how to tell gerbil gender

How to Distinguish the Gender of Gerbils

Gerbils are adorable pets with various coat colors and personalities. If you plan to raise gerbils, it’s essential to know their genders to provide them with the best care. So, how can you distinguish the gender of gerbils? This article will introduce the importance of determining gerbil gender, the best time for identification, methods, common mistakes, and tips to help you better understand and care for your gerbils.

Best Time for Gerbil Gender Identification

Determining the gender of gerbils is not difficult; with patience and careful observation of their external features, you can distinguish them. However, not every time is suitable for gender identification, and some periods may be easier than others. So, when is the best time to determine the gender of gerbils?

Within the first 1-2 weeks after birth is the ideal time. During this period, gerbils haven’t grown fur yet, allowing you to directly observe their genital features, such as the distance between the anus and urethral openings, the presence of nipples, and the protrusion at the base of the tail. These features show clear differences between male and female gerbils, making it easy to distinguish. However, be gentle as the gerbils are delicate at this stage. Handle them with care, quickly return them to their mother to avoid disrupting nursing and growth.

After 3 weeks of age is another suitable time for gender identification. By this time, gerbils have started growing fur, and their gender features become more apparent. You can gently part their fur to observe the genital organs. However, more careful observation may be necessary as some gerbils’ fur color and thickness can affect your judgment. Use a magnifying glass if needed and be cautious, as gerbils at this age can be more active and may struggle or bite. Ensure safety and hygiene by wearing gloves or wrapping them in a towel to prevent injury or disease transmission.

Behavioral Differences between Male and Female Gerbils

Apart from physiological differences, male and female gerbils exhibit some behavioral distinctions, which can be a reference for gender determination. Generally, male gerbils are more sociable and friendly, while females tend to be more aggressive. Males enjoy socializing with both same and opposite-sex gerbils and can establish close relationships with humans. Females, on the other hand, are more independent, sensitive to their territory and offspring, and may display hostility and defensive behavior when faced with threats, even attacking other gerbils or humans. However, it’s essential to note that these behavioral differences are not absolute, as each gerbil has a unique personality, and relying solely on behavior may not be sufficient for gender determination. Other methods should be used in conjunction.

Methods for Gerbil Gender Identification

Examine the distance between the anus and urethral openings
This is the most accurate method for gender identification and is widely used by veterinarians and gerbil owners. Gently lift the gerbil’s tail to observe the distance between the anus and urethral openings. In male gerbils, this distance is greater, approximately 1 cm, and the urethral opening is circular. In female gerbils, the distance is shorter, around 0.5 cm, and the urethral opening is oval. This method is suitable for gerbils of any age, but be cautious as some gerbils may excrete due to nervousness, potentially soiling themselves or the observer.

Check for nipples
This simple method is only applicable within the first 10 days after birth. Gently part the gerbil’s fur to expose its nipples. Females have eight nipples distributed on the chest and abdomen, while males have no nipples. The advantage of this method is that it doesn’t require lifting the gerbil’s tail, minimizing discomfort for the gerbil, and allows for simultaneous gender determination for multiple gerbils. However, it is limited to newborn gerbils, as fur growth with age makes nipples less visible.

Examine the presence of a bulge at the base of the tail
This straightforward method is applicable to adult gerbils. Gently lift the gerbil’s tail to observe whether there is a bulge at the base of the tail. Male gerbils have a noticeable bulge, which is their scrotum containing two testicles. Female gerbils have a flat base. The advantage of this method is its simplicity and ease of differentiation, but it cannot be used for young gerbils as their scrotum is not fully developed, potentially leading to misidentification as females.

Compare the size of the ventral gland
This meticulous method, although not always accurate, requires considering other features for confirmation. Gently push the gerbil’s fur upward to reveal the ventral gland, an organ that secretes substances located below the navel. Male gerbils have a larger ventral gland, approximately 1 cm, and darker in color, while females have a smaller gland, around 0.5 cm, and lighter in color. This method can be used for gerbils of any age and allows observation of their health condition. However, individual differences or environmental factors can affect gland size and color, so it should not be solely relied upon for gender determination.

