Gerbils are smart, playful desert rodents that make great pets for families. They don’t need a ton of space and their care requirements are not overly challenging.
But gerbils do have a specialized digestive system which means not all types of foods are suitable for them.
As herbivores or plant eaters, gerbils can benefit from the addition of fresh fruits and vegetables to their diet. Apples are traditionally considered to be a very healthy fruit for people. But can gerbils eat apples?
Let’s find out now!
Can Gerbils Eat Apples?
Gerbils can safely eat all different varietals of apples according to the RSPCA.
Apples have some important nutrients to offer to your pet gerbil. Apples also require a lot of chewing, which can provide important enrichment and help keep your gerbil’s front teeth filed.
Watch Two Gerbils Chowing Down on Apples
As the two precious gerbils in this YouTube video so clearly demonstrate, apples are very tasty to gerbils!
It is wonderful to be able to offer fresh apples as a treat to your gerbil since they clearly enjoy this fruit so much.
Are Apples Nutritious for Gerbils?
According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, one medium-sized apple will provide the following types of nutrients:
- Calories: 95.
- Fiber: 3 grams.
- Sugar: 19 grams.
- Carbohydrates: 25 grams.
- Vitamins: C.
- Minerals: Potassium.
- Phyto-nutrients and antioxidants: Catechin, Pectin, Chlorogenic Acid, Quercetin, Anthocyanin.
Of course, what is healthy for a person may not necessarily be as healthy for a gerbil to consume. In many cases, we just don’t have enough research to know if vitamins like C and minerals like Potassium are essential for gerbils the way they are for people.
But overall, fresh raw apples are considered to be a safe treat food to add to your gerbil’s regular rotation of treat foods.
Can Gerbils Eat Apple Stems, Peels, Seeds, Leaves, and Branches?
Gerbils have unique front teeth. Their incisors are constantly growing. This means that gerbils have to chew all the time to wear down their teeth and keep them from getting overgrown.
As this Reddit thread for gerbil owners points out, applewood (in particular, horse applewood) is perfectly safe to give to your gerbil to chew on.
Applewood is said to be somewhat sweet and tends to be a favorite among pet gerbils for this reason.
Apple peels are safe and should always be left on the apple fruit when you offer a fresh apple to your gerbil. This is because the majority of the other nutrients aside from fiber and natural sugars are found in the apple peel.
Apple seeds should always be removed before you feed a fresh apple to your gerbil. The seeds contain cyanide, a known toxin that can be poisonous at high doses, as the Gerbil Forum points out.
Fresh apple leaves are also safe for gerbils to eat, although your gerbil may be less enthusiastic about the leaves with the fresh fruit to munch on.
How to Prepare Apple to Offer Your Pet Gerbil
It is important to feed your gerbil only organic produce whenever possible. However, organic apples can be hard to find sometimes, and if you can’t buy organic apples, just be sure to wash the apple well to remove any dirt or pesticides and insecticides.
Part of the benefit of feeding a harder, tougher fruit like a fresh apple with the skin on is the chewing challenge. Since gerbils love to chew and need to chew to wear down their front teeth, you don’t want to chop the apple up into tiny bits.
You want part of the fun and benefit of an apple treat to be the chewing challenge it presents.
Wash the apple thoroughly, including stem and leaves if applicable. Core the apple and remove the toxic seeds. You can offer a whole apple slice like what you saw in the YouTube video from the previous section here.
If you are feeding a single gerbil, try offering half a slice of fresh apple for starters. Because apples are fibrous and dense, they don’t contain quite as much water as other types of produce like lettuce or strawberries.
But desert rodents like gerbils have evolved to live quite well with relatively little daily water intake. So eating a big freshwater treat like an apple chunk can cause some gastrointestinal upset at first.
It is always smart to wait until your young gerbil is at least three weeks old before adding in new foods like fresh apples. Start with a smallish chunk and wait 48 hours to see how your gerbil’s digestion responds.
If you don’t see any signs of tummy trouble or diarrhea, you can add an apple to the regular treat rotation every week or every other week.
Can Gerbils Eat Cooked, Canned or Dehydrated Apples?
Apples are one of the world’s most popular fruits. It is easy to find apples prepared in nearly every way you can think of, from cooked to pureed to canned to dried.
While people are very used to eating apples in all these different forms, gerbils are not. In fact, wild gerbils probably don’t get to enjoy fresh apples that often as these fruits are snapped up whole by larger foraging species.
Gerbils should always be fed fresh raw produce. Cooked apples may be appropriate only if your gerbil is recovering from illness or a procedure and your veterinarian recommends it.
Otherwise, it is best to stick to feeding the fresh, raw, peel-on apple that offers benefits to file down the teeth and all the nutrients preserved in the raw fruit.
Never feed apple in the form of a jam, jelly, preserve, or candy that has added sugars or sweeteners, preservatives, or other flavorings. This can turn a healthy apple treat into a toxic troublemaker for your gerbil.
Dried apples fed in strict moderation may be okay for your gerbil, but they are not the ideal way to feed apple.
How to Offer Apple to Your Gerbil
Gerbils are smart and curious. So you don’t have to do anything special as far as presenting apples to your gerbil.
You can do something as simple as preparing the fresh raw apple and then just put the apple chunk on top of the bedding. You can be sure it won’t take long for your gerbil to notice it is there and come over to investigate!
But there is one thing you do need to watch out for. Gerbils, like many foraging animals, do have a habit of caching, or storing, extra food that they can return to later when food is scarce.
While there is no biological need for your pet gerbil to cache food away for later, gerbils can’t just turn this instinct off.
So if your gerbil gets full before they finish the whole apple chunk, you can absolutely expect your pet to take the leftover apple bits and hide them in a corner of their habitat to return to and eat later.
This is why, for safety reasons, you want to be sure to remove any leftover apple before it can go bad and rot and breed bacteria inside your gerbil’s enclosure.
As long as you prepare the fresh raw apple properly and feed it in moderation rather than as a dietary staple, fresh apple is a safe, healthy treat your gerbil can look forward to each week.