Why you Need to Have at Least Two Gerbils

The more gerbils, the merrier they are

If you are thinking about getting a gerbil as a pet, think in pairs. These creatures are very social and do not like living alone. The more, the merrier is the case here. They need other gerbils to live, nest and groom with. If you want a lone rodent, buy a hamster.  However, don’t just randomly buy gerbils and put them into a cage together because they are also very territorial. They will fight each other to the death to defend what they see as their territory. They will consider the other gerbil as an ‘intruder’. This is why it is a good idea to adopt gerbils from the same litter, i.e., those born together.

If for some reason you cannot get litter mates, you have take the two gerbils through a process of familiarization. You can do this by putting them in the same cage fitted with a divider that they cannot pass. This allows them to smell each other and get familiar with their personal odours. Interchange their living areas  from time to time. This will help them get to know the scent of the other gerbil even more closely.

Even after all this, they should be put together only for short periods of time and only when you are able to watch over them. You can rest easy only when they start sleeping peacefully together. If there is any sign of hostility, go back to the first step to avoid having a severely injured or dead gerbil on your hands. Gerbils that get along fine may also suddenly start fighting. In this case, they should be separated immediately before they kill each other. Even litter mates might do this. One reason behind this may be a change in the bedding.

With new bedding comes a new scent that the gerbils will not recognize. It will then turn hostile towards its mate whose scent it can no longer recognize. To prevent this, always leave a bit of the old nesting bedding when replacing it with a new one.

It is absolutely fine to have two gerbils of the same sex together. They will nest together as long as they know each other. Having gerbils of the same sex is also encouraged unless you want to become a breeder. Be warned that unless you want a lot more gerbils, you should keep males and females separate. Gerbils can breed within 8 hours of giving birth, so unless you know what you are doing, you won’t be able to stop the breeding.

The best way to avoid the breeding is to identify the sex of the gerbils that you have. If you do not know how to do this, have an expert or a qualified person identify them for you. Just make sure you go to the right person and get them identified correctly, or else you may end up an unwitting breeder.

Having pairs of gerbils is good and recommended. But you could find yourself in a sticky situation with a wrong pairing.

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 "Why you Need to Have at Least Two Gerbils"

  1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful and thorough entries! My husband and I got 2 gerbils last June and they have been great companions to ourselves and each other. Yesterday, one became very aggressive and they were fighting like we’d never seen before (my husband has had other gerbils in the past 2 or 3 times and had never seen anything like this). We separated them, but couldn’t figure out what had caused the aggression and, consequently, what to do next in order to reintroduce them to each other. We couldn’t find anything helpful online until we came across your articles- we had just cleaned the cage yesterday and your article made us realize that must have been it! Now we know what to do and to save some of the previous bedding in future. Thanks so much!
    ~Loni and Tom, and Cocoa and Nutmeg

  2. And also, I love your site- I think gerbils are very underrated in the media and many people don’t have a clue about the differences between gerbils and other rodents or about what great pets they make!


  4. My two female gerbils I had to put to sleep today. The one female gerbil a litter mate chewed down to the bone the others food. The one gerbil died in my hands. I had the one who attacked it put to sleep as well today. My two males at home seem to be ok but I am going to separate them just the same as I am worried about them hurting each other. The girls were 6 months old.

  5. The others foot, not food ooop typo.

  6. This helped me alot. I’m gonna get gerbils on Wendsday, January 28 2013 and I have a book about gerbils and it didn’t have keeping in old bedding. I REALLY dont want mah gerbils to fight to death. So thx alot

  7. Thank you! I had no idea you should keep in the old bedding. I am getting ready for gerbils I am planning to get.

    This webpage ROCKS!

  8. gerbilsrock44 | August 18, 2014 at 10:40 pm |

    thank you so much i was planning on getting a lone gerbil but i’ll have to convince my Mam tolet me get two now

  9. gerbilsrock44 | August 18, 2014 at 10:41 pm |

    to let soz typo

  10. I am also glad I read this. I have just rehomed two adult males from a shelter. The shelter started the bonding process when I committed, housing them side by side and giving them “play dates”, and I have put them in their new habitat together. All seems well with sleeping together and grooming each other’s faces. I will be sure to leave some old litter when I clean.

  11. My little girl had 2 beautiful Gerbils. They are 6 months old but unfortunately a friend came over and fell on one of them and we had to have her put to sleep :0(
    We tried introducing a new female as company for her but our original gerbil just wanted to attack the new gerbil. My daughter was hysterical so I ended up taking the new gerbil back.
    We’re so sad, as we never wanted a gerbil on its own

  12. we are in a situation where two gerbils were raised together as sisters.one just died tonight.From the comments we looked at on different websites their saying we should get a new gerbil to keep the current one company (1 1/2years old).but on some other comments getting another gerbilcould lead tofighting or possibly suffering.should we get another gerbil or should we leave our gerbil alone?

  13. in the article that to avoid brienedg you should just buy one gerbil. In fact, you should never, ever buy one gerbil. Gerbils are very social animals and they need to live with at least one gerbil or they become depressed. Females should just be in pairs, but males can live in groups of 2 or 3. There is lots of information on the internet about how to tell the sex of a gerbil so you can make sure you are buying 2 of the same sex. And you are right that the gerbils you buy should be from the same litter so they don’t fight.Also a 20 US gallon tank is best for 2 gerbils (recommended by the american gerbil society).Some gerbils may eat more than one tablespoon of food, and as long as he isn’t fat it is okay.Gerbils generally aren’t happy to eat anything you give them. A small amount of certain fruits and veggies a few times a week are good, but they shouldn’t eat processed foods, sugary/ sweet foods, milk products, most meat, potatoes or citrus foods.Finally, licking the tank isn’t normal gerbil behaviour. If you see a gerbil licking their tank it means they are thirsty, so you should check their water bottle to make sure it is full and working properly.That’s all! Just a bit of info to help make your website even better. Thanks!

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  16. Camila comentou em 6 de julho de 2012 às 18:14. gostei! o que a gente precisa é de leveza, as pessoas tem levado tudo muito a sério! (vide os comentários dos haters aí em cima) afff

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  18. Your answer was just what I needed. It’s made my day!

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  20. I just brought home two new gerbils. I was told they were from the same litter and already nesting together. I did mix in some of their old bedding with their new bedding. I came home to one covered in wounds and acting very aggressive, and the other wound free, but dopey and eyes half closed.

    I don’t know what I did wrong here. 🙁 I’ve had a pair before and they never did anything like this. I might just return them. I don’t know what to do. I just lost one gerbil to an illness and I don’t want to see another one die. I’m heartbroken

  21. My partner had 2 gerbils and when i got up this morning one of them add past away, i was unsure if i could keep the male on his own, after reading this i understand that i can but best to have them in pairs. and i will do this in the steps that is given. thank you.

  22. Hello, we just adopted a gerbil who was put in the adoption section alone in pets at home because of issues with her litter mates. Beacause of her history with other gerbils I am unsure as to whether or not I should get another one; I dont want her to get lonely but I also don’t have enough space for a whole seperate enclosure incase they don’t get along. What do you suggest?

  23. I just got two female gerbils that are about 5-6 weeks old and I they were together when I got them. I’ve read that 2 females can be together but when I was at Petsmart to get a fun enclosure for them an employee said they would kill each other. I dint know what to think now please help.

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