Woods, Tree Branches & Twigs

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Tree branches and twigs

As well as nicely decorating your gerbil's environment, branches and twigs are good sources of vitamins and minerals. They are also ideal for keeping your gerbils teeth in good trim! Remember, gerbil's teeth grow continuously, and always need material to gnaw to keep their incisors in good shape.

When deciding on woods and branches to use, you may consider finding your own. If this is the case a few safety rules should be adhered to.

  • All collected woods should be thoroughly washed in a strong saltwater solution and dried before use. Sun dried or stove-drying wood is essential to kill off any insects and microorganisms living in the wood.
  • If using an oven to dry wood, heat at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for approx. half an hour.
  • Make sure the wood hasn't been treated especially if your getting wood from timber yards.
  • Never use wood that has been treated with pesticides, or painted. Safe paint can be applied if it's vegetable dye.
  • If it has sap oozing from it, it is best left alone, as resins and saps are often toxic.
  • Very red wood or wood that is overly aromatic should be left alone.

Safe Wood List

  • Mulberry
  • Hazelnut
  • Dogwoods
  • Chinese Dogwood
  • Horse Apple
  • Kiwi
  • Bamboo
  • Grape
  • Manzanita
  • Magnolia
  • Pecan
  • Quince
  • Loquat
  • Medlar
  • Rowanberry
  • Larch
  • Chinese Gooseberry
  • Longan
  • Lychee
  • Magnolia
  • Alderberry
  • Ribbonwood
  • Poplar
  • Aspen
  • Elm
  • Sycamore
  • Cercis (Redbud or Spicewood)
  • Acacia


Also safe are;

Sickle bush (sekelbos)

Willow (BUT stick with Goat, Weeping or Pussy Willow)

Pine (kiln dried & untreated with preservatives etc)

Hawthorn (although safe, thorns are best removed before use)

Birch, several varieties are safe, White, grey, broadleaf, silver and common birch wood are regarded as safe to use. But others can be quite dangerous, so if in doubt it's best left alone. The Leaves and bark contain salicylates and substances with haemolytic properties (destroy red blood cells). Salicylate concentrations are however very low

Oak (Bark is safe and is used in remedies and as a treat for various small mammals)  (keep to Fagaceae) do not have oak of the Solanaceae
family - this contains narcotics and are poisonous
Oak family: Chenopodiaceae contains saponins - but is more or less harmless.

 Ash (be careful of the seeds as they contain small quantities of hydrogen cyanide)

Limetree (Tiliaceae) other names; Linden and Basswood, is regarded as a safe wood to use.

Forsythia  Regarded as generally safe to use, but caution must be taken if you are using it with breeding females.  There's reports of it causing adverse effects on pregnancy and lactation in humans, including it being a uterine stimulant and an emmenagogue ( induces or assists menstruation).

Honeysuckle Tartarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tartarica) which is naturalized throughout much of southern Canada and also Fly honeysuckle (Lonicera xylosteum) which is cultivated in southwestern Quebec and southern Ontario have been associated with poisoning but this is the berries, Injecting fruit extracts at high doses has caused sickness and death in mice.
However Wood cuttings from the species Lonicera tartarica are sold as cat toys. The wood contains nepetalactone, which is the active ingredient found in catnip. Many breeds of cats react to the scent of the wood and will paw, lick or rub against it.


Hickory  Deemed safe but be cautious of any overly aromatic woods when there are safer alternatives


Woods which are regarded as UNSAFE are;

  • Apricot
  • Cashew
  • Clematis
  • Cherry
  • Elderberry bushes
  • Chestnut
  • Eucalyptus
  • Spruce
  • Fir
  • Juniper
  • Walnut
  • Rosewood
  • Black locust
  • Maple
  • Blackwood
  • Almond
  • Mahogany
  • Plum
  • Cherry
  • Rambutan
  • Boxwood
  • Box Elder
  • Cypress
  • Ebony
  • Greenheart
  • Ginko
  • Hemlock
  • Hydrangea
  • Iroko
  • Hornbeam
  • Katon
  • Laurel
  • Maple
  • Myrtle
  • Obeche
  • Ramin
  • Rhodedendron
  • Satinwood
  • Sandlewood
  • Sneezewood
  • Teak
  • Wenge
  • Yew
  • Pulasan
  • Poison Ivy
  • Tallow
  • All redwoods
  • Chinese snake tree

 Also regarded as UNSAFE are;

Alder Buckworth wood (bird cherry) fresh bark is a purgative so best avoided

Cedar (including litter cedar shavings)

All Citrus woods such as orange, grapefruit, lemon or lime (and stone)

Aralia Spinosa ( Devil's walking stick or Hercules club)

Buckwheat wood  Buckwheat grains are eaten by gerbils , but buckwheat greens or their juices If eaten in sufficient quantities can induce sensitization of the skin to sunlight known as fagopyrism. Fair skinned people are particularly susceptible, as are light pigmented livestock. be cautious if using it if theres other safewoods available.

FRESH CUT Pine (Mainly USA, see note in safe woods)

OTHER TOXIC WOODS are man-made boards such as Chipboard, Plywood, Block board, Fibreboard (MDF), Hardboard, etc, as the glues used to bind the boards are toxic.

Wood from fruit trees and vines

As a general rule of thumb, Fruits in the Rubus family are regarded as safe but fruits from the Prunus family are generally regarded as unsafe. Most woods from fruit vines are safe however Rambutan and Pulasan bark is quite astringent so isn't recommended. The thing to watch out for with wood from fruit trees or fruiting vines is to check that no pesticides have been used for growing the fruit.


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