Gerbil Tales

_________________________AGS NEWSLETTER_________________________

Editor: Libby Hanna

    American Gerbil Society

  1. “Letter From the Board”    by Donna Anastasi and Ruth Divine
  2. Show Reports

  3. “Midwest Show 2005”    by Ruth Divine

    Gerbils Health & Education

  4. “Gerbil Gastronomy: Recipes for Your Clan”    compiled from the AGS list
  5. “Salmonella and LCMV Infections in Pocket Pets”   by Libby Hanna

    The Pup Pages (stuff for kids by kids)

  6. “Ask Ruth” by Ruth H., age 10
  7. “Guest Artists & Authors” - Miss Petrocelli’s Grade One Class

    Getting to Know Each Other

  8. “Midnight Sun Rodentry”    by Kim P.
  9. “Fairfield”    by Judith Block

    Fun & Inspirational

  10. “Gerbil Color Puzzle”    by Libby Hanna


_________________AMERICAN GERBIL SOCIETY____________________

Letter from the Board

Donna Anastasi, ABC Gerbils (NH)
Ruth Divine, Ruth’s Refuge (MO)

Dear AGS Members,

On August 24th,  the AGS Executive Board approved a four month sabbatical for the President, Janet Morrow. This comes after a long year of trying to finalize the adoption of two children from Sierra Leone. With the increased emotional stress and time needed to concentrate on these two children, Janet needed relief from her AGS responsibilities. Her sabbatical begins on September 1, 2005 and runs through December 31, 2005.

Donna Anastasi will be Acting President and all inquiries should now be directed to her instead of Janet. Ruth Divine becomes Acting Vice President and will continue in her role as Secretary/Treasurer.

The Executive Board has exercised its right to fill vacancies on the Board by appointing three new members. These three have been very active AGS members over the years, and each was already filling important AGS roles, such as newsletter editor, Ethics Committee member, and show coordinator. They have proven to be mature, responsible and reliable. Please welcome Amy Paben,  Jo Kelley and Libby Hanna as they join the AGS Board for the period of one year. At the end of this year, a general election by the AGS membership will be held for these three positions, at which time they may be reelected.

On September 1, a meeting of the new board was held by conference call. Many duties are in the process of being reassigned and we will let everyone know soon of who is taking care of what. We are looking to maintain the level of AGS services now available and also look forward toward new growth in the future.  New ideas and cabable members willing to take on new projects are always welcome. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please contact one of the above Board members.


Donna Anastasi and Ruth Divine


___________________SHOW REPORTS______________________

2005 Midwest Show

By Ruth Divine, Ruth’s Refuge (MO)

The Midwest Show of the American Gerbil Society will be held October 15, 2005 at the Oasis Inn in Springfield, Mo.  This is our second show here and we are very excited about it.  We have members flying in from both coasts.  We have members driving from 30 minutes to 24 hours to get here.  Come and join us!  All members are welcome to show their gerbils and non-members are welcome to attend. 

We will kick off the Show with Health Inspections and reception with snacks on Friday night.  Donna Anastasi will have her new Gerbil Care books for sale and will be autographing them.  She will also have a 2006 gerbil calendar that features 12 different, fantastic pictures. Join us and meet AGS members in person. 

Saturday, we will be open to the public from 10-4.  There will be some fun activities during the judging process (12-4).  All gerbil class winners will be award AGS Show points towards Championship status. There will be a raffle with some great prizes too.  Saturday night, we will relax at a local restaurant for good food and lots of laughs!!   We look forward to seeing you there.

For more information, see or contact 


__________________GERBIL HEALTH & EDUCATION__________________

Gerbil Gastronomy: Recipes for Your Clan

eatingWithout question, eating is one of the joys of a gerbil’s life. If they had access to all the riches of nature, your gerbils would round out their usual diet of seeds with tasty bugs, juicy roots, and chewy fresh leaves. More likely, though, a pet gerbil’s daily food is a commercially available seed mixture.

Rather than rely solely on commercial gerbil food, several AGS members have invented their own healthy gerbil food formulas and feeding plans. Try some of these delicious and nutricious home-made gerbil foods at home, and let your clan be the judge of whether home-made or store-bought is better and healthier. Before you begin, however, remember to change your gerbils’ diet gradually.

