are gerbils easy to handle

Is It Easy to Raise Gerbils?

Gerbils are adorable small rodents with furry bodies, round ears, shiny black eyes, and long tails. Originally from the deserts of Africa and Asia, gerbils have become popular pets for many. So, are gerbils easy to raise? The answer is yes, as long as you understand their behavior, master the correct handling techniques, provide a suitable living environment, and patiently build trust with them. Gerbils are, indeed, very easy-to-handle pets. Now, let me delve into the details of gerbil care to help you better understand and take care of these lovely little animals.

Behavioral Traits of Gerbils

Gerbils are social animals, enjoying living together with companions, sharing food, keeping warm, and playing. They communicate through sounds, scents, and physical contact, forming close social bonds. If you plan to keep gerbils, it’s advisable to keep them in pairs or same-sex groups to prevent loneliness or overbreeding. Providing enough space and toys is crucial to avoid conflicts.

Gerbils are lively and active creatures, exploring their surroundings and seeking new things. Although their eyesight is not excellent, their sense of smell, hearing, and touch are sharp. They use their nose, ears, and whiskers to perceive their surroundings. Gerbils also love to chew because their teeth continuously grow, requiring regular chewing to prevent overgrowth. Provide them with wooden or cardboard toys for chewing, but avoid plastic or metal items, as these can harm their teeth or digestive system.

Curiosity is a prominent trait in gerbils. They enjoy interacting with their owners, accepting petting and feeding. Gerbils show interest in the owner’s voice, smell, and actions, attempting to understand their intentions and build trust. Gerbils exhibit some human-like behaviors, such as yawning, napping, rolling, and hiccupping. With high intelligence, they can learn simple commands like sit, jump, and return to their enclosure. Using treats or toys as rewards helps encourage cooperation.

Gerbils are skilled jumpers and climbers, utilizing their strong hind legs to reach high places. They also have flexible bodies, capable of squeezing into small gaps. Gerbils like observing their surroundings from elevated positions and hiding in low places. Provide them with ample toys and climbing structures like wooden bridges, ladders, houses, wheels, and tunnels for exercise and entertainment. Ensure they don’t jump out of the cage or get stuck in furniture to prevent injuries or getting lost.

How to Handle Gerbils

Handling gerbils is an excellent way to bond with them, but it’s crucial to be gentle and avoid excessive force or rough treatment. Gerbils are sensitive, reacting to your movements and pressure. Being too rough can make them scared, in pain, or even prompt them to bite or escape. Respecting their feelings and making them feel comfortable and safe is key to successful handling.

When picking up a gerbil, support its entire body rather than just grabbing the tail or legs. The tail and legs are fragile, and improper handling may lead to fractures or dislocations, causing fear or pain. Use one hand to support the chest and front legs and the other hand to support the abdomen and hind legs, keeping the gerbil’s body horizontal for balance and stability. Gently massage their back and head with your fingers to help them relax and enjoy the experience.

Before attempting to pick up a gerbil, allow them to get used to your hands first. Gerbils are vigilant animals, cautious of unfamiliar things. Familiarize them with your scent, voice, and movements, letting them know you are trustworthy. Initially, offer them food through the cage bars, allowing them to come close to your hand. Then, open the cage door and let them come out on their own before gently petting them. Use a calm tone when speaking to them and make slow movements to avoid scaring them. Only attempt to pick them up when they show no resistance to your hands. Avoid disturbing them while they are sleeping or eating to prevent displeasure.

Understanding Gerbil Behavior

Gerbils are defensive animals, easily frightened, and prone to fleeing. They react to anything that threatens their safety, such as loud noises, quick movements, or unfamiliar scents. Approach gerbils slowly with gentle movements to avoid startling them. Maintain a quiet environment without loud talking or music to make them feel secure. Let them know you are not there to harm them but to befriend them.

Adjust your actions based on gerbil reactions:

If a gerbil licks your hand, continue petting them or offer more food.
If a gerbil bites your hand, pat their head gently or put them back in the cage.
If a gerbil makes giggling sounds, talk to them or provide toys.
If a gerbil makes hissing sounds, slow down your movements or leave them alone for a while.
If a gerbil screams, immediately check for injuries or consult a vet.

