why gerbils are scared

Why Gerbils Get Scared

Did you know that gerbils are highly sensitive and emotional animals? Sometimes, they exhibit fearful emotions and behaviors, leaving us puzzled and concerned.

Why do gerbils get scared?

What are they afraid of?

How does their fear affect them?

And how can we help them overcome their fears?

Gerbil’s Natural Instinct
Gerbils’ fear responses are instinctive survival strategies inherited from their ancestors who faced predators and dangers in the wild.

Being desert animals, gerbils’ ancestors lived in dry and hot environments, encountering numerous natural threats like cats, foxes, eagles, snakes, etc. These factors instill a natural vigilance and fear in gerbils, enabling them to escape and protect themselves promptly.

Gerbils’ fear responses also demonstrate their adaptability to their surroundings. As creatures accustomed to a stable and secure home and close-knit groups, encountering new and unfamiliar elements, such as food, toys, environments, people, or animals, can trigger anxiety and fear, maintaining their alertness and defense mechanisms.

Understanding that gerbils’ fear responses are normal and beneficial aids in their self-preservation during dangerous situations and ensures vigilance in unfamiliar circumstances. However, it’s crucial to note that fear responses in a pet environment may become excessive or inappropriate, impacting their health, happiness, and relationships with their owners.

Gerbil’s Fear Behaviors in a Pet Environment
Gerbils express fear through various behaviors:

Hiding: When scared, gerbils instinctively seek a safe place to hide, such as a house, tunnel, or bedding, employing this as a defense strategy and a source of comfort.

Trembling: Fear-induced nervousness and stress can lead gerbils to tremble. This physiological response serves as a way for them to release fear and seek help from others.

Squeaking: Gerbils may emit high-pitched squeaks when frightened, indicating alarm and possibly warning their companions or expressing protest against perceived threats.

Biting: Fearful gerbils may resort to biting as a defensive reaction, expressing anger and self-preservation. Biting is a way for them to protect themselves or convey dissatisfaction and resistance.

These diverse fear responses in gerbils manifest differently, aiding them in adapting to and coping with fearful situations. However, prolonged fear responses can negatively affect their daily lives, including appetite, sleep, activity, and social interactions.

Possible Causes of Gerbil Fear
Various factors can contribute to gerbils’ fear responses, including:

New Food: Gerbils may exhibit fear responses to new foods initially. Over time, they tend to adapt unless the new food genuinely poses a threat.

New Toys: Introduction of new toys might elicit fear responses initially. Gradual acclimation and positive experiences can shift their perception.

New Environment: Changes in the environment can induce prolonged fear responses. Gerbils require time to adapt and familiarize themselves with a new setting.

New People: Gerbils may be wary of new individuals initially. Building trust takes time, and positive interactions will eventually ease their fear.

New Animals: Introduction to new animals may trigger prolonged fear responses. Patient cohabitation can help gerbils adjust to and peacefully coexist with other animals.

Respecting gerbils’ fears is essential. Instead of forcing them to accept or change their fears, providing sufficient time and space for them to adapt and overcome is crucial. Seeking professional help, such as from a veterinarian or animal behaviorist, is recommended if necessary. Ensuring their gradual adaptation fosters confidence and happiness in gerbils.

Preventing Gerbil Fear Behavior

Adapting to a New Environment in Advance: When introducing gerbils to a new environment, such as a new cage, room, or home, it’s beneficial to allow them to adapt beforehand. This can involve letting gerbils explore the new space or placing familiar items in the environment. This helps them feel comfortable and reduces fear of the new surroundings.

Reducing External Stimuli: Creating a quiet and comfortable living environment for gerbils involves minimizing potential sources of fear, such as noise, light, or temperature variations. Adjusting volume, blocking windows, or regulating temperature can contribute to gerbils feeling at ease and relaxed, diminishing their fear of external stimuli.

Boosting Gerbil Confidence: For a joyful and content life, enhancing gerbil confidence and abilities is key. Training, rewarding, and praising gerbils are effective methods. Encouraging them to learn new skills or games, providing tasty treats or comfortable bedding, and offering warm words or affectionate hugs can satisfy and motivate gerbils, reducing self-fear.

It’s crucial to remember that preventing and avoiding gerbil fear behavior is a superior approach. Prevention is better than cure, and avoidance is easier than resolution. By addressing the root causes and creating a safe and comfortable living environment, gerbils can become more confident and happy.

Misconceptions about Gerbil Fear Behavior

Dispelling myths about gerbil fear behavior is essential, as misconceptions can lead to incorrect understanding and handling. Several common misconceptions include:

Gerbils are Timid Animals: Contrary to popular belief, gerbils are not timid but rather sensitive and perceptive animals. Their fear reactions are instinctive and adaptive, aiding in self-protection during dangerous situations or maintaining vigilance in unfamiliar settings. Gerbils also exhibit bravery and adventurous qualities.

Inability to Change Gerbil Fear Reactions: It’s hazardous to believe that gerbil fear reactions are fixed and unalterable due to innate and genetic factors. Gerbil responses can change and be controlled, adapting to their experiences and environment. Through learning, training, and positive reinforcement, gerbils can overcome and adjust to their sources of fear.

Harmlessness of Gerbil Fear Reactions: Considering gerbil fear reactions as harmless is a commonly overlooked misconception. These reactions can have negative consequences, affecting gerbil health and happiness. Issues such as stress, psychological trauma, and behavioral problems may arise, impacting the relationship between gerbils and their owners. Addressing and caring for gerbil fear reactions is crucial for their well-being.


This article has provided insights into the causes, manifestations, consequences, solutions, preventive measures, and misconceptions related to gerbil fear reactions. While gerbil fear reactions are normal, varied, and complex, they are also negative and harmful, yet changeable and controllable.

Understanding and respecting gerbil fear is vital. Instead of forcing or punishing them, providing sufficient time and space for gerbils to adapt and overcome their fears is essential. Gentle and positive approaches can effectively alleviate and conquer gerbil fear. Taking the initiative to address gerbil fear reactions, rather than ignoring or neglecting them, is crucial for timely detection and resolution. If necessary, seeking professional help ensures comprehensive and effective treatment and care for gerbils.

Preventing and avoiding gerbil fear reactions at their source, rather than exposing gerbils to their fears, establishes a secure and comfortable living environment, fostering gerbil confidence and happiness. Clarifying misconceptions about gerbil fear behavior prevents misunderstanding and negative impacts on gerbil well-being.

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