To calculate nutritional information for any of the recipes, determine the percentage of protein, fat, etc. in that food and multiply that percentage by the percentage of that food in the mix. In other words, if your mix uses one cup each of ten ingredients, you would multiply the protein percentage of each ingredient by 0.1, and then add the numbers together. For example, if peanuts contained 28% protein and represented 10% of the mix (1 part in 10), then they would contribute 2.8% protein to the mix. If corn contained 8% protein, it would contribute .8 percent, and so on. You can find nutrition facts for any food on the Internet.

The Little Rascals’ Lunchbox Mix
by Tana Lyman
Lots of Love’s Lotta Good Eatin’
by Dani Marshall
Shin Dao Dynasty Kibble
by Carin DeVoe
4 part rabbit pellets
1 part parakeet seed
1 part split peas
2 parts 7-grain flakes (oats, spelt etc.)
½ part flaxseeds
½ part sesame seeds
1 part texturized vegetable protein
1 part puffed brown rice
large bag of Cheerios® or generic
8-10 lb. bag of kitten chow
45 lb. bag wild bird seed
10 lb. bag of rabbit mix (yellow & green pellets plus yellow vitamin “circles”)
8 lb. bag cockatiel food
10 pounds each of:
  pumpkin seeds
  sunflower seeds
  walnut pieces
  high-quality bird food (WalMart’s Nutty Berry)
ABC Gerbils’ 1-2-3 Mix
by Donna Anastasi
Kori the Cavy Goddess’s
Heavenly, Healthy Bowlful
TCF Exotics’ Great Gerbil Mix
by Carraig Stanwyck
2 parts Kaytee Supreme Rat & Mouse Food
1 part 8-in-1 Super Premium Cockatiel Blend (WalMart)

This mix provides a lot of variety and high protein at a very affordable price.
This is a bowl-at-a-time recipe.
Mix together:
1 part store-bought Gerbil food
1 part alfalfa guinea pig pellets
½ part Special K cereal
½ part Total Cereal
½ part uncooked spiral noodles
¼ part fresh uncooked peas
1 tbsp cracked corn
1 tbsp unoiled sunflower seeds
For treats, apple or bananas slices, or a small piece of American cheese.

7½ lbs. Quaker Oats
20 lbs. wild bird seed
2 lbs. shredded wheat & bran
4 lbs. dried split peas
4 lbs. dried lentils
4 lbs. dried barley
4 lbs. Barilla macaroni
16 lbs. Pedigree Weight Loss Formula dog food
This mix rounds out to 16.99% protein, 5.03% Fat, and 71¢ per pound.
Knolls’ Gerbils Daily Plan
by Judith Block
Julie’s Hamster & Gerbil Biscuit Mix
  By hand and eye, we mix together wheatberry, oat groats, spelt, trinticale, buckwheat and sesame seeds, then add millet, kamut, quinoa and flaxseeds, and sometimes teff grain, barley, dried green and dried yellow split peas.
  Daily, we supplement with 4 UltraVite vitamins and one Earthrise Spirulina tablet. Younger gerbils receive 1-2 pieces of dried organic dogfood per day, and all gerbils are offered a few sprouted beans, sweet potato, dandelion greens, raw peas or broccoli at dinnertime.
For treats, we offer one raw almond or ¼ raw walnut, a bit of avocado, a small amount of cooked oatmeal, one or two shelled pumpkin seeds, or one small sugar-free shredded wheat square per gerbil. And Poland Springs water in the water bottle!
1½ cups water
½ cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
¼ cup peanut butter
2 tbsp. vanilla
2½ cups whole wheat flour
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
¾ cup rolled oats

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the water, oil, eggs, peanut butter and vanilla. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, cornmeal and rolled oats. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients, and beat with electric mixer until smooth. Roll or pat the dough to a thickness of ¼ to ½ inch. Cut the dough with a cookie cutter, and place biscuits on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the biscuits in the oven for 1 hour or even overnight for very dry biscuits.



