Kiirsa Pokryfke B.S., C.M.A.R., R.L.A.T.G.
Training Core Manager, University of Michigan
In research, it’s important to be ready for everything. When we discovered that gerbils and hamsters were arriving, we sprang into action. Because gerbils and hamsters are a USDA covered species, it is important that they receive enrichment that will promote species-typical behaviors. We employed the help of the veterinarians, articles and LAWTE listserv for information about enrichment for these species. We found articles focused on species-typical behavior that helped determine the most suitable enrichment for these animals.
Hamsters and gerbils are a prey species, so seeking refuge is one of the most prominent species-typical behaviors. Many devices can be used for refuge including: cardboard paper towel tubes, PVC pipe, Bioserv™ huts, or Shepherd Shacks™. Digging is a very prominent species-typical behavior for gerbils; providing extra bedding for gerbils satisfies that need. Hamsters and gerbils like to bury their food, so placing food in a crock or on the bedding would be worthwhile and easy. Gnawing is a species-typical behavior used to keep appropriate teeth length, so a suitable gnawing device should also be provided.
From our research, we have learned a lot about these species. So anytime you are in need of information about species-typical enrichment, employ the experts, network with various organizations, research articles online and through your local library. If there is little information about species enrichment, research species-typical behavior and provide the most appropriate enrichment based on species-typical behavior.