How to Tame Gerbils

Taming gerbils

The first thing you should know about gerbils is that they can be easily tamed. They don’t bite like hamsters do. If you decide to buy a gerbil for your home you should buy them in pairs so that it is easier for you to help them adapt to human surroundings. Do not buy them unless they are at least 5 weeks old, but try to buy them when they are as young as possible.

Gerbils soon get used to an environment full of humans if you keep them in areas where there is average activity going on through the day. However, too much commotion and excitement can be intimidating for them.

Leave them alone to get used to the activity in the house initially. Don’t immediately start teaching them how to behave. You can make a fist out of your hand and place it inside the cage for them to sniff and lick. If they try to bite you, you should not startle them by pulling it away immediately. Take out your hand gradually, without making any sudden movements.

You should feed them sunflower seeds along with pine nuts. At first they might be a little to frightened to eat out of your hand. Feed them often by hand and wait for them to take it from you. Change the water and clean the cage whenever you have time so that the gerbils get used to you.

Don’t suddenly disturb them when they are sleeping. You should also be open to their harmless bites on your hand. They recognize other living creatures by the way they taste . Once they get used to your presence you will find them climbing into your hand. You should support them from the back by placing your other hand behind them. However, at first they might be scared by this action and run off. Therefore, keep repeating this action with them until they are comfortable with it.

Gerbils should always be trained in pairs or packs. Otherwise they take more time to get used to humans and their behavior. They should be allowed to move around in your surroundings while you are doing daily chores like cooking or cleaning up the room.

You should feed them sunflower seeds from time to time as a treat, but don’t overdo it. The more you interact with them using a quiet voice, they more they will learn the ways of communication of human beings.

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.

29 Comments on "How to Tame Gerbils"

  1. Isabella Rater | February 23, 2010 at 1:24 am |

    I love this website! It has all i need for info!

  2. Chloe Horne | June 14, 2010 at 6:09 pm |

    Whenever I tried putting my hand in a fist for my gerbils to look at and examine, one of them bit me hard and made me bleed. Is that supposed to happen?

  3. Hi!
    This is a lovely website and I am very pleased that you’ve chosen one of my pictures (yes ,the one on this page is mine, but unfortunately I don’t see any credits.
    All of my pictures are under “all rights reserved” license: this means that people cannot use my pictures without my permission.
    What if I created a website about gerbils, using yours articles without giving any credits to your work?
    I’m not asking you to remove the picture (I’m happy that you liked it!), I’m just asking you to put the credits: picture by

  4. @Tracina
    My apologies. I’ve added the photo credit and thanks for letting me continue to use the picture 🙂

    Grazie Mille!

  5. My chirdlren (four year old twin girls)have had gerbils before. Nice little critters they can be. One died and I replaced it with a new one it bit my finger and would not let go. It was latched on good and tight! I bled for over five minutes (those insciser teeth hurt pretty bad). I found this website and tried the closed fist method when I did you’ll never guess what happened next. The gerbil (Female) was curios and walked over to see what was in her cage. Next thing I knew she had hold of me again. A bar of soap and bottle of peroxide later I’m thinking I should take this attack gerbil back to the store for a warrantee upgrade. Any suggestions before I do this?

  6. Ouch!!! Sounds like you’ve got a nasty little madam there…
    You could try wearing gloves for a while, firstly to protect yourself and secondly, it might be that the gerbil just doesn’t like human skin…
    Don’t touch another gerbil before approaching her with your hand, the smell of another gerbil might be setting her off. I would suggest that before you put your hand anywhere near her you talk softly to her to start with. Then gently handle her with your gloved hands for a short period. Maybe give her a treat if she doesn’t nip you. You may have to do it for some time, try to be patient, don’t shout at her if she bites you, that will only frighten her and make her do it more…
    I hope this helps.
    Good luck, it sounds like you’re going to need it 🙂

  7. I hope my gerbils won’t bite me hard! I don’t want that to happen!

  8. Hi. I have three gerbils and they are really nice. The tamest was sat lied on its belly under the wheel so i picked it up and it bit me. I was soooooo suprised because not only did it hurt, he was the tamest! It nearly bled but i put him back with shock that HE bit me! Can you explain why this could of happpened to me? 🙁

  9. I have had gerbils in the past, and NEVER EVER gotten bit. i have had them sniff my hand, lick my hand, even gently nibble my hand, but never bite down hard enough to make it hurt, let alone bleed.

    I DID have one that tried to eat my finger nail….which I put a stop to cuz I didn’t think it was all that healthy for her, but that is as close as I have ever come to getting bit.

