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Gerbil Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jennifer Lowery

Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.

Gerbils are small rodents that were originally found in Asia. In this lesson, learn about the physical characteristics and diet of gerbils, and find out which types have become popular pets around the world.

Meet the Gerbil

Quick! What's that small furry animal scampering around? It's a gerbil, and these animals were originally from the continents of Africa and Asia. Now they are found all over the world, and many people love having these little guys as pets. Let's learn some interesting facts about these furry little critters.

Physical Characteristics

Gerbils belong to a group of animals called rodents. These are mammals, and they have similar characteristics, like long hind legs that help them to move quickly to escape predators. There is another pretty weird fact about rodents, and it involves their teeth. Can you imagine your teeth growing and growing continuously? Although it sounds crazy for humans, this is exactly what happens to gerbils and other rodents. They must constantly gnaw or chew on objects to wear down their teeth.

Even after these baby gerbils are adults, their teeth will continue to grow.
mammal rodent

Secret Tunnels

Do you like to stay up all night and hang out with your friends? That's what most gerbils do! These animals are nocturnal, which means they are active at night and mostly sleep during the day. But instead of having an all-night party, gerbils are looking for food and avoiding predators who might want to eat the gerbils for a snack.

Another activity that gerbils do at night is digging. Gerbils have strong front claws that help them to dig tunnels under the ground called burrows. These burrows allow the gerbils to run around safely away from predators like hawks, foxes and owls. While the gerbils probably really love these burrows, can you think of who might not like them? If you guessed farmers, you would be right! These burrows mess up the root systems of crops that farmers grow, so farmers are not always fans of these rodents.

Gerbils have strong front claws for digging burrows.
gerbil

Diet

How does a nice snack of roots and bugs sound? If you're a gerbil, this snack would be delicious! Gerbils also like to eat seeds, nuts, and the roots of certain plants. There are even a few types of gerbils that like to snack on eggs and small birds. Remember those burrows that gerbils dig? Not only do these tunnels keep gerbils safe from predators, but they provide a storage space for extra food. Gerbils often bring food into the burrows so they have a good supply during cold months when food is scarce.

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