Salmonella and LCMV Infections in Pocket Pets

By Libby Hanna, Shawsheen River Gerbils (MA)

There has been bad news lately for pocket-pet lovers. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced a link between pocket pets and two diseases: an antibiotic-resistant strain of salmonella, and LCMV (lymphocytic choriomeningitis). The former is a well-known intestinal bacteria; the latter a lesser-known illness which typically is experienced as a mild flu-like disease, but in this case, killed three immune-suppressed transplant recipients. Predictably, some people became fearful of their own beloved pets, and humane societies reported in increase in relinquishments of hamsters, gerbils, and other pocket pets.

As breeders and gerbil enthusiasts, you may well have already been asked about these illnesses or even had pet gerbils returned to you. A thorough look at the story behind the newspaper headlines is in order.

The CDC became aware of the salmonella issue because of two cases in South Carolina and Minnesota, where children became ill after contact with new pet rodents. In one case, the pet died shortly after purchase from the pet store. In the other, the child was handling and kissing an obviously ill animal which died shortly thereafter.

Later, the CDC linked this to a shipment of 780 hamsters in Minnesota from an Iowa pet distributor. Within a month, 60% of these animals had died and the rest were euthanized.

So far, salmonella has been discovered in rats and mice (both feeder and pet) and hamsters. No cases in gerbils have been recorded thus far.

The LCMV case was extraordinary because it involved deaths of people who received organ transplants from a donor who had been infected by a pet hamster. The donor had no obvious illness at her death and most likely had experienced the mildest form of the virus, which passes much like a flu. The CDC points out that hamsters and pet rodents are not a natural reservoir for LCMV; rather, pets most likely acquired this illness by contact with wild rodents. Wild rodents, particularly the common house mouse, are the most common vector for LCMV. About 5% of wild mice are infected, symptom-free. The most common infection source for humans is contact with wild rodents (mice in particular) or their nests.

General Risk Management

The following general practices are recommended to reduce risk:

1) seek veterinary care for sick animals;
2) wash hands thoroughly after handling anything that could have come into contact with animal feces, including bedding and the animals themselves;
3) purchase pets from reliable sources that use good hygiene practices (including sanitation of equipment), observe animals carefully for disease, and avoid the regular (prophylactic) use of antibiotics;
4) do not allow pets to come into contact with wild rodents.

Risk and Benefits

Remember that while owning any animal poses some risk, there are also significant benefits. Companion animals have been proved scientifically to offer emotional and even medical benefits to their owners. Observing and handling animals reduces stress in people and gives them an important emotional outlet. Owning animals promotes responsibility and compassion. These benefits are useful to children, adults, and elders, people with mental and physical handicaps, and those in schools, nursing homes and other institutional settings.

The message for all gerbil owners and pocket pet lovers is clear: there is no need for panic. Your furry friend is no more risky today than he was yesterday, but common-sense handling is in order. Continue to enjoy your beloved gerbils as you always have -  and if you feel you must change something, you might start blowing kisses instead.


_________________THE PUP PAGES___________________

“Ask Ruth” – An Advice and Discussion Column For Kids and By Kids
There was a lot in the mailbox this summer for “Ask Ruth”!

Dear Ruth,

       I have two gerbils called Salt and Pepper and I keep them in a gerbilarium in my bedroom. I’ve been trying out differrent types of bedding and nesting material but I still don’t know which one to use. Can you help??

Thank you,
Ria, age 11

Dear Ria,

         The best kind of bedding is corncob, Carefresh, or aspen. Aspen and corncob have the best odor control. If Salt and Pepper are in yur bedroom that might be important. Carefresh is fun for the gerbils to dig and nest in. As for nesting material, I find that toliet paper or EcoBedding work best. Don’t give gerbils stringy things, though, because their feet can get caught in it.

Good luck,

Dear Ruth,
           I am 13 years old and I’ve been breeding my two agouti gerbils for almost a year. They just recently had a new batch, and I waited to hold them for a week so they were old enough, and when I did, I checked them all over and they were fine, but the next day when I held them, the one female pup was missing a front paw. It was scabbed over, but it didn’t seem to be bothering it too much. What do you think happened to it and what do you think I should do about it?


Dear Katie,

After doing some research on the subject, I concluded it was probably one of 2 things. One, the pup’s foot could have gotten tangled in some stringy nesting material. Toliet paper is OK, but if you have any sort of string or something like that in the tank, you should take it out.

Two, one of the parents may have chewed off the pup’s foot. It was probably because they felt the foot was damaged and it would be best to take it off.

