what happens if one gerbil dies

Gerbils are adorable little creatures with round bodies, fluffy fur, shiny black eyes, and long tails. They are popular pets for many people because they are easy to care for and have gentle personalities that bring joy and warmth to people’s lives.

However, gerbils don’t live very long, typically only two to three years. Sometimes, they may leave this world prematurely due to illness, injury, or accidents. This can be a very sad event for both the gerbil and its owner. So, what happens when a gerbil dies? How does its companion react? How does the owner cope? And how should the body be handled? These questions might leave you feeling confused and sad, but don’t worry, this article will answer them one by one, helping you better face the loss of your gerbil and deepen your understanding and affection for your little pet.

Gerbils’ Social Nature and Companionship

Gerbils are social animals that enjoy living with other gerbils, sharing food, playing, and sleeping together. They form deep emotional bonds with their mates, taking care of, protecting, and warming each other. Gerbils typically mate for life, meaning once they find their partner, they remain loyal until one of them passes away.

When a gerbil dies, its companion may experience intense loss and grief, much like humans. They might become depressed, unwilling to eat or play, and even affect their own health due to excessive sadness. Some gerbils may be so overwhelmed by the loss that they choose to leave this world too, a phenomenon known as “dying of a broken heart.”

Gerbils’ Grief Expressions and Mourning Behaviors

After a mate’s death, gerbils exhibit noticeable signs of grief and mourning, which are natural responses to death and ways for them to release their emotions. Here are some common grief expressions and mourning behaviors in gerbils:

Crying: Gerbils may emit a sound similar to crying, which is a way for them to express their sadness. This sound is usually low, rhythmic, and sometimes accompanied by sobs.

Scratching: Gerbils may scratch themselves or the walls of their cage, expressing anxiety and unease. This behavior can lead to skin injuries or cage damage.

Chewing: Gerbils may chew on their fur or the wooden parts of their cage, expressing suppressed and depressed feelings. This can result in hair loss or cage damage.

Stillness: Gerbils may lie motionless in a corner of their cage or curl up in their nest, expressing despair and helplessness. This behavior can lead to a drop in body temperature or illness.

Searching: Gerbils may search everywhere in their cage for their mate or try to escape to find their mate, expressing longing and loneliness. This can lead to energy depletion or danger.

Pet Owners’ Emotional Reactions

When a gerbil dies, its owner will also feel very sad because gerbils are their friends, family members, and companions. Pet owners may experience the following emotional reactions after a gerbil’s death:

Grief: This is the most common emotional reaction, where pet owners feel sad and pained, possibly crying or feeling down.

Loss: This is a sense of absence of the gerbil, leading to feelings of emptiness and loneliness, missing the gerbil’s sounds or appearance.

Responsibility: This is a sense of guilt and regret about the gerbil’s death, questioning whether they took good care of the gerbil or if they could have prevented the death.

Anger: This is a sense of unfairness about the gerbil’s death, leading to anger and blame towards the gerbil’s doctor, fate, or luck.

Acceptance: This is a sense of acknowledgment of the gerbil’s death, gradually calming down and rationalizing, understanding that the gerbil’s death was inevitable, a release, or a new beginning.

These emotional reactions are not in a fixed order, and not everyone will go through them. Some people may quickly move on from grief, while others may remain in sorrow for a long time. Everyone processes emotions differently, and there is no right or wrong way, as long as one can healthily face the gerbil’s death, it’s good.

Coping Strategies: Pet Owners’ Emotional Management

Facing the death of a gerbil, pet owners may feel helpless and confused about how to handle their emotions. In fact, there are practical techniques that can help pet owners alleviate grief and mourning, making them stronger and more positive. Here are some coping strategies for your reference:

Express Your Emotions: Don’t suppress or hide your emotions. Dare to express your sadness and pain. Crying is a great way to release tension and can make you feel relaxed and relieved. You can also write in a journal, draw, or engage in creative activities to transform your emotions into an artistic form, helping you understand your feelings more clearly.

Seek Support: Don’t isolate or close yourself off. Communicate with your family, friends, or professional counselors, letting them know your situation, listening to their advice, and feeling their care. You can also join pet loss support groups to share your story with others who have had similar experiences, listening to their stories, and learning from their coping methods.

Caring for the Remaining Gerbil’s Psychological and Physical Health

The death of a gerbil not only affects your emotions but also the emotions and health of the remaining gerbils. You need to ensure that the remaining gerbils receive proper care and attention after the companion’s death, making them feel safe and comfortable. Here are some methods for caring for the remaining gerbils:

Provide Enough Food and Water: Gerbils may forget to eat or drink when they are grieving, leading to insufficient nutrition or dehydration. Regularly check their food and water, replenish them promptly, and maintain a healthy diet.

Provide Enough Toys and Activities: Gerbils may lose interest or energy to play or exercise when they are grieving, leading to muscle atrophy or obesity. Provide them with interesting toys and activities, such as wheels, tunnels, or balls, to keep them active and happy.

