How to Introduce Two Gerbils

Photo by booooomblastandrun

Introducing gerbils

In the wild gerbils  form small family units. They are social creatures and hug, clean, run after, and  tussle with one another. Similar to other communal animals like wolves, there is a principal pair of gerbils that reproduce while  the older progeny look after the young. As the children reach puberty and consequently  maturity, they leave their community to form another social group. Even in confinement, gerbils prefer to be in groups. However it is entirely at the owner’s discretion to determine the most advantageous size of such group.

The American Gerbil Society has made a set of  recommendations you can see below:

Two stranger gerbils should be introduced to each other only through the split cage method (as described  below). Generally speaking, young gerbils, sexually developed pairs and a mature male and young set up groups most easily. It is advisable not to keep more than two adult females together. Although some breeders have managed to breed with seven male gerbils together successfully, it is better to keep no more than four males together in one place. Never raise more than one female gerbil in a single cage. When a second litter comes along, remove of all but about 1-3 gerbil kids to prevent overcrowding.

Gerbils are extremely defensive creatures and hence are somewhat violent towards gerbils the don’t know.  It’s best to choose two gerbils that are already living together and are aged between six to eight weeks.  This will lead to a smoother process when they move to a new cage. If one or both  the gerbils are over eight weeks old, a Split Cage is the best possible solution. The Split Cage system  works well for two isolated gerbils. Gerbils that have been kept separated for more than one day can be slowly reintroduced to each other through the Split Cage set up.

Split Cage Introduction Method

A cage or tank of approximately 15-20 gallon capacity that can easily be divided into two parts is  necessary. There are some two-chambered ready made cages available on the market but these are hard to find.

To make a Split Cage, simply partition the tank or cage using stiff, heavy hardware cloth with small pores.  Put the separator diagonally so that the tank is divided into two identical triangles. This kind of  division makes the cage more spacious and secure for each of the gerbils.

On the other hand, you might be able to construct a Plexiglas dividing wall. Pierce holes in the Plexiglas to allow the scent of one gerbil to be carried over to the other through these openings. Irrespective of whether you use hardware cloth or Plexiglas, ensure that the  divider fits snugly and is secure. The gerbils will attempt to creep underneath, over or around the  partition to get to the gerbil in the other half of the cage.  Also check that the cover of the cage fits properly. Do not forget to observe the gerbils after placing  them in the two-chambered cage until you are absolutely confident that the split cage is safe and sound.

Just like many other animals including cats, gerbils are sensitive to scent. When one animal gets used to the body scent of the other, they tend to become less hostile. In the case of cats, wiping each cat with  the same towel transmits the scent from one to the other. In case of gerbils, you can transfer the scent  effectively by cautiously moving the gerbils to opposite sides of the cage four to five times per day.

After a week of these daily relocations, slowly take away the divider. Be ready with heavy gloves to part  the gerbils if a brawl starts. You need to study them carefully for at least five to six hours, and  sometimes even longer. Only remove the divider only when you are available to keep an eye on the animals.

Do not leave them together unless you are there to monitor them. If you need to leave suddenly, don’t forget to put  the divider back before you leave. Once you see that they have begun grooming each other and  are sleeping peacefully together in the same nest, you can be sure that the transition have been successful and now,  they will live together in complete harmony.

About the Author

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 three very spoiled cats.

23 Comments on "How to Introduce Two Gerbils"

  1. I noticed a lone gerbil in the store. He was with hamsters, who are notoriously solitare creatures. I had sympathy on this gerbil and decided to buy him. Upon asking about his behavior with the other gerbils they had in the store, I learned that they hadn’t tried him with any other gerbils. The gerbils they had were younger, so they naturally placed this older gerbil in with the hamsters. They said the hamsters didn’t fight with the gerbil. In fact, I noticed the gerbil sleeping against one hamster. I asked to try this gerbil with another male. I brought in my cage, and they placed the first gerbil with another unknown male. They sniffed each other then ran around exploring the cage. I have had them for two days, and they have not fought. In fact, I have seen them both grooming the other. I just wanted to let you know I tried an unconventional method and placed two gerbils who didn’t know each other in an unknown territory. And so far, it has been working.

  2. Jo Tardalo | August 5, 2010 at 8:31 pm |

    Are they germ carriers like hamster???