Body size
This straightforward method can only serve as supplementary evidence and not the primary criterion. Place gerbils together and observe whether there are differences in their body sizes. Generally, male gerbils have slightly larger bodies with wider heads and backs, while females have slightly smaller bodies with narrower heads and backs. The advantage of this method is its ease of use without direct contact with the gerbil’s body. However, body size can vary due to factors such as breed, age, diet, or genetics, so it cannot be the sole basis for gender determination.

Common Identification Errors

Relying solely on body size for gender determination
This is one of the most common errors in gender identification. Many people believe that male gerbils are always larger than females, and by merely observing their body size, they can determine their gender. However, this method is unreliable as body size can be influenced by various factors such as breed, age, diet, or genetics.

Using coat color to determine gender

Another common error is associating gerbil coat color with gender. Some believe that the coat color indicates the gender of the gerbil. However, this method is incorrect as coat color is determined by genetics and has no correlation with gender. Gerbils can have a variety of coat colors, such as black, white, gray, brown, yellow, red, etc., and some may have different patterns and spots. These coat variations are individual characteristics and have no bearing on gender. Therefore, coat color should not be used to determine gender; other more accurate methods should be employed.

Relying solely on the number of glands for gender determination
This is another common error where people believe that the number of glands in gerbils is related to their gender. Observing the number of glands is thought to be sufficient for gender determination. However, this method is unreliable because the number of glands in gerbils is not necessarily correlated with gender. It varies due to individual differences or environmental factors. Gerbils have multiple glands located in different areas, such as ventral glands, dorsal glands, ear glands, foot glands, etc. These glands secrete substances for communication, thermoregulation, and grooming. Their number and size can vary between gerbils, but it doesn’t provide conclusive evidence for gender determination.

Neglecting behavioral differences
Some may neglect behavioral differences between male and female gerbils, relying solely on physical features for gender identification. While physiological differences are crucial, behavioral distinctions should not be ignored. Observing the gerbils’ interactions, socializing tendencies, aggressiveness, or territorial behavior can provide additional clues for accurate gender determination.

Tips for Gerbil Gender Identification

Observe multiple features for confirmation
To enhance accuracy, it’s recommended to observe multiple features for gender identification rather than relying on a single criterion. Physiological differences, such as the distance between the anus and urethral openings, the presence of nipples, and the bulge at the base of the tail, should be considered together. Comparing multiple features minimizes the risk of misidentification and provides a more comprehensive understanding of the gerbil’s gender.

Be patient and gentle

When handling gerbils for gender identification, it’s crucial to be patient and gentle. Gerbils may be sensitive to handling, especially during the first few weeks of life. Use slow and gentle movements, and avoid causing stress or discomfort to the gerbil. This ensures a positive and stress-free experience for both the gerbil and the observer.

Use appropriate tools
If needed, use appropriate tools such as a magnifying glass for a closer inspection. Some gerbils may have fur color and thickness that can affect the visibility of their genital features. Using a magnifying glass can help in clearer observation and reduce the chances of misidentification.

Consider consulting a veterinarian
If you are uncertain about gender identification or encounter difficulties, consider consulting a veterinarian with experience in small animals, especially gerbils. A veterinarian can provide professional guidance, conduct a thorough examination, and offer advice on proper gerbil care.


Determining the gender of gerbils is a crucial aspect of responsible pet ownership. Accurate gender identification allows for proper care, preventing unwanted pregnancies and ensuring a harmonious living environment. While it may require patience and careful observation, distinguishing between male and female gerbils is a manageable task with the right knowledge and techniques. By considering the best time for identification, utilizing accurate methods, avoiding common errors, and being patient, gerbil owners can confidently determine the gender of their pets and provide them with the best care possible.

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