Cheese can arguably hold the unchallenged throne to being America’s staple food due to its immense popularity and countrywide use. So, it is pretty understandable for pet parents to look for ways to share this delicious treat with their pets.
It’s especially common for conventional media to show that rodents in particular really love cheese. When it comes to what gerbils eat, one question takes precedence over all others: can gerbils eat cheese? If yes, do gerbils like to eat cheese?
Well, yes. Who doesn’t like cheese?! Gerbils face no negative repercussions if fed particular kinds of cheese in low amounts. It can even offer some health benefits because cheese contains specific nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
However, cheese is a by-product of milk, and gerbils are lactose intolerant. Therefore, overfeeding cheese can definitely cause some medical complications.
Interested in learning more about do gerbils eat cheese? We have got you covered. Let’s look into all you need to know about this topic.
What Is The Nutritional Value Of Cheese?
Cheese is nutritionally not comparable to a gerbil’s natural food intake. However, milk is highly suitable for baby gerbils. It suits their needs by providing a lot of protein fat but hardly any carbohydrates.
Although animals do need fat and protein, they do not need it as much as is present in milk. Cheese has the same nutritional makeup as milk, so it applies to it too.
However, cheese can be nutritionally beneficial for gerbils in some ways, as it contains several vital nutrients. Some nutrients that are present in cheddar cheese are as follows:
These statistics show that cheddar cheese contains; 3% carbohydrates, 23% protein, and almost 33% fat: ratios which are far higher than a gerbil’s nutritional requirements. A gerbil needs a maximum of 15% protein in its diet and about 5-10% fat. The remainder of the energy must come from carbohydrates, which are not present in cheese.
In addition, gerbils become lactose intolerant when they grow up, and large amounts of nutrient-rich cheese can cause several medical complications.
Cheese also contains a surge of minerals and vitamins. All dairy products have lots of minerals and vitamins, majorly because babies cannot get them from anywhere other than milk. These very nutrients are highly beneficial for adults and gerbils as well. Cheese is known to contain the following minerals and vitamins:
- Vitamin A: 1242.00 IU per 100g
- Vitamin B2: 0.428mg per 100g
- Vitamin B12: 1.10mcg per 100g
- Calcium: 710mg per 100g
- Phosphorus: 455mg per 100g
- Selenium: 28.5mcg per 100g
- Zinc: 3.64mg per 100g
- Sodium: 653mg per 100g
Although these quantities may seem minute, cheese contains a lot more of them than is found in most other foods. It also contains traces of:
- Vitamin B5
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Although cheese doesn’t have any unique health benefits, it does provide a wide array of nutrients that are good for an animal. It contains even more minerals and vitamins than other common gerbil snacks such as vegetables and fruits.
Therefore, cheese is not the worst snack you can feed your gerbil. But moderation is key, as cheese contains a lot of proteins and fats that your pet does not need. If your gerbil eats nothing but cheese, it is bound to become unhealthy.
It is crucial to remember that gerbils do not need to eat cheese as a “supplement” or “superfood” to help fulfill their vitamin needs: almost all the vitamins and minerals found in cheese can be taken from regular food as well. Magnesium is the only mineral exception: it is instrumental for brain health and development. If they lack it, your gerbil can have seizures, especially earlier in life.
What Happens When I Feed My Gerbil Cheese?
Like most rodents, gerbils eat almost anything you put before them. Their natural habitat is in a part of the world where surplus food is not available. So, they eat whatever they can find whenever they see it. Foods that contain loads of calories in a tiny morsel are uniquely attractive. Since cheese qualifies as such a food, eating a small portion can fill your fuzzy little pet. Gerbils enjoy eating cheese, and one or two pieces as an occasional treat would not do any harm to them. This intake only becomes alarming when you feed your pet too much cheese at once or small portions too frequently.
How Much Cheese Can You Feed Your Pet Gerbil?
Lactose intolerance is variable in individual gerbils and depends upon their level of intolerance, which in turn depends on the amount of lactase their body produces. It can range from zero to maximum (complete tolerance for dairy products) in different organisms, and gerbils fall at the start of the spectrum.
Your gerbil is most probably entirely intolerant because gerbils do not eat dairy after they are weaned. Weaning is a natural process that all mammal babies go through when they stop drinking their mother’s milk. It happens at around four to five weeks in gerbils when their gut stops processing lactose (a type of sugar present in milk).
Once a gerbil is weaned, it never consumes milk again for its entire life and shifts to regular, solid food like a fully grown gerbil. Weaning in gerbils is partially a physical necessity and somewhat an evolutionary choice.
If a gerbil’s gut produces zero lactase, even a slight amount of cheese can cause side effects. However, some kinds of cheese do not contain much lactose.
