Understanding the body language of your gerbils

Gerbil body language

As with any pet, it is important to understand your gerbil’s body language and what they mean by their various gestures. More often than not, we tend to misinterpret these subtle signals and end up doing more harm to our pet than any good. So just buying another gerbil is not sufficient company for your pet, you have to spend time with it and learn to understand its body language.

  • If you have a pair gerbils in your house, you are probably aware of the curious way in which they say hello to each other. One gerbil runs to other and touches her mouth or nose to kiss them. Gerbils do this because they recognize each other by the taste of their individual saliva or by their body odour.
  • If your gerbil stands up tall on its hind legs with its front paws joined together as if in a prayer, it means that your gerbil is alert and on the lookout.
  • If he is standing in the same posture but his hands are not joined together, but instead they are hanging limp on either side in front of his chest, it means that the gerbil is curious and expecting something to happen. He may not be scared  but it definitely means that he is aware of his surroundings and expecting a threat signal from fellow gerbils or from outside. In this posture, gerbils may turn and  look around themselves. But if it is looking straight to the front, without moving its head in any direction, it means that it is definitely looking for ominous signs.
  • Sometimes when a gerbil stands and looks straight ahead, it means it is trying to see what is going on in the household.
  • When a gerbil rolls over onto its back and exposes its belly to its partner, it means that it is a submissive mood and would like to be pampered by the other gerbil. This submissive posture wins the confidence of the other gerbil, tells him who is in charge and even beckons him to tend the fur of the other gerbil.
  • Gerbils also request grooming by placing their chins on the ground and using their noses to touch the underside of the other gerbil’s mouth.
  • When gerbils are angry with each other or try to impose something, you will see them with their backs arched, pressing their faces against each other with their fur standing up on end.
  • It is natural for gerbils to burrow and dig in one corner of the cage. It does not mean they are frustrated or want to escape. They are just being  gerbils as they love to dig holes and they form elaborate tunnel networks in their natural habitat.

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.

36 Comments on "Understanding the body language of your gerbils"

  1. I have two pet gerbils. There names are Brownie (color brown) and Snowball (albino)

  2. cool me to but I only haave one her name is piper (black)

  3. hey i was lieing i am sorry

  4. hey 1 of the gerbils are the same as mine!!

  5. I love my Amber gerbil. She is 31/2 old. She was always healthy. Last Friday, she caught an ear infection. We went to veterinarian. They gave her exam and medecine. After two days of taking medicine, she is the old happy one. I hope she is going to live more than 4.

  6. I have a gerbil named Amber ,too. She also does have a ear infection ,at least thats what I think. I once knelt on her, only on acttedent. She had a sister named Imani, but she died.=( Amber is two years old. Her birthday is Sept. 5th!

  7. hi there i have 2 gerbals that i got.i am needing ideas on one of my gerbals.when i let it out its fine but when i put it bk into the cage it looks as if its haveing a fit.its hart is going fast and it dosent move for a couple of min.then its ok again i dont understand and need any help.

  8. Chloe Horne | June 14, 2010 at 6:15 pm |

    One of my gerbils is visibly smaller than the other one, and it tends to sleep a lot. Whenever I take him out of the cage he’s fine, but when I put him back in he just goes to sleep or sits there. Is it something with the cage?

  9. Berkeley Intemediate School | June 22, 2010 at 3:50 pm |

    We are reading a book about gerbils. It is called, The Many Troubles of Andy Russell. All gerbil-lovers out there should read it.

  10. My brother has two pet gerbils, fudge(charcoal) and caramel(peachy) carmel just wont stop biting the cage though

  11. Samellina Ballerina | July 2, 2010 at 12:47 pm |

    Why is there two google eyes in the food?

  12. In concern to the picture, you should never give gerbils citrus fruits.

  13. I have two female gerbils a expresso (black) and mocha (brown)

  14. Sigh… I wish I had a pet gerbil, but our family doesn’t have enough money for a good cage, and it would probaly be murdered by my kitten, Angel. (She was an angel at the shelter.) She’s actually really sweet and has a great temper. Whenever our puppy grabs her, she just sits there and lets her do it.

