Christmas Gerbils

This morning, at the pool, I overheard one of my fellow early-bird-swimmers announce that today was the day they were picking up the Christmas gerbils.

Memories clanged.  Once upon a time, as a grade twelve biology student, I developed an ambitious, but rather inept science experiment that involved sacrificing two rodents at the end of it for the purpose of making tissue slides.  I went out and bought two gerbils.  They turned out to be far too cute and interesting to sacrifice in the interests of  science, so I further invested in a pair of white mice for the purpose and kept the gerbils as pets.

Did you know that gerbils are hard to sex, and prolific breeders to boot?  If you provide a nice nesting arrangement- say one of those rectangular hot chocolate tins with the metal ends you can leave Papa Gerbil in with Mama and have an enchanting family arrangement where both parents enjoy raising and playing with their young.   If you take Mama out and the baby you left with Papa for company is in fact, NOT a male you would be surprised at how fast you can have another enchanting family to watch.

As the end of grade twelve approached it appeared I had not improved in my eyesight or timing. I was now housing  twenty Gerbils in three cages.  The cat spent hours watching the in-house entertainment. She was an excellent mouser and probably could hardly stand prey so close and yet so out of reach.  Once she took advantage of a makeshift cage with an insecure lid and caught one.  We were unhappy with her and she retreated under the living room couch aggrieved, staying  so long that my father finally got down on his hands and knees to  beg her to call it pax.

I found a home for two, but the little boys so terrorized them that the parents soon brought back the now neurotic young ones.

Finally the Shop teacher at the High School offered to take them all. I didn’t ask his motives or if he had a pet boa constrictor.  I just jumped at the chance to unload.

And so this morning I said, “Did I hear you say Gerbils?  They’re awfully cute, but by the way, they are hard to sex and easy to breed.  Oh yes, and don’t keep them in a plastic cage- they can chew out of anything.”

The young Mom, the kind of person who researches everything thoroughly,  assured me that they were getting two males, and a glass aquarium.  I wish them all the best.  I hope the sales clerk is knowledgeable.



  1. Middle Man said

    Beware the Gerbils! You might enjoy this:

    • adisasullivan said

      Indeed. Pets do have a habit of introducing kids to issues of life and death, even gerbils. For many years now we have stuck to the formula of: one cat at a time, and replace when necessary with a kitten.

  2. Lila said

    Well, we stayed away from rodents during our family-raising time. We had fish-for only a very short time, and then a cat. The only rodent was the dead white mouse that the cat very proudly gifted us with in the doorway between the living room and the dining room.

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