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Surprise Litter

Libby Hanna and Cathy Bickel

It happens all the time. You went to the pet store, or responded to an ad on Craigslist. You brought home two cute boys or two adorable girls, and they spent a few weeks snuggling together and charming your family. All of a sudden, one morning, you hear an odd, tiny chirping sound and see a flash of pink in the tank. Yes, you've got pups.


First, check to see that they both aren't females. If they are both females, watch them to see which one is actually the mother. and remove the other female from the tank. The mother will be the one actually nursing them. The other female, who is not the mother, could harm the mother gerbil's pups.


If you have a male and a female, the father may remain in the tank. Male gerbils are generally good fathers and will help raise the pups. Keep the tank in a quiet spot and make sure they have plenty of food and water. It's a good idea to put in a second water bottle as a backup in case the first bottle stops up for some reason. Make sure the bottles are clean and always full. Leave the gerbils undisturbed as much as possible. Limit peeking at the gerbil family to twice a day for the first week.


The mother and father gerbil will have mated immediately after, or even while, she was giving birth to the pups. It will be too late to prevent a second litter by the time you notice the first litter has been born. The second litter will be born four to six weeks after the first litter. The gestation period for the second litter will probably be longer than the gestation period for the first litter because mother gerbils can delay their second litter while raising the first litter. Remove the father when the pups are four to four-and-a-half weeks old to prevent a third litter.


Consult our articles on Pups and Placing Gerbils, and the article Pup Development, for excellent advice on raising pups. It will explain everything you need to know about caring for pups, handling them, and what to expect as they mature.



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