Instead of bathing gerbils in water as you would a human, gerbils need ‘sand baths’. Sand baths involve the gerbil rolling around in a small pot of sand, an activity which looks rather strange but actually gives the animal a chance to give its fur a good scrub and to free itself of dirt.
Water-bathing gerbils will make them lose vital molecules from their coats, which can lead to the development of skin problems - it is for this reason that water baths should only be used in emergencies, such as when a gerbil has something stuck in their hair that is potentially harmful.
Sometimes you might want to allow your pets to have a little sand bath
Sand baths are how wild gerbil would clean themselves on a regular basis. With such an absence of water, they have evolved different ways of cleaning themselves in the desert. To allow your gerbil to give themselves a sand bath, follow these steps:
- Purchase the sand
There’ll usually be some form of pet bathing sand at your local pet shop. Although there may not be one specifically for gerbils, chinchilla sand will do just fine. Be careful to get sand and not dust, as dust has been known to cause respiratory problems.
- Find a suitable bowl
You’ll want one that won’t tip over easily. Your pet will be scrabbling around in there, so the flatter the base of the bowl the better. Fill the bowl with a little bit of sand - not so much that it’s more than halfway full.
- Place your pet in the sand
Finally, gently lower your pet into the sand. Don’t pour any of the sand over your gerbil - they can easily bathe themselves and they won’t like you putting anything so heavy on top of them. They’ll squirm around in the sand, giving themselves a good scrub in the process.
Some owners prefer to leave a small bowl in their pets’ cage so that they can use the little sand bath whenever they need to. Be aware that, whilst some gerbils will easily take to sand baths, others won’t enjoy the activity, so perhaps try with some (safe!) improvised equipment before you invest in a bowl that will sit in their enclosure on a permanent basis.