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Can Gerbils Eat Hay? ( Best Types + Benefits!)

can gerbils eat hay

Gerbils are small, active, and entertaining pets that require proper care and attention. While they may be small, they still need a healthy and balanced diet in order to stay healthy and happy. One of the most important components of a gerbil’s diet is hay. 

Hay helps in providing necessary fiber, minerals, and vitamins to the gerbil and is important for their digestive health and overall well-being. But the question remains, can gerbils eat hay? 

Today you’ll find out why hay is important for gerbils, the nutritional benefits of hay, and what it can do for your pet.

Can Gerbils Eat Hay?

gerbil standing

When it comes to the best food for gerbils, hay can be added as a part of their diet. The question, “can gerbils eat hay?” is easily answered with a definitive yes – gerbils can eat hay, and it is a fantastic addition to their diet. 

Not only do gerbils eat hay, but it is also good for them and provides them with important dietary fiber and other nutrients. When shopping for food for gerbils, you can definitely include hay, as it will help them stay healthy.

Types of Hay Gerbils Eat

Gerbils can eat several types of hay, but some are more recommended than others. The following are some of the most commonly recommended types of hay for gerbils:

Timothy Hay: This is the most commonly recommended type of hay for gerbils. It is low in protein and calcium, making it ideal for gerbils.

Orchard Grass Hay: This type of hay is also a good choice for gerbils. It is high in fiber and low in protein and calcium.

Meadow Hay: This is another type of hay that gerbils can eat. It is a mixture of various types of grass and is high in fiber.

Alfalfa Hay: Although alfalfa hay is high in protein and calcium, it should only be given to gerbils in moderation as it can cause health problems if fed in excess.

It’s important to note that whichever type of hay you choose to feed your gerbil, it should be fresh, clean, and free of dust and mold. Additionally, hay should always be provided as a supplement to a balanced diet that includes fresh vegetables and high-quality commercial gerbil food.

hay benefits for gerbils

Benefits of Gerbils Eating Hay


Hay is an essential part of a gerbil’s diet and provides them with important vitamins and minerals for their overall health. Generally, hay is high in fiber which is important for digestive health, and contains some essential amino acids.

Timothy hay and orchard grass hay are typically low in calcium, which is important for preventing urinary stones, while alfalfa hay is high in vitamin D which is essential for bone health. Hay is also a good source of vitamin A, which helps maintain healthy skin, vision, and immune function in gerbils.

Additional essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E, potassium, and phosphorus may also be found in hay, depending on the type.

Dental Health

Not only is hay a great snack for gerbils, but it also helps them maintain their dental health. Chewing on hay helps keep their teeth from growing too long and keeps their gums healthy. 

Gerbils’ teeth grow continuously throughout their life, and they need to chew on hard materials such as hay to help wear down their teeth and prevent overgrowth, which can lead to dental problems and discomfort.

When gerbils eat hay, they use their front teeth to grasp and bite off the strands, and then grind the hay with their back teeth. This chewing action helps to wear down the constantly growing teeth and maintain proper alignment.

Hay is also a natural abrasive material that can help to remove plaque buildup on gerbils’ teeth. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that can accumulate on teeth and cause dental problems such as cavities, gum disease, and tooth decay. The abrasive action of chewing hay can help to remove this plaque and prevent these dental problems.

Entertainment and Fun

What I find particularly helpful is that hay can provide a source of entertainment for your gerbil as they dig through it and explore its scent and texture. 

Gerbils are naturally curious and active animals, and they enjoy exploring and foraging for food. Providing hay as a part of their diet can stimulate their natural foraging instincts and keep them mentally engaged.

Gerbils also enjoy chewing on things, and hay provides a natural and safe material for them to chew on. The texture and taste of hay can be enjoyable for gerbils, and the act of chewing on it can provide a satisfying sensory experience.

Therefore, when considering the best food for gerbils, hay should be high on the list!


Not only does hay provide essential nutrients such as Vitamin A and D, but it is also a great source of roughage and fiber. 

Gerbils are omnivores, and their digestive systems are adapted to digesting and extracting nutrients from plant material, such as hay.

