Gerbils and Cats: Can They Coexist? What You Need to Know and Do

Can You Keep Gerbils with Cats?

You’re an animal lover, and your adorable cat is your faithful companion. Recently, you’ve developed an interest in gerbils, those small rodents, and you’re thinking of providing them a cozy home. However, you’re concerned about how well your cat and gerbils will get along. Will they harm each other? Can you successfully raise both of them together? These questions are causing hesitation and uncertainty. The possibility of gerbils and cats cohabiting does exist, but it comes with challenges and risks. In this article, I’ll share my experiences and knowledge to help you understand the basics of gerbils and cats, analyze the risks of cohabitation, provide safety measures and cat adaptation training, introduce gerbil habits, address common questions, and conclude with the potential for gerbils and cats to live together, along with precautions. Hopefully, this article will inspire and assist you in making informed decisions to ensure the happiness and health of both your cat and gerbils.

Basic Information

Firstly, let’s delve into the fundamental information about gerbils and cats to better understand their characteristics and needs, preparing for their potential cohabitation.

  • Understanding Gerbil Basic Traits: Gerbils are small rodents native to Africa and Asia, with a petite size of 10 to 15 centimeters and a weight ranging from 100 to 150 grams. They come in various fur colors, such as white, gray, brown, or black, some with spots or stripes. Gerbils typically live for 2 to 4 years, and some may even reach 5 years. Being social animals, they enjoy playing and interacting with their companions. When kept alone, gerbils may feel lonely and depressed. Gerbils are omnivores, and their diet includes seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and hay. They also need calcium and vitamin C supplements to prevent deficiencies. Nocturnal by nature, gerbils spend most of their daylight hours sleeping and become active at night, engaging in activities like digging, food storing, and gnawing on items. Thus, they require a spacious, clean, and safe cage with ample toys and chewables to fulfill their needs.

  • Cat Nature and Habits: Cats are small carnivores originating from Europe, Asia, and Africa, with a size ranging from 30 to 40 centimeters and a weight of 2 to 6 kilograms. Their fur comes in various colors, patterns, and lengths. Cats typically live for 10 to 15 years, with some reaching 20 years. Independent by nature, cats have distinct personalities and preferences. They dislike being forced to do things they don’t want and express their emotions and desires, sometimes appearing stubborn or aloof. As carnivores, their diet primarily consists of meat and fish, supplemented with water and vitamins for optimal health. Cats are crepuscular, meaning they are active during dawn and dusk, sleeping approximately 16 hours a day and spending the remaining time playing, hunting, and grooming. Cats possess sharp senses and enjoy chasing and catching moving objects, showcasing their instincts and deriving pleasure from these activities.

Risks of Cohabitation

Having understood the basic traits of gerbils and cats, let’s explore the risks associated with their cohabitation. Being different species with distinct natures and habits, cohabitation involves numerous challenges and dangers. It’s crucial to recognize these factors and not assume that they will peacefully coexist.

  • Gerbil as a Natural Prey: Gerbils, being small rodents, are naturally prey for cats due to their size and speed. Cats, especially those untrained, might view gerbils as toys or food, attempting to capture or kill them. Even well-adjusted cats may pose a threat in specific situations, such as when gerbils escape their cage or when cats are hungry or excited. This poses a significant danger to gerbils, making them susceptible to injuries or even death.

  • Factors Leading to Gerbil Distress: Apart from direct attacks, various factors can contribute to gerbil distress or nervousness. Cat sounds, scents, or movements may induce fear or stress in gerbils, affecting their psychological well-being. Gerbils are sensitive creatures, prone to stimulation or fright. Prolonged states of tension or panic may result in symptoms like loss of appetite, hair loss, self-harm, weakened immune systems, or even death. Additionally, interference from cats may disrupt gerbils’ normal sleep and eating patterns, causing a decline in their overall health. Thus, the risks of gerbils and cats cohabiting should not be underestimated, necessitating effective measures to safeguard the well-being of gerbils.

Safety Measures

Now that we are aware of the risks associated with gerbil and cat cohabitation, it’s crucial to find ways to minimize these risks and provide a secure living environment for both gerbils and cats. Here, I’ll introduce some safety measures to help reduce the likelihood of cats harming gerbils, fostering better coexistence.

