Gerbils are part of the rodent family and, as such, have nails that grow continuously. As a gerbil owner, you must make sure your gerbil's nails don't become overgrown because that can cause him inadvertently to hurt both of you. Placing specific items in your gerbil's cage can help keep his nails trimmed.
Placing wood or wooden toys in your gerbil's cage will help keep his nails from growing too long in addition to providing him with something to play with. Most pet and mass merchandise stores sell untreated, wooden toys made especially for rodents, some of which have multiple levels and holes into which they can climb. Each time he runs across or jumps onto the wood, his nails will receive a slight filing, helping to keep them worn down.
Sticks and Stones
Placing sticks, stones or even a brick in your gerbil's cage will also provide him with a method of wearing down his nails naturally. The stones and bricks will act like an emery board, filing your gerbil's nails each time they make contact with the object. Sticks from trees that have not been treated with chemicals or otherwise altered, such as branches from hardwood trees, will entice your gerbil to chew, and his nails will be buffered as he grabs onto and manipulates the wood.
Sandpaper can periodically be placed in a small area of your gerbil's cage to help keep his nails from growing too long. It's not a good idea to allow him to eat the sandpaper because it will interfere with his digestion, so only use it when you have time to supervise your pet's activity. Keeping it confined to a tiny area during this time can also help ensure it doesn't become too irritating due to constant contact.
You can trim your gerbil's nails yourself using nail clippers designed for small pets or even cats if they begin to grow too long. The most important thing to avoid while trying to trim your gerbil's nails is to avoid cutting the quick, which is the pink section close to the nail bed that contains nerve endings and blood vessels. Cutting the quick will cause the gerbil pain and the nail to bleed, which can be stopped using either corn starch or a special styptic powder, which you can find in a pet store. If you find the task of clipping your gerbil's nails to be too daunting, take him to a veterinarian to have them professionally clipped.
- Ryan McVay/Lifesize/Getty Images