Character and behavior of the gerbil: main traits to understand it


The gerbil belongs to the same family of animals as the mouse, rat and / or hamster. Originally from Mongolia, however, it has the advantage of not giving off any body odor. She is attractive because she is exotic, but she has special needs. To properly care for gerbils, it is important to understand how they perceive their environment and why they adopt certain behaviors. If you rely on your instincts alone to figure them out, you might miss out on important things.

What are the senses most developed in the gerbil?

In the Mongolian steppes, the gerbil is the prey of many predators, especially birds. Its survival depends on its ability to detect danger. For this, she developed her hearing in the ultrasound range. So she hears things that you don’t hear and can react while everything is quiet for you. Outside of these sound ranges, the gerbil cannot hear very well.

The gerbil has some points in common with the rat, including a particularly well-developed sense of smell. That of the gerbil is 40 times that of a dog. So, considering this feature, you should limit odors strong in its environment: incense, perfume, cigarette smoke, etc. You also understand why any approach to your animal involves presenting your hand, so that the gerbil can recognize your scent. At first, you will think she is really trying to “taste” your fingers, especially if you have just eaten something she smells like. You probably won’t hurt. In any case, his incisors are not used to defend themselves but to gnaw. But you have to gently make him understand that this is not a behavior that you accept. Without hurting her, you gently push her away.

The gerbil is an animal that spends a lot of time underground. Like all “underground” animals, his vision is not very developed. It is more sensitive to the brightness of a color than to the color itself. You will therefore be doing him a service by providing him with accessories (toys, feeders) in very bright colors.

The gerbil is an animal to be secured

To escape its predators, the gerbil must also rely on its liveliness. She has very developed reflexes. But above all, her instinct drives her to hide at the slightest alarm.

In its natural environment, it evolves in long galleries that stretch over 2 meters deep. The purpose of the animal is also to shelter itself from the heat of the day. Gerbils often come out at sunset to look for food. It is essential that the animal can satisfy these instincts in captivity. His litter must be enough thick to let it dig substantial galleries, and the animal must have at its disposal something to support the galleries. The gerbil will also take refuge there to sleep and eat.

Securing the animal also involves the way in which it is carried. Any gesture that comes from above can only awaken its instinctive fear: you are acting like a bird that swoops down on it. When the gerbil is familiar enough with its surroundings and yourself, you can try to carry it. This will be done from below, so that the animal is not overhanging and does not feel the void when it is lifted.

How to harness the curiosity of the gerbil?

The gerbil is a curious animal and it is thanks to this quality that you can consider taming it. If she loves to get out of her cage to discover new things, her journey must be made safe because if she had to fall off the sofa, she could be seriously injured. Its morphology is not designed to absorb such shocks.

Her curiosity leads her to appreciate change and novelty. So do not hesitate to introduce new elements into its habitat: you will quickly see it rearranging its space.

Independent, the gerbil is able to show itself cuddly once she has confidence in you. But beyond these few characteristics, each gerbil has its own unique personality. Some are more or less curious, more or less fearful, more or less determined, more or less active, etc. Part of the fun of owning a gerbil is taking the time to find out who your pet is.

The group’s need

The gerbil needs its fellows. Buy at least two, taking care to give them enough space, four gerbils being the correct number.

A hierarchy is set up, inducing behaviors of dominants and dominated. Even if you only have gerbils of the same sex, you will see them adopt movements that are reminiscent of mating. It is also possible that one gerbil pulls a few hairs from another. You probably won’t miss the organization of fights either: the gerbils get on their hind legs and hit each other with the front legs. Rarely does the confrontation last until injury, and even more rarely until death. But conflicts develop gradually. So you have to be careful. When you identify blood on one or more gerbils, it’s time to separate them before it goes any further. If you intervene during a fight, do not do it without gloves because their claws could injure you.

Beyond hierarchical relationships, females can mate with each other during hot weather. They can of course observe more peaceful behaviors such as sleeping together, curled up against each other. Gerbils can also clean themselves.

Given the role of odor in maintaining the group cohesion, it is advisable to keep part of the nest when changing litter because gerbils deposit their scent by rubbing a gland located on their belly. Without this, your gerbils would lose their bearings too much and it would take time for them to get used to their environment again.

Interpretation of other behaviors

When gerbils come face to face, they try to recognize each other.

Squealing is the most common sound made between gerbils to communicate. If the squeaks turn into screams, then you need to intervene because a fight is likely going on.

A gerbil that is afraid stomp, starts running quickly or raises its tail.

A gerbil that moves in circles is a gerbil that protects its territory.

A gerbil that gnaws at its bars can be bored. If she’s alone, look no further! It can also mean that the surface of its cage is too small: it is necessary to enlarge its environment as quickly as possible.

A young gerbil frequently tries to lick the glass of the terrarium to collect the drops of water that trickle down the glass. If it is an adult gerbil behaving like this, it is less common; check that she has enough water, or that her bottle is not blocked.

A gerbil that grinds its teeth should be examined because there is a good chance that it has a dental problem.

Like any domestic mammal, lethargy is never a good sign. A gerbil that remains prostrate in its corner requires a consultation with a veterinarian without delay.