Gerbils need company
Gerbils are purely social animals. They love the company of other members of their species and this is reflected in their behaviour. Their most “visible” characteristic is their intense curiosity about their surroundings. Sounds and new objects attract their attention and the animal will immediately seek to understand what‘s going on. Due to this peculiarity gerbils are very docile animals and not normally biters.
It is very common for them to rhythmically stamp the ground with their back feet. There could be two reasons for this: it could be a warning to the other members of the colony about a danger, or the animal is sexually aroused. They also whistle and chirp (often while sleeping).
Their body language is a powerful means of communication and even us humans are able to recognise some of their most common gestures:
- when they greet each other they lick the other’s muzzle, in a sort of an exchange of kisses
- you will know they are relaxing when you see them grooming each other
- when one gerbil lies on his back in front of another he is inviting the other one to play
- when they are frightened or alert they stand on their back legs which makes them look like they are praying
- they express curiosity when they frantically look around sniffing and tasting anything they find around them
- boxing between young gerbils is often a game, but it could also be a real fight.
Gerbils can indeed be less docile than we think on some occasions, particularly towards gerbils from another colony. It may be relatively easy to introduce new members into a group when they are all young, but doing so with adult animals is risky. Once they have reached maturity, introducing new members would probably lead to bloody territorial conflicts that could even end in death.
Keeping just one gerbil is just wrong. He will almost certainly suffer from solitude and will lead a short, boring, unhealthy life. The best choice is to keep a pair of same sex animals (contemporary literature suggests males, who are less aggressive than females, but there are different views about this). If you try to keep a male and a female together, be prepared to have a lot of gerbils.