Unfortunately, gerbils cannot communicate with you directly.
Rather, they do so in a very subtle way.
This means that if you really want to make your pet happy, it is extremely important to be able to correctly interpret the behavior and body language of gerbils. After all, you can only react correctly if you can immediately recognize feelings like fear, joy or pain.
We have collected 5 typical behaviors of gerbils for you.
Why do gerbils puff themselves up?
Now we come directly to the first behavior, which you should absolutely know.
If you own gerbils yourself, you will always notice that your animal looks puffed up and therefore especially round and cuddly.
But when and why do gerbils show this behavior?
The reasons for the fluffing up can be very diverse. On the one hand it can be that your gerbil is not feeling very well at the moment or is even ill.
Especially if your animal is cowering, the breathing is very fast and shallow and the gerbil is squinting its eyes, it is obvious that your animal is under a lot of stress.
If this condition cannot be attributed to the current external circumstances (e.g. the death of the partner animal, a move, etc.), you should definitely present your gerbil to the vet to have a health check performed.
Fluffing up as a sign of feeling well
However, there can be other, very harmless reasons behind the fluffing up.
For example, your gerbil may fluff up when it is feeling particularly well and is gleefully nibbling on a stalk of hay.
The posture is relaxed, the eyes are clear and open and the animal seems to be completely satisfied.
Fluffing up as cold/heat regulation
You also need to know that gerbils can regulate their body temperature by fluffing up.
If the fur lies close to the body, the heat is released into the environment. If, on the other hand, the fur is set up slightly by the gerbil puffing itself up, then the heat cannot escape so easily and the animal is better protected from the cold.
On the other hand, the puffy fur acts as a natural protection against too much heat and cools the gerbils’ skin.
Fluffing up in the context of ranking fights
Furthermore, the fluffing up of gerbils also occurs in relation to ranking fights.
The fluffed up fur makes the animal look bigger and stronger.
In these situations your gerbil tries to impress its rival and to assert itself. In addition, the fluffy fur also protects against biting, which can happen again and again among gerbils.
Why do gerbils bite?
The reasons why gerbils bite are obvious: There are serious disagreements among your animals!
Especially often a biting is based on a rank fight.
It is not uncommon that lower-ranking gerbils test from time to time if there is a chance for them to move up in the hierarchy.
If the animals have been living together for a long time and get along well, you can assume that they will become peaceful again after a short fight.
However, it looks different if you put a new animal into an existing pack and your gerbils see the newcomer as an intruder.
Gerbils become sexually mature at about eight to nine weeks of age and develop their own scent from that point on.
So if you want to integrate a new gerbil into your pack, it is best if it is younger than eight weeks. This way the chances are best that the animal will be accepted by the others.
You must know that territorial fights often end fatally if not intervened early! Therefore, do not leave your animals unobserved when you socialize them with each other.
Ideally, you should separate a small area of the enclosure for the newcomer at the beginning so that the animals can sniff each other, but not bite.
In no case you should put the new animal just like that without any preparation to the other gerbils.
It is also important that you are aware of the fact that especially among un-neutered males in larger groups biting is more frequent.
With two un-neutered males, the animals usually still harmonize with each other, but with three or more animals, problems and friction can occur, so that one of the animals is expelled and chased away by the other two.
It is also possible that two of your animals will quarrel in the course of time.
However, this happens very rarely.
If your animal is sick and in pain, it may show itself by becoming more aggressive.
Also, prolonged stress can cause your gerbil to pick fights frequently.
However, this condition should return to normal as soon as the illness or stress is overcome.
In extreme cases, it may be necessary to separate your gerbil from the other animals for this time to prevent injury and minimize stress for all involved.
Why do gerbils eat sand?
Gerbils should always have a sand bath with fine chinchilla sand available. Rolling in the sand is a natural behavior and is for grooming.
But from time to time you may notice that your gerbils not only roll in the sand, but start to eat it with relish.
What is the reason for this peculiarity and should sand eating be stopped?
When gerbils eat sand, this behavior is usually due to a lack of minerals and/or other nutrients.
Sand grains carry many different minerals that your gerbil may lack. In and of itself, eating sand is not harmful to the animals, as long as it is done in moderation – as is well known, the amount makes the poison!
However, it is a good idea to provide mineral and salt licks for your gerbils if you observe your animals eating sand over and over again.
Also, make sure that the sand is chinchilla sand and not the much coarser bird sand.
Bird sand destroys the fur in the long run and the pieces are much too big for the stomach of the small animals, which is why there can be health consequences if your gerbil eats this sand.
If your gerbils eat a lot of sand in spite of a mineral and salt lick, a visit to the vet is recommended in any case to exclude diseases.
A complete blood count can show whether your pet is suffering from deficiencies or not.
A change in diet can also help your gerbils stop eating the sand from their sand bath.
Why do gerbils tap their hind paws?
A moment ago your gerbil was standing in front of you, now it has crawled away in a flash and begins to drum wildly with both hind paws on the floor.
What does your animal want to tell you with this behavior?
By drumming with the hind paws, gerbils warn other pack members of danger.
In this point gerbils are not very different from rabbits: If the animals are afraid, they take flight in a flash and warn their comrades by drumming.
Thus, it is clear that drumming is part of the very natural communication among the individual pack members and therefore there is no reason to worry.
Depending on how skittish your gerbil is, you will observe this behavior often or very rarely.
A fright is enough to trigger the flight instinct in your gerbils – because gerbils belong to the prey animals and are therefore quite low in the food chain.
If you observe this behavior frequently when you enter the room, approach the cage or put your hand into the enclosure, you can assume that your gerbils consider you a danger.
You can communicate safety to your gerbils by acting predictable and calm: Avoid frantic movements, speak to your animals in a calm voice, and don’t pressure them to make contact with you.
By gradually acclimating your animals to hand-feeding, you can build a deep, intimate and trusting relationship with your gerbils.
The quieter the environment the animals are in, the less often you will be able to see and hear this warning drumming.
Why do gerbils squeak or beep?
The squeaking among gerbils is another very natural part of communication.
Beeping as part of the night’s rest
Gerbils are extremely social animals that not only like to see conspecifics near them, but also like to sense them while they sleep. Thus, it is not an uncommon sight to see gerbils in their nest not only lying next to each other, but even on top of and below each other.
If a gerbil moves in such a constellation, you will most likely hear a squeak at exactly these moments.
In this context, the squeaking serves as an appeasement signal and clearly shows that your gerbil is not interested in fighting. In addition, it may be that one of the animals is too cramped and therefore wants to make his displeasure known with the help of the whimper and thereby get a little space.
Beeping in the context of the fur care
The mutual fur care belongs to the gerbil everyday life firmly.
In this way, the animals can not only have the places cleaned that they can not reach well themselves, but also actively increase their social relations.
It may well be that the squeaking means that a gerbil is asking another animal to groom.
Correctly classify the importance of the whimper in gerbils
It is not possible to give a general answer as to the meaning of the call in different situations.
However, if you always consider the beeping in context, you will be able to find out quite quickly what your gerbil wants to achieve with the beeping in the respective situation.
Finally, here is a clue how to correctly interpret different beeps of your gerbil:
A high-pitched and long-drawn-out beep is usually emitted by lower-ranking animals and is intended to placate higher-ranking animals.
Short and fast whistles one after the other indicate discomfort.
Rather deeper and long-drawn out sounds represent the request to cuddle and/or to the fur care
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