like proud parents, we already have a growing photo album with contributions from the kids themselves.