How to Litter Train a Gerbil


Having a clean habitat is very important when owning pet gerbils. They spend most of their lives in the habitat that you’ve bought or built for them, so keeping it clean should be at the top of the priority list.

Gerbils tend to find their favorite spots in the habitat to go to the toilet. When they find those spots, they will mainly only use those spots to do their business.

So how do you litter train a gerbil? Once you notice where your gerbil starts to bury their waste, you can then put a litter box in that location for them to go in.

There are slightly different methods of litter training depending on if your gerbils are new, or already established within their habitat.

Let’s take a look into what you need to do for both situations. I’ll also include what you will need and the best practices for litter training your gerbils.

Litter Training new Gerbils

Just like training all other pets, every gerbil pet owner’s experience while litter training will differ.

Most of the time litter training new gerbils will be a little easier because they aren’t fully set in their ways yet. I did some research into litter training new gerbils and I found a great method that seems to work best.

Set up the litter box beforehand.

  • While setting up your new gerbils habitat, make sure to already have the litter box filled and in place before putting your gerbils inside.
  • Place the litter box where you have the room, preferably in an open corner.

Place your gerbils in their new habitat.

  • Once your gerbils get into their new home they will start to roam free and explore.
  • Gerbils being naturally curious will want to explore their whole cage before they can feel comfortable.

Watch your gerbils to see when they find the litter box.

  • While roaming, they will eventually come across their litter box and jump in.
  • While in the box they will initially roll around and clean themselves off.

Notice the signs of your gerbils using it as a litter box.

  • Within a few days, you will start to see signs of them using the litter box to go to the bathroom.
  • Some signs that they are using it are visual pieces of their waste and clumped up bits of sand.
  • You may even see them trying to bury their waste under the sand.

The reason that having the litter box in the habitat before you place them in there works, is because they start off associating the litter box with a place to go to the bathroom.

Once they start using it frequently and you see the signs that they are, you’ve successfully litter trained your new gerbils.

Litter Training Established Gerbils

If your gerbils have already established themselves in their habitat without a litter box, don’t worry it’s not too late to use them.

You have a few methods that you can try to litter train them. Here, I go over the ones I found while researching this topic.

First Method

Watch your gerbils to see where they prefer to use the bathroom. Then place the litter box in that area.

  • Take notice of the areas where your gerbils like to go and pick the one they seem to use the most.
  • Clear out that area of anything that can get in the way like bedding and put the litter box in its place.
  • Your gerbils will start to explore the new object in their cage.
  • As they roll around in their new litter box, they will clean themselves and start using it as their new bathroom.

They already associate that area with being a place to use the toilet so it will be an easier transition.

If they start to use the litter box then that’s great, but if not then you can move to the second method.

Second Method

Place the litter box in the area where they use the bathroom. Then place already peed on bedding inside their new litter box.

  • Find their favorite spot where they go to use the bathroom.
  • Clear the area and a little of the surrounding area of bedding. Then place the litter box in that spot.
  • Find some of the bedding that they already peed on.
  • Fill the litter box with a minimal amount of their peed on bedding.
  • Your gerbils should find it and associate that smell with their bathroom.

This method should be a little easier because gerbils will use their great sense of smell to find that familiar scent.

Optional Method

If both of those options don’t work, then try deep cleaning their habitat and putting the litter box in there.

Next, make sure to only put bedding in the area they sleep in, to make sure they have comfort.

They will start to only use the litter box instead of peeing on the bedding that they use with their house.

Once you see that happening, then you can return to putting bedding throughout their habitat. It’s very unlikely that they will go back to their old ways when using this method.

Where Should the Litter Box go?

Finding the best location for the litter box can sometimes take a few attempts to get right.

You have to consider where your gerbils will more likely use it and you also have a limited space to work with. Generally, small pets like gerbils don’t go to the bathroom where they drink, eat or sleep.

So with that in mind, the litter box would probably be best away from those locations and in a corner.

A corner is a great spot to put the litter box because gerbils feel safer when they know nothing is behind them.

Having it in the corner instead of out in the middle of their habitat will also prevent them from nudging it into their other toys, like their running wheels.

Putting the litter box in the right spot really just comes down to where you have the space to put it, and where your gerbil wants it.