Watch the parents and pups carefully, and if it happens again, then maybe you should stop breeding the parents.

Good luck,

Dear Ruth,

I had a quick question about our first pair of gerbils. I noticed today that Shadow keeps trying to mount Snowball. All of our gerbils are girls. Is this normal female gerbil behavior?


Dear Marie,

Yes, that’s normal. It might be a good idea to double-check that all the gerbils are girls, though, just in case.


Please write to with your questions about gerbils.


Guest Artists and Authors

Miss Petrocelli’s Grade One class at Davis Elementary School has two resident gerbils. They also received a visit from Shawsheen River Gerbils in June. They were kind enough to write and draw the following submissions for our newsletter.

Our Classroom Gerbils

   Our gerbils are named Snowflake and Oreo. Miss P. and us call the gerbils “the girls”.  Oreo likes going up the tube. But Snowflake does not go up the tube as much as Oreo.
   Gerbils like to chew cardboard. The gerbils like to go under the wheel. Miss P. put toilet paper in the cage.
   Gerbils are sweet. Gerbils eat a lot. Gerbils are fast because they run not walk. They are furry and cute. We love our gerbils!

Art by Michelle Y. Story by Amanda F., Andrew B., Avi M., Finn O.,  Sophia K. Art by Jaqui H.

Gerbil Pups

   Today Libby visited us. Libby raises gerbils. She sprayed some water on the walls with a water bottle. The gerbils lick it. She does that so when the gerbils get older they can drink out of a water bottle.
   Baby gerbils are called pups. Baby gerbils are pink when they are first born. At 5 days old they grown a little bit of fur. At 5 weeks the pups are ready to leave their mom.
   Gerbils are mammals. We are mammals too.

Art by Kayla H.
Story by Emelia H., Joe B., Jordan S., and Morris T.
Art by Faith K.


_______________GETTING TO KNOW EACH OTHER__________________

Midnight Sun Rodentry

By Kim P., Midnight Sun Rodentry (AK)

Hewie, pictured at left, and Louie were my first gerbils ever. The local pet store was out of hamsters and I was finally allowed to get a pet. When I walked in I saw shelves of pets neatly arranged and asked to look at these little creatures I had never seen before. When I held them I looked into their curious, unfearing eyes and instantly was attached. Hewie and Louie chose me as their owner when they climbed up onto my arm. I remember when I first brought them home I didn’t want to hold them for fear that they might escape. Over time I learned that they are natural escape artists!

I live in Palmer, Alaska. While people may think living in Alaska is very different from anywhere else in the US, it really is not, although we may not have the crowded streets you are accustomed to, and it can take from 45 minutes to eight hours to drive between cities. However, it is not always cold. As I write this in early May, temperatures this week have been in the 70°’s F. Summer is light all hours and usually remains about 50°F at lowest to 95°F degrees (sometimes higher).  Winter usually remains in the teens, about 32°F to -20°F degrees.  Palmer is a farming community with lots of cattle and we grow potatoes, the world’s largest cabbages, and many other things.  You can read more about Palmer at:

We live in a house (not an igloo!) on a lake where the ducks and waterfowl are nesting and the mountains and pine trees are our view.  We have a garden and grow our own veggies and a greenhouse for tomatoes and zucchinis.  We even have apple trees that produce medium size apples when the moose don’t get them.  We don’t see bears around where we live, but occasionally you can hear or see moose, coyotes, owls, eagles, ravens, magpies, porcupines, and others.  Eagles are fairly common and I see more of them than I see seagulls.  Ravens are one of my favorite birds and I can actually mimic their calls enough to draw them in.

Raising gerbils in Alaska is also a lot like raising gerbils anywhere else, although because our market for pets is small, I raise a small breeding clan. I am currently focusing on breeding burmese, siamese and spotted, as they are somewhat more unusual here. In addition to my gerbil clan, I have 2 dogs, 2 degus, 4 fish, 3 syrian hamsters, 1 robo dwarf hamster, 5 rats, and 3 rabbits as permanent pets.  I am also planning to temporarily breed syrian hamsters possibly once or twice.  While I don’t rescue as much as I used to, over the past two years I have rescued and rehomed over 70 gerbils, 4 rabbits, 11 degus, 5 rats, 1 hamster, 1 guinea pig, and one mouse.   Some of the animals I rescue I have kept.