How to Care for Gerbils

Providing a suitable environment for gerbils involves a cage, bedding, food, water, and toys. Consider the following:

The cage should be at least 10 gallons in size, providing ample space for activities. You can choose a metal or glass cage, but ensure there are no large gaps to prevent escapes or entrapment. Avoid placing the cage in direct sunlight or poorly ventilated areas to prevent heatstroke or colds.

Use dust-free and odorless bedding like paper or aspen wood shavings for the cage floor. Avoid using cedar or pine shavings, as they release harmful odors that can damage gerbil respiratory systems. Also, avoid fiber-based bedding like cotton or gauze, as they may entangle in gerbil teeth or intestines, causing blockages or choking.

Clean the cage at least once a week and spot clean more frequently. Regularly remove bedding, food, water, and feces to keep the cage clean and sanitary. Use warm water and non-toxic cleansers to wipe the inside and outside of the cage, eliminating odors and bacteria. Avoid using hot water or toxic cleansers that may harm gerbil skin or respiratory systems. Don’t clean the cage when gerbils are inside to avoid disturbing their routine.

Gerbils are social animals, and it’s best to keep them in pairs or groups with enough space and toys to prevent conflicts. Choose same-sex or neutered gerbils to avoid overbreeding. Provide separate food bowls, water bottles, and sleeping areas to prevent resource competition. Regularly observe their behavior, and if you notice fighting or bullying, separate them promptly or consult a vet.

How to Acclimate Gerbils to Humans

When bringing gerbils home, give them time to acclimate to the new environment. Place the cage in a quiet, warm, and well-ventilated area for their comfort. Provide sufficient food, water, and toys to ensure they have proper nutrition, hydration, and entertainment. Avoid disturbing them initially, letting them rest and interact with each other. Wait until they fully adapt to the new surroundings before initiating interaction.

Start by feeding through the cage bars, then open the cage door for feeding. Use gerbil-favorite treats like sunflower seeds, peanuts, or dried fruits to attract their attention, allowing them to approach your hand. Initially, place food on the cage bars for gerbils to take from your hand, then put food near the cage door for them to come out and take. Gradually overcome their fear, establishing a connection. Avoid poking them with your fingers or placing food in your palm, as they might mistake your fingers for food and bite.

Feed them directly from your hand to help them adjust gradually. When gerbils confidently come out of the cage to take food from your hand, try having them stay on your hand or climb onto your arm. Allow them to feel your warmth and touch. Gently stroke their back and head with your palm or fingers, helping them relax and enjoy. Avoid poking their eyes, ears, or nose with your fingers, as these areas are sensitive and may make them uncomfortable or angry.

Spend more time interacting with gerbils to build a connection. Once gerbils can stay on your hand or arm without showing signs of nervousness or fear, try picking them up or placing them on your shoulder for closer bonding. Talk to them often, let them hear your voice, and provide various toys for play. Be cautious not to let them jump off your body or out of sight, as this may lead to injuries or getting lost.

Pros and Cons of Raising Gerbils

Raising gerbils comes with both advantages and disadvantages, and your decision to keep them should align with your preferences and circumstances. Here’s a comparison:

Pros: Gerbil care is straightforward, requiring a suitable environment, regular cleaning, and adequate feeding for healthy growth. Gerbils have a long lifespan of up to 5 years, longer than many other small rodents, providing lasting companionship. The cost of caring for gerbils is relatively low, with affordable food, water, bedding, and toys readily available, minimizing economic burdens.

Cons: Gerbils need a clean environment, as they excrete, chew, and dig in their cages, creating a considerable amount of waste and odor. Regular cleaning is essential to maintain hygiene. Gerbils have substantial space and activity requirements, enjoying jumping, climbing, and exploring. Providing a sufficiently large cage and diverse toys is essential for their exercise and entertainment. Gerbils are prone to nervousness, reacting to anything perceived as a threat. Approach them carefully to avoid scaring them or triggering escape responses.


In summary, handling gerbils gently, providing ample space for activities, patiently nurturing relationships makes gerbil care relatively easy. Understanding their needs and offering proper care will result in happy and healthy gerbil pets. Gerbils are charming, intelligent, and entertaining animals that can bring joy and warmth into your life. If you love gerbils, consider adopting one, two, or more, and let them become your loyal companions.

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