Items Needed to Litter Train Gerbils

Potty training your gerbils can be really easy if you do it the right way. The gerbils mainly do most of it themselves anyway.

What makes it even easier is when you have the right tools for the job. There are pretty much two things that you’ll need if you don’t already have them that I will discuss.

Litter Boxes That can be Used

There are generally 2 types of litter boxes, store-bought and homemade. Each having pros and cons for you and your gerbils.

Most store-bought litter boxes are going to be plastic, which your gerbils will likely chew on. (It’s not good for them to chew on plastic excessively so make sure to monitor that.)

They’re not that expensive and they usually come with a small bag of litter to try, and a scoop. They’re also very easy to clean out with water or small animal cage cleaner spray.

For a really great deal on a litter box check out the box below. This litter box comes with a scoop, litter, and also a small bag of dust for dust bathing.

Ware Manufacturing Critter Potty/Dust bath Kit for Small Animals - Colors May Vary
  • This Versatile Kit can be used for litter training or dust bathing
  • Includes the critter potty, one sample each of critter litter and bathing dust, and a sifter shovel
  • Helps promote soft healthy fur

If you wanted to make your own litter boxes at home, it’s best to make it out of wood that is safe for gerbils because again, they will chew on it.

You may have to switch out the homemade litter boxes more frequently if you decide to use wood to make it, so you can be sure to keep their habitat clean.

Both options will work but it’s up to you and your gerbils to decide which one is right for them.

Filling the Litter box

Just having the litter box is obviously not enough, now you need something to fill it with.

We call it litter box training or potty training gerbils, but what you’re actually going to be using is sand to fill the litter box.

The sand is used to let the gerbils roll around and clean themselves at first, then they will start to use it as a bathroom.

You want to make sure to use quality soft grain sand that is 100% dust-free so that it doesn’t hurt their lungs when they use it. You can try Tiny Friends Farm bathing sand which is both 100% dust and bacteria free.

Supreme Tiny Friends Farm Bathing Sand 2.2lb
  • 52.8 oz. Chinchilla Sand.
  • Constructed with the highest quality materials for your pet.
  • Keeps your pet entertained for hours.

It’s best to use sand instead of the actual small animal litter because it’s more natural for them and allows for cleanliness.

Can you use cat Litter for Gerbils?

I’ve seen the question “Can you use cat litter for gerbils?” while looking into this topic. The answer is a hard no. Never use cat litter in your gerbils litter box or cage because the things that go into cat litter will hurt your gerbils lungs.

Cat litter is usually scented, and the smells that it creates are too much for them. It’s best to stick with store-bought, rodent safe sand when filling your litter box.

Cleaning the Litter Box

The litter box keeps your gerbils clean and gives them a place to go to the bathroom. It’s important to keep it clean to prevent any kind of bacteria growth.

While your gerbils start to use the litter box more often you’ll begin to notice the signs that it’s time to clean it.

Sometimes it can be hard to see if it’s time to empty it out, so here are 2 signs you can look out for.

  1. When your gerbils stop rolling around and cleaning themselves in it and they just sit there for a few seconds and get out.
  2. When you start to see clumps of sand within the litter box showing that they’ve been peeing in it.

Once you notice that it’s been used a decent amount, it’s time to time to take it out and clean it.

It’s recommended that pet gerbil owners take the litter box out, clean then refill it every 1 to 2 days depending on how many gerbils they have and how often they use it.

When cleaning the litter box, do not use any scented soaps or cleaners because it will slowly start to affect their lungs when they breathe it in.

The safest option is to use water to rinse it out. Make sure to rinse it out and dry it completely before placing it back into their habitat.

What if They Don’t use it?

If your gerbils decide they don’t want to use the litter box to go to the bathroom, that’s perfectly fine.

You can still try the different methods of litter training them as long as they seem comfortable with it.

If they seem stressed at all throughout their litter training, it’s best to stop and revisit it at a later time.

You should still keep the litter box in their habitat so that they can still clean themselves.

Keeping the litter box in their habitat and changing it often, will promote a lower level of hair grease. Most importantly, it’s a part of keeping your gerbils healthy.

Mason

Hi, I'm Mason, I've kept small animals as pets since I was 8 years old. I love to learn and talk about them basically every day. Over the years I've adopted small pets like hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs.

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