The Pallid Gerbil ~ Gerbillus perpallidus
Information & care guide
Pallid gerbils are a species of gerbil from North Africa, they are slightly smaller than the Mongolian gerbil (the well known pet shop gerbil), with a slender appearance, slightly protruding eyes, and have a friendly disposition and are easy to care for. They have a light orange upper coat and white belly, white around the eyes, long feet and a tail longer than the body. The tail is barely furred and the ears are naked. The eyes are dark and stand out from the head, much larger in proportion to the head than Mongolians.
2-4 years (similar to Mongolian gerbils)
A tank, glassor plastic, is the best home for Pallids. For bedding they can be kept on the same bedding as Mongolian gerbils, wood shavings, Megazorb© etc, or on sand. I prefer a soft type of bedding (presently Megazorb©) but they must have regular access to sand for bathing as their coats become greasy and the fur clumps without regular baths.
Pallids like water even less than Mongolians so should not be given water baths.
They do not tolerate low temperatures.
Introducing Pallids to each other is usually quite simple; usually I do direct introductions on neutral ground.
A standard gerbil mix with added protein is needed. Extra protein given in the form of cat or dog biscuits, mealworms, crickets and/or egg biscuits should be added to their diet.
They should have access to clean, fresh water at all times
Pallids do not need regular ‘wet’ foods like fruit and vegetables but they do enjoy them so I give them as rare treats, no more than every two weeks.
Pallids rarely keep still when being handled. They have excellent balance and will be happiest if allowed to climb over the handler. Do be careful what surface is below you and try not to startle them as falls can cause severe, even fatal, injury.
Pallids should be scooped up from underneath, by placing hands on either side of the animal and moving them underneath to loosely cup them. Like other desert rodents an approach from above will startle them.
When holding a pallid it will feel as though it is shivering or vibrating. This is quite normal behaviour and may be due to the pallid feeling at ease with its owner. Mongolian gerbils behave similar when handled by a familiar owner, the vibrating being similar to a cat purring.
Pallids are social animals and happiest in groups or pairs. Grooming, sleeping together, and playing together are all essential to pallid welfare. So is squabbling. Pallids will chase and box each other, especially after meals. I have yet to find a way to stop this. As mine have aged I find tail nipping gets more frequent, resulting in small scabs and scars.
Pallids are intelligent rodents and are easily bored, so environmental enrichment is very important for their welfare. Try to provide opportunities to dig, wheels to run in, things to climb on, parrot toys with wooden beads and bells to play with, cardboard to chew on and any other safe playthings.
A startled pallid will either freeze or jump, usually vertically straight up, as much as a metre. Sudden movement close to them or sudden unaccustomed loud noises can lead to startling.
I have not witnessed any illness in my pallids. There have been some injuries (see behaviour). I clean wounds with saline solution and they appear to heal very quickly.
Pallids however, do react very badly to any form of injections, and can quickly go into shock or die as a result. Not all vets are aware of this, so it is often wise to point this out on any vet visits.
For other possible health issues refer to the gerbil health pages on the main site.
Pallids breed best in pairs. They mature around 14 weeks and have a gestation of around 23 days. I find that with more than one adult female in the tank they are reluctant to breed. Female fertility ceases between 14 and 20 months. Litters can be as few as 1 and as many as 10 pups but 5 is a normal average size.
Newborn pups are naked, blind and ears are closed
By 4 days they have fine coats, 2 days later they have a complete layer of white belly fur. Eyes open around 14 days and they are weaned by 20 days, similar to Mongolian gerbils.
Spotting appeared (for the second time) quite recently in Pallids. Small white patches on the back of the neck, sometimes barely visible, were seen in some males. For 2 generations no females appeared with these marks but in some strains, sadly now lost, the spotting became more extensive. In 2005 the first recorded spotted female appeared. At present no breeder is known to be exploring this phenomenon so it is possible that this may be lost.
Pallids are a wonderful second species for gerbil enthusiasts as they are easy to care for, attractive and have very pleasant natures.
Article by Gill Colling