The high fiber content of hay is important for maintaining good digestive health in gerbils. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is not digested by the body but instead moves through the digestive system largely intact. As it moves through the digestive tract, it helps to bulk up the feces and promote regular bowel movements.

The indigestible fiber in hay helps to stimulate the digestive system and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. These bacteria help to break down and ferment the fiber, releasing nutrients and aiding in digestion.

Weight Management 

Hay can be helpful in managing the weight of gerbils when given as a part of a balanced diet. Gerbils have a tendency to overeat and can become overweight if they are given too many high-calorie foods or treats.

Hay is a low-calorie, high-fiber food that can help to satisfy gerbils’ hunger and prevent overeating. The high fiber content of hay helps to promote feelings of fullness, which can reduce the amount of food that gerbils eat.

The action of chewing on hay can be time-consuming and mentally stimulating for gerbils, which can help to reduce boredom and the tendency to overeat out of habit or boredom.

Do Gerbils Need Hay?

No, gerbils do not need hay to survive, but it’s a helpful addition to their diet, based on the benefits just mentioned.  Guinea pigs, which many consider similar to gerbils, but are different species altogether, do need hay for digestion.

However, a gerbil can live simply on grains, seeds, fruits, veggies, and some insects

Hay does add some benefits to their diet, but it’s not absolutely necessary. To add extra nutrition and fun to their lives, pet owners can include hay frequently. 

How to Choose Hay for your Gerbils

When choosing hay for gerbils, there are several things to look for to ensure that it is safe and healthy for your pet. Here are some things to consider:

Type of hay: Not all types of hay are suitable for gerbils. Timothy hay, orchard grass hay, alfalfa hay, and meadow hay are some of the most commonly recommended types of hay for gerbils. 

Freshness: Choose hay that is fresh and green in color. Avoid hay that is brown, musty, or moldy, as it may be contaminated with harmful bacteria or fungi.

Cleanliness: Look for hay that is free of dust, dirt, and debris. Hay that is dirty or dusty can irritate your gerbil’s respiratory system and cause respiratory problems.

Quality: Choose high-quality hay that is grown without the use of pesticides or other harmful chemicals. Organic hay is a good choice if available.

Packaging: Look for hay that is packaged in a way that keeps it fresh and free of contaminants. Airtight packaging or bags that allow air to circulate can help to keep hay fresh.

Brand reputation: Choose hay from a reputable brand that has a good track record for producing high-quality, safe products for small pets like gerbils.

Another Great Use of Hay for Gerbils: Bedding!

Hay can be used as a bedding material for some animals, and that includes gerbils. This is because gerbils are burrowing animals that need a substrate that allows them to tunnel and dig. Hay is a great material for burrowing, as it can be used creating for tunnels.

Other suitable bedding materials for gerbils include paper-based bedding, aspen shavings, and natural materials such as hemp, straw, or shredded paper.

It’s important to choose a bedding material that is safe for your gerbil and does not contain any harmful chemicals or substances. Avoid cedar and pine bedding, as these can release harmful fumes that can irritate your gerbil’s respiratory system.

Overall, hay is suitable bedding material for gerbils, and is a safe and appropriate bedding material that meets your gerbil’s needs for burrowing and digging.

Can Gerbils Eat Hay?

Overall, choosing high-quality, fresh, and safe hay for your gerbil is important for maintaining good health and digestive function. Gerbils can benefit from hay for their health and well-being, and it’s so great for their diet! 

Not only does it offer essential fiber for their digestive system, but also a range of vitamins and minerals, as well as helping to keep their teeth healthy and strong.

 Still, it’s recommended that gerbil owners add a range of fresh fruits and vegetables, plus high-quality pellets or seeds to their diet too.

 And, of course, make sure they have access to plenty of fresh, clean water daily. When choosing hay, pick one that’s clean, free from mold and pesticides, and offers nutritional value. 

It’s definitely important to remember that gerbils need hay to maintain a healthy diet and to provide them with the necessary fiber their digestive systems require. Hay should be available to your gerbils at all times and should be offered in small amounts throughout the day. Providing hay can help keep your gerbil’s teeth trim and their digestive system healthy, as well as provide a safe and enjoyable activity for them to explore.

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