Sir: Concerning Geraldine Tausig's and Chris Moncrieff's comments on gerbils (letters; 30, 31 May), I would not wish potential gerbil-keepers to be discouraged by Mr Moncrieff's unfortunate experience. Due to their gregarious and inquisitive nature, they are normally quite happy to be handled and Mr Moncrieff was very unlucky.
Of course, any animal that feels threatened will attempt to defend itself. Gerbils rarely bite, and when they do it is invariably a sharp nip followed by a quick escape. I am currently caring for more than 200, and have kept gerbils for more than 10 years. In that time I have been bitten no more than half a dozen times.
As Mr Moncrieff is well aware, gerbils are well-equipped to defend themselves from predators. If he follows Paul Whiteman's advice (letter, 2 June) and obtains a corn snake, he will need to know that gerbils have a reputation for successfully fending off snakes, sometimes with fatal consequences for the attacker.
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