Gerbils are social animals

Two Gerbils, 2 years old, in front of white background

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.

Feet stamping

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).

Body Language

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.

About the Author

Paul
I'm a (fairly) old Welsh guy who writes about keeping small pets as hobby. I live in the beautiful Italian Alps with my long suffering partner and two very spoiled cats.

5 Comments on "Gerbils are social animals"

  1. I had two gerbils but just lost one today not sure what happen. I’ve had them for about 2 years and I know they like pairs but since the other one is mature should I get another one? I’m sure she is sad without her pair….please advise

    Thank you

  2. theresa balzer | July 25, 2013 at 4:13 pm |

    I HAVE TWO MALES .ONE IS BLACK AND WHITE AND THE OTHER ONE WAS BROWN. THE BROWN ONE PASSED AWAY THIS MORNING. I BOUGHT THEM AT PETCO IN AMARILLO. I GOT THEM BOTH WHEN THEY WERE LITTLE. THEY ARE BROTHERES. THE BLACK AND WHITE ONE IS SAD AND ALL ALONE. WHAT CAN I DO. THANK YOU, THERESA BALZER

  3. I have four gerbils one is the mother and her three little ones that are a couple of months old I guess and she just had a litter of six pups this afternoon when I was out, I am curious to know by taking the three other gerbils out of the cage to seperate them from the mother gerbil and her pups a good thing or did I do the wrong thing by doing this??

  4. You shouldn’t separate them yet they’re too young. The mom has to feed them and take care of them.

  5. We just lost one of our gerbils and I was concerned about introducing a new one to our 3 year old gerbil at home. Petsmart folks told me to put a dab of vanilla on each of their backs so they smell the same and they immediately bonded! No issues at all.

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