Saturday, March 20, 2010

In Which I Almost Kill Our Gerbils

Poor Teke and Lili almost shuffled off this mortal coil yesterday.  It's entirely my fault, too.

Gerbils really like to chew on things, including their plastic water bottles, so I got them a very nice glass version from the pet store that claimed to be "chew proof."  Well, apparently it was also drink proof.

I filled the bottle up five days ago, tested it to see if it was working, and put it in the cage.  Then I went about my business.  The gerbils seemed to be fine: no problems, though I noticed they seemed to be using the water bottle increasingly often. 

Yesterday when I went in they both seemed rather lethargic, and Teke in particular seemed to be pretty bedraggled-- his fur looked ratty and he seemed to be sleeping a lot.  I was going to clean out their cage and change out their water bottle in the process.  This is when I noticed that the level of water in the bottle had not gone down.  At all.

I tapped hard on the bottle.  Normally those things have a tendency to leak if you tap on them or jar the cage.  Not a thing came out.  I pushed in the little ball at the bottom.  It was bone dry.  So I ran and got a bowl of water and put it into the cage.  The gerbils flung themselves into it and began drinking like, well, like they hadn't had any water in five days.  Good thing gerbils are desert animals and used to going periods without water.  If I'd gotten Connor a hamster it would be dead.

At any rate I looked the bottle up online, and the reviews were terrible.  Apparently there's not enough air exchange allowed in the bottle, so after the animals have drunk at it a little while a vacuum forms and nothing will come out any more.  Several reviews offered instructions on how to modify the bottle to make it work, which I did.  It now has a tendency to leak, but I'd rather error on that side of things rather than have sad little desicated gerbils. 

They seem to be feeling much, much better today, but I'll be keeping a close eye on them.  And of course I feel horrible about the whole thing-- you can bet I'll be checking that bottle every day from now on to make sure that it's working. 

Poor gerbils.



leah said...

Egads! Thank goodness you figured out the problem before the two gerbils went to rodent-heaven.

Marc said...

Friend of mine went away for 2 and a half weeks on a tasking, he lives in a single room so he made sure his gerbil had 2 weeks of food and water before he left.
2 Days into the tasking he found out he was to stay for an extra month and a half.
He became rather distraught but found a friend who would go feed his gerbil in the meantime.

Julia said...

I had a pet rat in grad school (don't grimace -- they make great pets), and one time I realized, after I'd fed her, that her food was infested with bugs! Actual bugs squirming around, some with wings. There must have been some eggs in the bag that hatched. Anyway, the bugs were now down in her cage, and for all I knew I'd been feeding her buggy food for several days without noticing. I felt AWFUL. Even though it was after midnight, I immediately went on a rat cage cleaning frenzy, and she dined on fresh vedge that night.

When she passed away a couple of years later, my father made her a velvet-lined walnut casket. Don't laugh. That's my father -- a real softie when it comes to animals, and also a great woodworker. All of our various household pets have been laid to rest in style.

Julia O'C said...


AliciaD said...

I have gerbils too!

Warning: they're kind of addicting. Especially if your apartment either prohibits or charges excess amounts of money (read: 350 deposit per pet) for non-caged animals and you were deprived from having pets your entire life. I started off with two gerbils who used to be class pets.

I now I have 4...err no 6. In 4 cages. Because the first pair is now about 3 years old and decided to fight and de-clan. Then I have another set of rescues who are a year old. And then I recently got two 6 week old babies because they were cute and actually more hand tamed then my other two pairs.

Yea. I'm running a zoo. But what I really want... is a dog... I think I'll wait until the oldest gerbs pass on, the middle ones become class pets, and I only have one set at home left.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you figured out the water problem before the poor guys dried out too much. Since everyone is sharing traumatic pet stories, I'll add mine...

When I was in first grade, I had a pet iguana named Larry. He was such a wonderful pet, willing to eat green beans from my hand and sit on my shoulder. When I was at school one day, my mom decided that Larry might like to get some sun, so she set his cage in our driveway. She promptly became distracted and forgot about him. When she remembered, he was already cooked. I still vividly recall coming home from school to find her in tears over poor Larry.

David said...

FYI... Putting them in their plastic ball and using them to knock over bowling pins, dropping them 20 feet into a pile of laundry, and sticking them down your friends shirt can be bad for them too. ... Just in case you were thinking of doing any of that stuff.

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