  • Creating a Safe Living Environment for Gerbils: Firstly, prepare a suitable cage for gerbils, ensuring it’s spacious enough to accommodate at least two gerbils along with their food, water, toys, and chewables. The cage material should be sturdy metal or plastic, avoiding wood or bamboo that cats may damage. The cage door should have a lock, avoiding zippers or buttons that cats could open with their paws or teeth. The gaps in the cage should be small, not exceeding 1 centimeter, preventing gerbils from escaping or cats from reaching in with their paws or noses. Place the cage in an elevated location, avoiding the floor or tabletop, as cats might jump on it or knock it over. Keep the cage away from the cat’s usual roaming areas, such as the living room, bedroom, or balcony. Ideally, place it in a separate room or a cabinet with a door. Maintain the cleanliness and dryness of the cage, eliminating odors or dampness that may arouse the cat’s curiosity or discomfort.

  • Discussing the Pros and Cons of Various Isolation Methods: In addition to preparing a secure cage for gerbils, consider other isolation methods to prevent direct contact between gerbils and cats. For instance, use a fence or mesh gate to separate the areas where gerbils and cats reside, allowing them to perceive each other through sight and hearing while avoiding contact through smell or touch. This gradual introduction helps them become familiar with each other without provoking hostility or fear. However, this method has drawbacks, requiring increased supervision to prevent conflicts or escapes. Moreover, it may not entirely alleviate gerbils’ anxiety, as they can still sense the cat’s threat or pressure. Another approach involves placing gerbils in a transparent plastic box or glass jar within the cat’s line of sight. This allows cats to be curious about or develop positive feelings toward gerbils without causing harm. However, this method has its downsides, such as the need for frequent replacement of gerbil containers to maintain their comfort and hygiene. Additionally, this method may not fully meet gerbils’ needs, as they lack sufficient space and toys, affecting their physical and mental well-being. In summary, each isolation method has its advantages and disadvantages. Choose the one that best suits your circumstances and preferences, considering the feelings and needs of both gerbils and cats to provide the best possible care for them.

Cat Adaptation Training

In addition to providing a safe living environment for gerbils and cats, you can also undergo adaptation training for your cat. This helps them better accept the presence of gerbils, reducing hostility or aggression. Here, I’ll share methods for training your cat to adapt to gerbils, along with some successful cases and potential issues. Hopefully, this provides you with useful insights and guidance.

  • Methods for Training Cats to Adapt to Gerbils: While there are various methods for training cats to adapt to gerbils, the basic principles remain the same. Utilizing a cat’s natural instincts and behaviors, a combination of rewards and punishments guides them toward appropriate behavior and attitude. Here are specific methods you can choose or combine based on your preferences:

    • Rewarding with Food or Toys: A common and effective method involves giving your cat favorite treats or toys when they show friendliness or indifference toward gerbils. This positive reinforcement strengthens their positive emotions and associations. Conversely, if your cat displays hostility or aggression, withhold rewards, and consider mild punishments like using a water spray or a stern tone. Over time, cats learn that being friendly or indifferent to gerbils is beneficial, leading to a change in behavior and attitude.

    • Using Sound or Gestures to Instruct Cats: A straightforward approach is using sound or gestures to guide your cat’s behavior during interactions with gerbils. Encourage curiosity or interest with gentle tones or clapping when your cat shows curiosity. Use calm tones or gentle gestures to soothe them if they appear nervous or fearful. Employ stern tones or gestures to discourage aggressive behavior. Consistent communication helps cats understand your expectations, fostering a cautious or gentle attitude towards gerbils.

    • Familiarizing Cats with Gerbil’s Scent or Toys: An engaging method involves introducing your cat to the scent of gerbils or their toys when direct contact isn’t possible. Place gerbil-scented items near your cat or provide gerbil toys for play. This familiarity creates a sense of closeness, turning potential animosity into comfort. Ensure that your cat doesn’t soil or damage gerbil items and regularly replace them to maintain freshness.

  • Sharing Success Stories and Addressing Potential Issues: The methods mentioned have been successfully applied, yielding positive results in fostering better relationships between gerbils and cats. However, these approaches aren’t foolproof, and you might encounter challenges. Here are common issues and how I addressed them, offering insights and assistance:

    • Issue 1: Lack of Interest or Aversion in Cats Towards Gerbils: It’s common for some cats to show no interest or even aversion to gerbils. Respect your cat’s feelings, avoid forcing interactions, and provide time and space for them to adapt. Use treats or toys to make the vicinity of gerbils pleasant for cats, gradually reducing aversion. Familiarizing cats with gerbil scents or toys can also create a positive association over time.

    • Issue 2: Excessive Excitement or Curiosity Leading to Chasing or Playing Roughly: Some cats may display excessive curiosity or excitement, leading to chasing or rough play. Control their excitement with alternative toys and activities, rewarding moderate interest in gerbils. Use sound or gestures to establish limits, ensuring cats understand proper behavior. Consistency and firmness are key in making cats realize that gerbils are companions, not toys.