  3. I LOVE gerbils. They are soooooo sweet! i never want them to die!

  4. Can gerbils live by themselves if their partner has died?

  5. I also did not do the slip cage method for my two gerbils (both male). They have been living together quiet nicely for about a month. They would sleep and groom each other and never fought. But last night there was a terrible fight which blood was drawn I believe if I didn’t break it up one would have died…So just because they seem to be fine always keep and eye on them. I’m debating on whither to reintroduce them with the split cage method, once they have healed. But I don’t know if that’s a good decision. I would love to have them together again, but if this happened again I don’t know if I will be there to stop the fighting and I can’t have that on my conscience.

  6. Ouch!! I dont want mine to have a fight like that. If they did, I would take the top off (mine is a gerbilarium so theres to tops. I mean the one with the stairs on so I could just reach in) and put a glove on then picked one out and give them some food. I would put one on the top area of the cage and block the steps so one couldnt get up or the other get down. But that in real life would be a problem. I have three. So if three were fighting i wouldnt know what to do but if two were fighting then the third one wont be able to be with one of the ones fighting cause they might be aggresive with the one not involved in the fight! Also they one not involved would be lonley so I’ll deal with this if it ever happens cause my brain is blank with ideas of what to do if they fight!

  7. Gerbil Lover | April 23, 2011 at 7:20 pm |

    I have set up a split tank for my gerbils, since one has just been purchased, and they are showing no interest in one another. I don’t even think they’re aware of the other one. It’s been like this for over a day; should I try to introduce them? They’re not the brightest pair 😛

  8. My older gerbil (Nibbles) is a bit slow, and i think he stopped his brother from eating and thats why he died. Should i try and introduce him to our new gerbil (Magic Mike)

  9. All creatures are germ carriers, that’s just nature, there’s no such thing as antibacterial animals lol, as long as the cage is cleaned out there are no
    Problems for children etc, gerbils are quite ‘dry’ rodents unlike rabbits etc and are quite tidy too so they are great pets for those that are concerned about smells etc

  10. i have two female and they have two different cages but i want them to be able to like each other how do i do that

  11. my gerbil, coco has a scab on her nose should she go to the vet or will she be ok because my other gerbil, fries died a few days being bitten by a cat though i thought she was ok

  12. I just think gerbils are the cutest! I’m planning to get 2 schimmel Mongolian gerbils…

  13. I wan to get Gerbils, but my mom says she doesn’t want to have a pet that attracts snakes, because we have pythons where I live. I soo badly want a pet to play with and take care of!

  14. I have a gerbil who is 2-3 years old and i want to buy another gerbil and do the split cage method but i’m afraid they might fight because my gerbil is older than 10 weeks so should i try the split cage method or just keep him alone?

  15. I have 4 gerbils.. 2 in each cage.. all are said to be males.. we have had them together for the past 6 months since we got them.. today.. i noticed 2 of them rolling around the cages fighting.. why would they start this this late?! I am unsure what to do.. should i seperate them.. or let them stay together?

  16. This is in response to Stacey. What you did is not an unknown/unconventional method. You introduced an adult gerbil to a younger one who was not yet a full grown adult. The adult looked at the younger one as a pup that needed taken care of and the younger one responded by looking at the adult as father figure. By putting them in neutral territory you eliminated the risk of them seeing the other as an outsider. It doesn’t always work, but it isn’t uncommon either.

  17. I have used this split-cage method myself with success, it just requires some patience.

    In response to Meghan – if your gerbils are fighting you have to separate them.

  18. Putting a dab of vanilla extract on each of their backs before introducing them did the trick for me. The immediately took to each other because the smelled the same. It’s worth trying!

  19. I had one gerbil for about a month and a half and I recently got a new one when I put them in the cage they fought for dominance since they are both male. The newer one was overpower and the older one bit him on his ear and his next the cuts are now gone but I am scared to reintroduce them as fear one will die what do I do?

  20. I bought two male gerbils (8 weeks old) and decided to buy two more (same age) after couple of days. I also bought them from the same pet store. I introduced them in neutral territory and then moved them to glass tank big enough for four gerbils. They have been living happily even since 🙂

  21. I have two male gerbils, both about 5 months old. I am interested in getting another one or two. Can I put them in the same cage as my first two?

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