  15. I have 1 gerbil. her name is Feefee.shes realy silly I gave her some food and she tryed to balence it on her head!

  16. I have 3 gerbils one is white n tan her name is bernadette than i have pirya which is brown looks likes a brown squirel lol n amy farrah fowler she is grey with a lil bit of white they are great i love them so much amy gives me kisses .. me n my sister in law got them and are going to have the whole cast of the big bang thoery ( :

  17. I have 2 gerbils. One is Black (black) and one is White (grayish/whitish) and they wont stop nipping at my fingers

  18. I just purchased two gerbils this evening and a very cool colorful “cage” even though it doesn’t look anything like a cage. I take my dog to the pet store for the most part becasuse it’s raining ALL DAY long, and we can’t go for our normal walk. He is fasinated out of all the animals in the store with the gerbils. He would watch them for hours if I let him. My dog is a Bouivier des Flanders and smart, smart, smart (can ya tell how much I love him)? I taught him to not chase the sqirrels at the park and he doesen’t. He shows me where they are ane I fed them peanuts.. I promise I’m getting to the gerbil part. I speak to my dog likes he’s a person. I told him he was not to scare the gerbils and was not to stand up on the table in case that scared them. They are cute as buttons, One is brown and white with a white stripe down his nose, the other is mostly brown. My dogs name is Harper. The gerbils are female. After that very long story………..I thought I’d ask for some ideas on naming them. So if you care to…………help! Thanks, Teri

  19. My gerbils are named Flick and Pokey, (names I came up with that could be for a boy or girl because I didnt know at first,) and I got them for my birthday. Pokey was a fat gerbil so we thought she was pregnat. But she is not. She’s just fat. She also loves to knock over the wheel and groom Flick. And sometimes she bites me while I hold her. (But she never gives me bites that are as big as my friend’s gerbil!)

  20. i there ive got 10 gerbils one black ,one albino snow white.one gray ,one silver,3ginger,one blue,and two i call the twins as thay look the same, i love to sit and watch them and i bought them all at the same time and there in a very big 6 foot tank 5 boys 5 girls ,and im not that sure about not letting your dog are cat near them as my dog sits there watching them and thay seem to love here being there thay come right to the front of the tank to see her ,having said that i dont let her near the tank when cleaning,even thought i no she would not hurt them more like lick them to death

  21. I have 3 gerbils, A boy black named pokey, A boy white named horse and a girl black named Ninja… I have had pokey for abt 3 months but the other day I found him on the kitchen floor… Didnt think he was gonna make it so I went and got ninja and horse, Pokey seems to be doing better but he is in his own cage until we think he is all better and then were gonna introduce him to the others.. Best caged pet ive ever had.. Pokey loves to eat toilet paper rolls and hide in his lil tunnel thing..

  22. I have two gerbils my female gerbils name is katness (grey) and the male gerbils name is gale (white) I just love them so very much I’m gonna miss them so munch when I have to go to college. :c I also feel bad cuz I had to separate them so threy don’t make baby’s but their cages are right next to one another hope that helps a little I also let them run around in the balls together.

  23. im might be getting some gerbils soon and im SSSSSSSSSSUUUUUUUUUUPPPPPPPPPPEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRR excited about there arival !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. this website has been very helpful because once I showed it to my dad he finally agreed to let me get a gerbil !

  25. I’m super excited ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

  26. I just recently got a gerbil, his name is zero 🙂 having a bit of trouble handling him but Im very excited to see what the fuzzy guys like! hes my first one..

  27. For chirstmas I am getting a gerbil for pet starmt .i think it will be black and white under its chin

  28. wonderful post

    my hand reared orphan gerbil showed all of this behavior with her pet humans as she couldn’t be paired with another

    she passed away recently after a fabulous life and will be missed for a long time

  29. I just bought a gerbil two days ago and I named him swerve!! He is the cutest darn thing ever! He’s black with a little white on his front paws an under his chin!!:)

  30. I have 2 gerbils checo and olly there Mongólian gerbils both 1 over the past year ir learnrt more about teses crearuters each day both beatiful and lovley loved to be handeld and a lot of fun looking after But extermly Messy checo is a whitish Browns coulour and ollys a hazelnut brown coulour there birthdays are the 5th of Febuary I hope they die at the same time só one wont get lonley i hope they live past 4

  31. The type of cage above,is that a good type of cage.
    – Meagan

  32. i have 2 gerbils one is black with white rings around his paws and a white spot under his chin (cherry) and A grayish whitish one (candy) i love them both and they are about a year old now

  33. Thanks Fur The Info 🙂 It looks like My gerbil, Melon, is curious! 😀

  34. Hi there! I have one gerbil and his name is Timothy. He is very peculiar and he likes to hit his head on the floor of his cage. He likes to hop, not walk, which also concerns me. But i still love him and he is by far the best pet i have ever had. (i have had lots of pets) Timothy is super friendly, likes to nibble, but seems much more active and lively since i started feeding him Browns Tropical Carnival. I recommend it to anyone looking for healthy good food. Hopefully someone got something from this they can use.

  35. All I want is a gerbil. Sadly my dad won’t let me because he doesn’t think I’m capable of looking after them. It is the only thing I want at the moment and I’m literary begging. Let’s just hope the begging pays of!:-/

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