    I never knew they were as social as you all have been saying…looks like I will be getting a couple of new buddies soon. 🙂

  10. can the Habitrail cages for mice/hamsters be used for gerbils? or are they too small, too confining?

  11. Elora LeHue | November 7, 2011 at 8:40 pm |

    @ Josy; Gerbils can be frightened pretty easily. Even the tamest ones can attack sometimes when it is shocked by what ever it may be. Since your gerbil must have been relaxing, it probably didn’t notice that you were going to pick it up. I’m guessing that he got freaked out by whatever grabbed him when he was relaxing and used one of it’s only methods of defending itself, biting. Which is probably why you were bitten. Make sure that the gerbil knows you are going to pick it up. When a gerbil turns its back on you, is relaxing, or even napping, don’t just try to pick it up. Make sure it knows your hand is near so that it feels safe.

  12. i’m getting one,and my two sisters are once our little sister Amanda knows all of her multiplication facts 1-12!!yayyyyyyyy!!:):):)

  13. Olivia Teeters | March 16, 2013 at 7:08 pm |

    I’m looking to get a pair of female gerbils, I had sown before but that was a couple of years ago. I’m looking to get some at my dads house. But I only go over there every two days and stay there two days, and then I go back to my moms house. Would it still be okay for me to get a pair of gerbils if this is what my schedule Is like?

  14. I don’t know what to do I’m sad my gerbils sad cause she just lost her brother and now she’s alone I feel really bad for her she’s so young and I just don’t know how to help please tell me.

  15. Hello , I have only one gerbill and. its 12 weeks old. Am not. Allowed to get a another. One to keep it compant so I was wondering is their any way of. Making the gerbill. Not feel as. Depressed and lonley ? ?

  16. When I was little my gerbil bit my dad he said I should not get a gerbil . At petsmart on dec 20 will get a rodent what should I get it is between a fancy Russian hammie and a gerbil what should I do

  17. Hello me and my sister used to have a gerbil it never bit it used to sit in my hand and let me clap it and I just got my 1st hamster 4 days ago a dwarf hamster and its nipping my fingers and I’m getting less confidence of it and I said to the pet store man when do u get gerbils he said gerbils are more Lickley to bite is this true??

  18. I’ve several pairs of gerbils and a single hand reared one over the past 6 or 7 years and never been bitten.

    they’ve all liked to have a nibble of me at first but it’s so easy to get them out of doing that

    fabulous friendly little creatures and looking at having another pair in my life soon

  19. My son just inherited 3 gerbils. Two live in one very large aquarium and one in an average size one. They had to be separated. They are 3 females, they fought. The aquariums are placed together so they can see each other. The 2 girls are very friendly and don’t bite. The third one can be handled, but after a short while, will turn and bite you. Is there anything that can be done to get the 3 to co-exist nicely? If not, should a fourth gerbil be introduced to keep the lone gerbil company? Also, they have been used to shredded mail-type paper (not news print or colored ads). Is this harmful?

  20. If your gerbil bites you then don’t throw it or drop it. Just blow on its face and say NO strictly and it will stop biting. This works and you should get another gerbil same age not baby and try to put it with alone gerbil and then when it gets friendly try putting all gerbils together and see if they fight. I own lots of pets myself I have experience

  21. BUY GERBILS IN PAIRS!!!!! or they will be in happy and bite you and they will be very depressed and not live very long. They need friend to play with. And they are easier to tame when in groups and are nicer to humans in groups. And don’t bite and it’s fun to watch them sleep together chase each other around etc.

  22. Gerbils NEED TO BE KEPT IN PAIRS!!! or they will feel very depressed and lonely and will not live a long and happy life. So buy them in paired I have lots of experience I own 8 gerbils 4 Guinee pigs 5 hamsters 2 dogs 3 birds 27 fish 1 cat 1 lizard. And please buy a big cage for gerbils and DO NOT buy that small cramped dirty critter trail cage they are the worst! They are soo small I use them to keep my gerbil in when I’m cleaning its big cage. I would prefer a fish tank or terrarium for any rodent exempt rat. Minimum is 10 gallons per gerbil. But bigger is always better so buy something big!!! Every gerbil need at least 10 gallons and buy a mesh or

  23. Buy a mesh or wire lid for the tank

  24. If anyone else has a gerbil biting, drawing blood. Take him/her back and get a new one, ive decided to keep mine and work on it but its not worth the bloodshed.

  25. All my gerbil cares about it escaping. Not the wheel. Not me. Not toys. Just getting out.

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