I started the Yahoo group-based Alaska Pocket Pet Club when I realized what a great thing the AGS was for spreading information, rehoming rodents, and finding others with similar interests.  I knew that there were people with similar interests up here in Alaska so I started the Yahoo group based Alaska Pocket Pet Club and now we have 20 members.

My career goal is to become a veterinarian. Ever since I knew what a veterinarian did, I knew I wanted to be one.  I was always interested when we went to the vet’s office and they often let me “behind the scenes” when they worked on our dog.  I have always loved animals and knew that I could enjoy being a vet as a career and a passion.

When I am not taking care of rodents I am often in school, playing with my dogs, having friends over or going places with friends, working on my websites and groups,  traveling, reading, fishing, or doing artworks like stained glass and mosaics. (Many of you have seen Kim’s beautiful stained glass gerbils on the raffle tables at several recent AGS shows. - Ed.)




By Judith Block, Knolls Gerbils (NY)

What is courage? What is endurance? What is fighting against all odds, and winning, over and over again? Combine all these with an incredible sweetness and decency of character, and you have the gerbil, Fairfield, our “special needs” sweetie.

Fairfield was born with a deformed left paw, which turned in like a fist. When he was a baby, he used it to make a fun game- he would run very fast on the wheel; then he would grab onto a wheel spoke and let the momentum carry him around and around! As he grew older, the deformity became worse, and the color, shape and texture of his nails changed. His top left tooth fell out as well, never to grow back. This necessitated the periodic cutting of his left bottom tooth. Along with this, every month, he had to endure going to the vet for a paw cleaning to prevent infection, and a complete manicure and pedicure. Throughout all this, his sweet, gentle nature prevailed. He did not like going to the vet’s, and he would struggle, but he never tried to bite. And the next morning, as I fed him, he would nuzzle my hand, as always, to let me know he had “forgiven me”.

He had wonderful character. He and his cage mate, Compo, did not get along - they tolerated each other, each ignoring the other, playing and sleeping on opposite ends of the cage. But when Compo was ill and was dying, Fairfield slept next to him, keeping him warm.

Fairfield loved his wheel. Even as an older animal, no longer able to grasp anything with his now horribly deformed paw, he would still run the wheel as best he could.

He adored his food. Every morning, Fairfield would come to the front of the cage, look at me, move his mouth, and wait to be fed. Stuart compared the Fairfield breakfast ritual to a Japanese tea ceremony: First, a spirulina tablet would be pulverized and put onto a small piece of paper plate. When he finished eating this, he would be served the next course: 3-4 cooked, organic green  soybeans, the skin removed from each one, and the halves separated and placed facing up, so Fairfield could somehow grasp it. He relished his food. Sometimes he would take one of the soybean halves and run under the wheel, his safe spot, to enjoy it. Then came some cooked organic broccoli. The gerbil menu continued, later in the day - dinner time he was given, on various days, ground up mixed, organic grains; separated, cooked organic sweet pea halves; cooked sweet potato, cooked spelt pasta with tomato sauce; ground up raw walnut or almond, and other treats.

When he became ill, he hid it from us as best he could, still running the wheel and playing, still eating, but his lessening appetite worried us. I cut his tooth, but that was not the problem. Kinesiological testing showed a bacterial infection. We put him on an antibiotic and took him to the vet. But here was something else going on too, which is what ultimately killed him. He received an injection of B complex, an injection of fluids, and his monthly paw cleaning and nail cutting. He went downhill fast. He died early morning, on March 14.

He was about 3 ½ years old. He taught us about goodness, bravery, overcoming obstacles, and the importance of enjoying each moment. We were blessed to share our lives with this noble animal, to have him as a cherished part of our family. He enriched our lives, and was deeply loved. It was an honor…

Fairfield, the lilac gerbil (ca. Nov.22, 2000- March 14, 2004) RIP.


___________________FUN & INSPIRATIONAL________________________

Gerbil Color Puzzle

by Libby and Ruth Hanna

4 Letters
5 Letters
6 Letters
7 Letters
8 Letters
9 Letters
10 Letters
12 Letters
13 Letters
14 Letters



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