why did my gerbil kill my other gerbil

Why Did My Gerbil Kill Another Gerbil?

Gerbils can engage in aggressive behavior, which can be distressing for their owners. Gerbils may fight each other for various reasons, and in some cases, it can lead to one gerbil killing another. What motivates gerbils to behave this way? There are several reasons for gerbil aggression, including territorial issues, health problems, stress, environmental changes, and unsuitable living conditions. Does aggressive behavior harm gerbils themselves? How does it affect their relationship with humans? How can gerbil aggression be prevented and handled? These are concerns for many gerbil enthusiasts, and this article aims to address them, providing insights for better understanding and caring for your gerbil companions.

Social Behavior and Territoriality of Gerbils

Gerbils are highly social animals that prefer living with their own kind, forming stable social structures and territorial awareness. Typically, gerbil social structures consist of pairs or multiple pairs of adult males and females that reproduce and create family groups. Gerbils mark their territories using their scent, applying urine or secretions to define their territory, as well as their mates and offspring, asserting ownership and social status.

Gerbils express their territory and social status through various behaviors, which can be either friendly or hostile. Friendly behaviors include:

Mutual grooming: Gerbils use teeth or tongue to groom each other, demonstrating intimacy, trust, and facilitating scent exchange, strengthening their bond.

Hugging or sleeping together: These actions indicate warmth and safety, where gerbils use their bodies or tails to embrace each other, maintaining body temperature and protecting against potential threats, while also enhancing scent exchange.

Playfulness or chasing: Reflecting joy and vitality, gerbils engage in playful activities, using their bodies or toys to play or chase each other, reducing boredom and providing physical exercise, along with promoting scent exchange.

Hostile behaviors include:

Biting or fighting: Gerbils resort to biting or fighting when experiencing fear or perceiving a threat, using teeth or claws to defend themselves or their territory, simultaneously reducing scent exchange and weakening their relationship.

Erecting tails or puffing up backs: A warning or challenge gesture, gerbils raise their tails or puff up their backs to display size or dominance, releasing scents to intimidate or provoke the other.

Urine or secretion spraying: An insulting or aggressive act, gerbils may spray urine or secretions at each other to disrupt scents or harm the other’s skin, releasing scents to provoke or repel.

There are various reasons for gerbil aggression, and some common ones include:

Territorial disputes: The most common cause, gerbils may engage in aggressive behavior to protect their territory when it feels threatened or invaded. This often occurs when territorial boundaries are unclear, scents don’t match, gender or age imbalances exist, group size is inadequate or excessive, kinship is unclear, or social structures are unstable.

Health issues: A more concealed cause, gerbils may become aggressive due to underlying health problems, expressing pain or seeking help. This typically occurs when gerbils suffer from internal or external issues like tumors, parasites, infections, fractures, impacting their physical and mental states, making them agitated, painful, or panicked. Aggression serves as an outlet for discomfort or a call for companion assistance. This situation arises when gerbil ailments are not evident, not promptly detected, or treatment is ineffective.

Stress and environmental changes: A complex reason, gerbils may turn aggressive due to stress and changes in their environment, adapting or resisting new situations. This usually happens when the gerbil’s living conditions undergo alterations, such as relocation, cage changes, new companions, diet changes, or toy replacements. These alterations disrupt gerbils’ established habits and routines, causing unease and discomfort. Aggression becomes a means to express dissatisfaction, resistance, or an attempt to restore the previous state.

Inappropriate living conditions: A severe reason, gerbils may become aggressive if their living environment and conditions do not meet their physiological and psychological needs. Problems like limited space, insufficient food, unclean water, inappropriate temperatures, inadequate lighting, excessive noise, unpleasant odors, poor hygiene, lack of toys and chewing items, and a lack of activities and stimulation can affect gerbils’ health and happiness, causing them to feel confined and unhappy. Aggression serves as a protest or an attempt to escape from these issues.

Preventing and Handling Gerbil Aggression

Provide Adequate Space and Resources: Ensure that your gerbils have sufficient space and resources to avoid territorial disputes and resource competition. Allocate suitable cages and toys based on the number and gender of your gerbils, allowing them to have their sleeping and activity areas. Ensure an adequate supply of clean food and water to prevent fights due to hunger or thirst.

Observe Changes in Gerbil Behavior: Regularly observe your gerbils for any changes in behavior, such as increased aggression, isolation, or signs of illness or injury. These could be early indicators of gerbil aggression, and prompt attention is essential. Provide extra care and comfort or seek timely treatment and care to restore your gerbils to their normal state and mood.

Separate Aggressive Gerbils: If your gerbils exhibit severe aggression, such as visible wounds, bleeding, fear, or avoidance between them, immediately separate the aggressive gerbils to prevent further fights or fatalities. Place the aggressive gerbils in a separate cage with a calm and comfortable environment. Provide food and water to help them recover their strength and spirits. Offer toys or chewing items for entertainment and outlet to avoid boredom and stress.

Seek Professional Veterinary Assistance: If your gerbils’ aggression is frequent or severe, or if your gerbils are suffering from serious illnesses or injuries, seek professional veterinary help. Have your gerbils undergo examinations and treatment to identify the root cause of their aggression. Professional veterinarians can offer suitable advice and solutions, aiding in the recovery of your gerbils’ health and happiness.


Gerbil aggression is a distressing issue, but it is not insurmountable. Understanding gerbil social behavior, identifying potential causes of aggression, and implementing appropriate preventive and remedial measures can ensure the health and well-being of your gerbils. Establishing a trusting and friendly relationship with your gerbils allows you to enjoy the pleasures and happiness of being with these adorable pets. Gerbils are deserving of your care and attention, and it is hoped that you and your gerbils can live happily and harmoniously together!

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