Provide Enough Warmth and Comfort: Gerbils may feel cold or uneasy when grieving, unwilling to sleep or rest. This can lead to a drop in body temperature or a weakened immune system. Provide them with warm and comfortable items, such as blankets, pillows, or cotton, to make them feel cozy and relaxed.

Introducing a New Companion

Whether to introduce a new companion for the remaining gerbil is a difficult question, as different gerbils may react differently. Some may welcome a new companion, some may reject it, and some may be indifferent. You should decide based on your gerbil’s personality and preferences, as well as your own feelings and ability to care for more gerbils. If you decide to introduce a new companion for your gerbil, pay attention to the following points:

Choose the Right Gerbil: You should select a gerbil of the same species, same gender, similar age, and compatible personality to reduce conflicts and adaptability issues.

Conduct Safe and Gradual Introductions: You cannot directly put the new gerbil into your gerbil’s cage, which would provoke hostility and aggression. First, put the new gerbil in a separate cage so they can see and smell each other without contact, allowing them to gradually get used to each other. Then, in a neutral place, like the living room, let them have brief contact under your supervision, observing their reactions. If they show friendliness and curiosity, you can increase the contact time and frequency. If they show hostility and fear, separate them promptly and try again. Finally, when you are sure they can coexist peacefully, you can put them in the same cage, ensuring it is large enough with enough food, water, toys, and nests for them to have their own space and resources, avoiding fights over resources.

Cleaning and Hygiene After Gerbil’s Death

The gerbil’s body cannot be casually discarded; it deserves respect and a proper burial. However, before the burial, you need to clean and disinfect the gerbil’s cage, as the body may transmit diseases or attract insects, which are harmful to the remaining gerbils and your health. Here are some steps for cleaning and disinfecting the gerbil’s cage:

Wear gloves, wrap the gerbil’s body in a plastic bag to avoid direct contact. Move the gerbil’s cage to a well-ventilated area, remove all items from the cage, including food, water, toys, and nests. Clean all items in the cage with hot water and soap or a special pet cleaner, removing all dirt, blood, and fur. Disinfect all items in the cage with bleach or a special pet disinfectant, killing all bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Rinse all items in the cage with clean water, remove all residues, and then dry them with a clean towel or paper towel. Put all items back in place or replace them with new ones, providing a clean and comfortable environment for the remaining gerbils.

Handling Gerbil’s Remains

The gerbil’s remains are its final identity, its final image, and its final memory. You should handle the gerbil’s remains with respect and remembrance, allowing it to rest in peace and helping you to let go. Here are some different methods for handling gerbil remains:

Burial: This is a common method. You can dig a small hole in your garden or a place you like, place the gerbil’s body in it, cover it with soil, plant some flowers, or place some stones, or write some words to express your blessings and gratitude. You can also place some of its favorite things on the gerbil’s body, like food or toys, or photos, so it can be happy in the next world.

Cremation: This is a more modern method. You can send the gerbil’s body to a professional pet cremation center, where they will use high-temperature flames to turn the gerbil’s body into ashes. Then, place the ashes in a small box or a container of your choice and keep it at home or in a place you like as a memento. You can also scatter the ashes in places you and the gerbil shared, like parks or rivers, letting them drift with the wind or flow with the water, giving them freedom.

Pet Cemetery Services: This is a more expensive method. You can send the gerbil’s body to a professional pet cemetery, where they will provide a dedicated grave, urn, or memorial for your gerbil, expressing your respect and remembrance. You can regularly visit your gerbil, bringing flowers, gifts, or words to express your thoughts and love.

Pet Owner’s Self-Care

Facing the death of a gerbil, you might neglect your own physical and mental well-being, but you need to know that your gerbil wouldn’t want you to be like this. It wants you to be happy and content, to continue living, to continue loving and cherishing other gerbils, and to continue loving and cherishing yourself. So, pay attention to your self-care and become stronger and more positive. Here are some self-care suggestions for your reference:

Maintain a Regular Routine: Try to maintain your daily routine, such as waking up, eating, working, studying, resting, and sleeping. This can give you a sense of stability and security and keep your body and mind in good condition.

Engage in Relaxing Activities: Engage in relaxing activities, such as listening to music, watching movies, reading, exercising, practicing yoga, or meditating. This can help you release stress and tension and make you feel relaxed and happy.

Seek Professional Help: If you find it hard to control your emotions, or if your life becomes difficult to continue, or if you have suicidal thoughts, seek professional help promptly, such as from a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. They can provide professional diagnosis, treatment, and advice, helping you better face your emotions and issues, and aiding in your recovery and healing.


Gerbils are our good friends, and their passing is a sad event, but we can alleviate our grief in different ways and let our gerbils rest in peace. We need to remember that the death of a gerbil is not the end for us, but the beginning. We should face our lives with a positive attitude and cherish the beautiful moments we shared with our gerbils, keeping them forever in our hearts.

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