Aged cheeses are one of them because the bacteria in them eat the lactose or turn it into lactic acid, which gerbils can easily digest. That does not apply to gerbils only; even lactose intolerant humans can eat these kinds of aged dairy.
Your gerbil will not face any medical complications if you feed it a low-lactose dairy product. However, the recommended amount is half a teaspoon of cheese or half its food in one sitting.
How Often Should You Feed Your Pet Gerbil Cheese?
Gerbils are allowed cheese, but only once a week. You can give it a tiny portion of cheese as a snack along with its everyday food. Feeding your pet cheese more than once a week can make it obese or trigger symptoms of lactose intolerance.
What Happens If My Gerbil Ends Up Eating Too Much Cheese?
Cheese is not poisonous and would not seriously hurt or kill your pet gerbil even in more significant amounts. However, it can cause several digestive problems, which can be painful and unpleasant.
Such digestive problems are the direct consequence of lactose intolerance (a lack of lactase in the gut). Lactase is a specialized enzyme that is essential to break down lactose (found in all dairy products) into two other easily digestible sugars known as glucose and galactose. An infant’s body produces this enzyme but stops production when it stops eating dairy.
A lack of this enzyme in weaned gerbils causes the lactase to go through the gut undigested, causing complications such as bloating, diarrhea, flatulence, nausea, and cramps. Diarrhea can further lead to infection, which opens up another dimension of medical issues.
Lactose intolerance applies the same way to gerbils as it does to lactose-intolerant humans, simply because the underlying intolerance mechanism is not different.
Which Type Of Cheese Is Best For Gerbils?
Cheddar cheese is one of the most suitable cheeses a gerbil can eat. That is because its aging process allows bacteria to process and break down the lactose in cheddar to something gerbils can digest: lactic acid.
In addition, it is higher in nutritional value and is made by draining much of the whey. Much of the lactose is present in the whey and drains away with it.
Some other cheeses, such as Parmesan, Swiss cheese, cottage cheese, and ricotta cheese, are also low in lactose content and make a good choice for gerbils. If you find yourself in a pickle about which cheese to choose for your pet gerbil, the most convenient way to make a decision is to look at its lactose content. The lower the lactose content, the better the snack for your pet gerbil!
Which Type Of Cheese Should Gerbils Avoid?
Gerbils can eat almost all kinds of cheese except blue cheese, which contains mold. Mold is toxic to most pets, including gerbils. In addition, it is wise to avoid all dairy products, especially cheeses, that have a short aging process as they contain the highest amount of lactose.
Most cheeses have very low lactose content, as low as 6%, and gerbils are lactose intolerant to limits higher than 20%. Although this is much more than what most cheeses contain, it is suitable to give your gerbil cheese as a supplement to its natural diet or use it simply as a rare treat. Too many cheesy snacks are not optimal either.
Fortunately, several other foods can serve as great snacks for gerbils. Below is a compilation of some of the best ones, but it is important to note that you should feed your gerbil vegetables once a day maximum and fruits about two to three times a week only.
- Apples (without seeds)
- Lettuce (in minimal amounts)
In What Ways Can Gerbils Eat Cheese?
The only suitable way for gerbils to eat cheese is natural and fresh, free from additions or other ingredients.
You can feed your pet gerbil cheese by simply taking a small bite-sized portion of a natural variety of aged cheese (avoid processed cheeses) and serving this delicious snack to your pet. You need to make sure that your pet eats the whole portion of cheese you give them and remove the uneaten amount later.
That is because these animals are known to hoard food high in fatty content. Although that is alright for seeds of some fruits, storing cheese can turn into a colony full of mold in a relatively short period of time. Mold is poisonous for gerbils, and a little carelessness in feeding can become a time bomb waiting to blow up.
People generally regard cheese as a comfort food or a treat for animals and humans alike. Similar is the case with gerbils: they thoroughly enjoy eating it without knowing that an excess of it can harm them and is not appropriate for their diet.
Therefore, pet parents must take complete responsibility in this regard and maintain a healthy diet and constructive lifestyle goals for their gerbils.
Like humans, individual gerbil preferences, nutrient requirements, allergies, likes and dislikes, and lactose intolerance levels vary. Therefore, no matter what theoretical knowledge tells you, you cannot devise a suitable diet plan or cheese intake level without practical efforts.
Make sure your practice activities comply with the research you conduct in this regard and check which types of fruits, vegetables, and cheeses work for your pet.
Gerbils enjoy highly nutritious foods like cheese, so it is crucial to opt for some cheese alternatives lest your pet gets addicted to it. Even if your pet gerbil does not like its vegetables, you can mix them with a tiny sliver of cheese.
Gerbils are more vocal, engage with their owners more than hampsters, and act just like babies. Thus, you need to look after them just like babies as well.
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