    Gerbil’s Life Habits

    After providing a safe environment for gerbils and cats and training your cat to adapt, understanding the life habits of gerbils is crucial for their well-being. Here, I’ll outline the specific needs and behaviors of gerbils, offering guidance on maintaining their mental and physical health.

    • Environmental Needs and Special Habits of Gerbils: Gerbils are sensitive creatures with high environmental requirements. Ensure a comfortable and suitable environment, maintaining temperatures between 18 to 24 degrees Celsius and humidity between 40% to 60%. Regularly check cage conditions and use devices like air conditioning, heating, fans, or humidifiers to adjust as needed. Avoid direct sunlight or proximity to heating or cooling sources.

    • Lighting and Noise Considerations: As nocturnal animals, gerbils are active during the night. Provide a quiet and dim environment during the day for their rest. Avoid disturbing them with excessive light during daytime hours, which could lead to insomnia or agitation. During the night, offer mild lighting to aid visibility without causing discomfort. Similarly, introduce subtle sounds to help them feel secure and entertained.

    • Food and Water Requirements for Gerbils: Gerbils are omnivores, and their diet includes seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and hay. Offer specialized gerbil feed tailored to their nutritional needs. Provide fresh fruits, vegetables, and hay daily, adjusting quantities based on the gerbil’s preferences and digestive health. Ensure access to clean water in a leak-proof and easily accessible bottle or bowl.

    • Toys and Chewing Materials for Gerbils: Gerbils are naturally curious and playful, requiring toys and chewing materials for stimulation and exercise. Select safe and durable toys, avoiding sharp or fragile parts. Rotate toys regularly to prevent boredom, and maintain a clean and safe play area. Offer a variety of toys and chewing materials to meet their needs, promoting mental and physical well-being.

    Understanding and fulfilling these needs ensures a happy and healthy life for your gerbils. Regular observation and adjustment to their surroundings contribute to a harmonious coexistence between gerbils and cats.

Frequently Asked Questions

After learning about the habits of gerbils, you might still have some questions or concerns about the possibilities and considerations of cohabitating gerbils with cats. Here, I’ll address some common issues you might encounter while raising gerbils and cats, providing expert advice and tips to offer you insights and assistance.

  • Question 1: Can gerbils and cats become friends? Answer: There’s no definite answer to this question, as the relationship between gerbils and cats depends on various factors, such as their personalities, experiences, environment, and training. Some gerbils and cats may form friendships, displaying mutual trust, respect, and even engaging in playful interactions. On the contrary, some might become adversaries, exhibiting hostility, aggression, and potential harm to each other. Others may remain indifferent, ignoring or avoiding each other. Whether gerbils and cats can be friends depends on how you nurture and facilitate their interaction. Provide ample opportunities for them to connect, reward positive behavior, and ensure a secure and comfortable environment. This way, they may become friends or, at the very least, avoid becoming enemies.

  • Question 2: How long does it take for gerbils and cats to adapt to each other? Answer: The adaptation time varies and relies on factors such as age, gender, breed, and health. Generally, young, female, docile, and healthy gerbils and cats adapt more easily, possessing better coping and learning abilities, cooperative tendencies, and social skills. Conversely, older, male, aggressive, or ill individuals may take longer to adjust. Therefore, the adaptation time hinges on the characteristics of the chosen gerbils and cats. Opt for those that align with the former traits to facilitate a shorter adaptation period or, at the very least, prevent prolonged mutual rejection.

  • Question 3: What similarities and differences exist between gerbils and cats? Answer: Gerbils and cats belong to different animal species, differing in aspects such as size, fur color, lifespan, temperament, and habits. However, they share common features, both being mammals with organs like fur, limbs, eyes, ears, noses, and mouths. Both require essential survival conditions such as food, water, air, temperature, and light. They possess emotions, intelligence, memory, and creativity and can communicate through sounds, scents, and movements. Training and learning can modify their behavior and attitudes. Understanding and respecting these differences and similarities is crucial. Treat and raise them appropriately and with a friendly mindset to better comprehend and care for them, ensuring their happiness and health.


Through this article, I aim to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the possibilities and considerations of gerbil-cat cohabitation. I hope that based on the content, you can create a safe and comfortable living environment for your gerbils and cats. Implement effective and gentle adaptation training, comprehend detailed and accurate habits, resolve common practical issues, and ultimately foster a harmonious relationship between your gerbils and cats, or at least prevent them from harming each other. While this article isn’t flawless or the only perspective, it represents my insights and knowledge. If you have any feedback or suggestions, please share them, and I’ll do my best to revise and enhance the content.

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