how to get gerbils used to you

How to Help Gerbils Adapt to You

Gerbils are intelligent, curious, and lively small rodents that can become loyal companions. However, gaining a gerbil’s trust and building a strong friendship takes time and patience. In this article, I will share my experiences and insights from years of gerbil care, aiming to help you and your gerbil bond more effectively.

Helping Gerbils Adjust to a New Environment
When bringing gerbils home, resist the urge to play with them immediately. Remember, this is a completely new environment for them, and they may feel scared and anxious. To help them adapt:

Prepare a Clean and Comfortable Home: Choose a spacious cage with room for food, water, nesting, and toys. Ensure the cage is sturdy and has soft bedding like wood shavings or paper. Place the cage away from direct sunlight, extreme temperatures, drafts, or air conditioning to maintain their comfort.

Allow 3-5 Days for Adjustment: During this period, minimize disturbances and let gerbils explore their new home independently. Provide fresh food and water daily but avoid attempting to catch or take them out of the cage. Create a secure and stress-free environment.

Place the Cage in a Quiet Location: Gerbils are sensitive to noise, smells, and light. Position the cage in a quiet area, avoiding loud music, TV, or phone noises. Steer clear of strong scents like perfume, tobacco, or cleaning products. Maintain moderate lighting as gerbils are crepuscular and nocturnal animals.

Maintain Cage Cleanliness: Gerbils are clean animals. Regularly clean their cage, removing soiled bedding, food remnants, and feces. Provide fresh bedding, food, and water. Use mild cleaning agents to avoid affecting their senses of taste and smell. Retain some familiar items when cleaning to provide a sense of familiarity.

Initiating Gentle Contact with Gerbils
Once you feel gerbils have acclimated to their new environment, cautiously initiate contact. Remember, gerbils are timid, and approaching them with care is crucial:

Speak Gently to Them: Talk softly to your gerbils daily near their cage. Use a calm and soothing tone, saying phrases like “Hello, gerbils,” “How are you today,” or “What would you like to eat?” This helps them get accustomed to your voice and feel your friendliness and concern.

Approach Gerbils Slowly: Approach the cage gradually, avoiding sudden movements or loud noises that may startle them. Allow them to see you and become accustomed to your presence. Reach into the cage from the side or front, never from above, as this can be perceived as threatening.

Contact Gerbils Only When Awake: Gerbils are active during dawn and night. Respect their sleep schedule, and choose a time when they are awake, such as evenings or nights, to interact with them. Avoid disturbing them when they are resting during the day.

Use Food to Familiarize Them with Your Scent: Food is an excellent way to build trust. Offer gerbil-friendly treats like sunflower seeds, peanuts, or dried fruits. Initially, place treats in a corner of the cage, gradually bringing them closer to you. Alternatively, let gerbils eat from your fingers to associate your scent with positive experiences. Allow them to decide whether to eat or not.

Building Trust Step by Step
To foster trust and closeness, follow these steps:

Let Gerbils Smell Your Hand: Place your hand in a non-threatening position inside the cage and let gerbils approach and sniff. Avoid sudden movements or wearing gloves, enabling them to become familiar with your natural scent.

Offer Small Treats in Your Hand: Once gerbils trust your hand, place small treats in your palm for them to take. Allow them to nibble on your fingers, enhancing their trust and comfort with your touch. Avoid gripping or forcing gerbils; let them move freely on your hand.

Open the Cage Door with Treats: When gerbils confidently take treats from your hand and show no fear, open the cage door. Place your hand near the opening with treats in your palm. Allow gerbils to come out willingly, and avoid forcing them. Ensure a quiet environment during this process.

Gently Stroke Their Heads: When gerbils are comfortable with treats and being on your hand, softly stroke their heads with your index or middle finger. Move your finger gently from their nose to their ears. Avoid applying pressure or touching their eyes and mouths. Pay attention to their reactions and stop if they show signs of discomfort.

Hold Gerbils Carefully: Once gerbils are receptive to touch, carefully lift them, allowing them to crawl on your lap. Support their bodies with your palm and fingers, ensuring a secure and comfortable hold. Avoid squeezing or pulling their tails or legs. Keep them at a moderate height for a sense of balance and security.

Cultivating Positive Interaction Habits
Spend Time with Gerbils Daily: Allocate time each day to play and interact with your gerbils. Let them crawl on your lap or chest, explore a secure area, or engage with toys and treats. Ensure they remain within your sight, avoiding contact with potentially hazardous items like wires, sharp objects, or toxic foods.

Familiarize Gerbils with Others: If you want your gerbils to bond with family or friends, involve them in the interaction process. Use similar methods of introducing scent, sound, and touch. Introduce people gradually, allowing gerbils to become familiar with each individual over time.

Reward Good Behavior with Positive Reinforcement: When gerbils display trust and affection, promptly reward them. Use treats, toys, verbal praise, or physical affection to express approval and encouragement. Avoid using negative reinforcement or punishment, as this may lead to fear and damage the bond between you and your gerbils.

Be Patient with Mistakes: Gerbils, being intelligent and curious, may sometimes exhibit behavior such as nibbling or chewing. Approach these situations with patience and understanding:

When bitten, use a firm but not aggressive voice to say “no” or “stop,” signaling your displeasure and discomfort. Avoid hitting or pushing gerbils; yelling or getting angry may make them frightened or resistant.

If gerbils damage items, calmly express disappointment using a composed tone. Avoid returning them to the cage or depriving them of food or toys, as this can lead to feelings of punishment and neglect.

Provide appropriate items for gerbils to chew on, such as wood, cardboard, or hay, satisfying their natural chewing instincts. Avoid offering toxic or unsafe materials like plastic, metal, or rubber.

Trusting Gerbils Takes Time
In conclusion, gaining the trust of gerbils is not an easy task; it requires time, patience, love, and care. Understand that each gerbil has its own personality and habits. Some may quickly adapt, while others may take longer. Adjust your approach and pace based on their responses and behaviors, avoiding both forcefulness and abandonment. With persistence, you’ll cultivate a relationship of trust and friendship with gerbils, discovering the joy and warmth they bring into your life.

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