Gerbil-Safe Exercise Wheels
Many first-time gerbil owners make the mistake of giving their pets standard, wire exercise wheels. These wheels have metal rungs, like a ladder. These wheels can be hazardous to rodents, but they are especially so for gerbils. This is because the rungs in those wheels can actually amputate the tuft at the end of a gerbil's tail. Gerbil tails do not grow back.
In recent years, a new type of wheel has emerged. These wheels have a metal mesh surface and look like the one pictured to the right. The openings in these wheels are small enough that they do not pose a risk to gerbils' tails. In fact, all of the gerbils at Twin Squeaks use this style of exercise wheel.
How To Make A Rung-Style Wheel Safe
If you have a wheel with ladder-like rungs instead of a mesh surface, you can cover it with paper or masking tape to make it safe for your gerbils to use.If you can't find a wheel with a mesh surface, or if you already have a standard wire rung-style wheel, you can alter it to make it safe for your gerbils. You can use either paper or masking tape to cover the wheel and provide a solid running surface. Avoid any materials that have imbedded fibers, because these can kill your gerbils if ingested. Plain paper or a piece of a brown paper bag iare both safe to use. Masking tape is also safe for your gerbils because it's made of paper. But you should avoid duct tape, because it has dangerous fiber threads running through it.
If you use a brown paper bag to cover the wheel, cut a couple strips of the paper to the width of the wheel. Then wrap the paper around both the inside and outside of the wheel. If you are careful not to let the paper stick out over the edges of the wheel, there will be less of a chance that your gerbils will start chewing on the paper. Masking tape is a safe way to secure the paper around the wheel. Avoid Scotch tape, which is made from plastic.
What About Plastic Wheels?
A plastic exercise wheel has advantages and disadvantages.In addition to metal wheels, you can find plastic wheels, such as the one pictured to the right. Gerbils can run on plastic wheels safely. However, there's a potential problem. Gerbils will likely gnaw on the plastic and may accidentally ingest some of it, which can cause damage to a gerbil's intestinal tract. Plastic wheels are okay, but only if you oversee their usage and ensure that your gerbils aren't chewing on it.
We recommend the metal wheels with a mesh surface, because they're the leasts risky type of wheel that we've used. You can find the wheels with mesh surfaces in many pet stores, including both Petco and PetSmart, as well as at many online pet stores, such as ThatPetPlace.
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