Gerbils chase and bite each other – 4 common causes and 3 proven measures
Have you ever noticed that your gerbils chase each other in their cage and try to bite each other?
This behavior is not uncommon.
Whether there is reason to worry and how you as a pet owner can put a stop to this chasing, we tell you in this article.
4 reasons why gerbils chase and bite each other
If your gerbil behaves aggressively, this behavior can have very different causes.
In general, it can be said that gerbils are very in need of harmony. They are extremely social animals that appreciate the presence of their conspecifics.
Nevertheless, there are some circumstances that can cause gerbils to start a quarrel among themselves, during which they chase each other and sometimes even seriously or even fatally injure each other.
Which causes these are, you will find out now!
Cause 1: Rank fights
The most common cause for biting and chasing scenes within the enclosure is rank fighting. Especially unneutered males in larger groups fight from time to time who is the highest ranking animal.
With these fights it can go absolutely also more wildly!
It is not rare that here and there even a little blood flows.
However, this kind of fights are usually not real fights, where one of the animals pursues the goal to kill the other animal.
Thus, the biting tangle usually dissolves by itself after a short time and the animals lie together in the nest a little later and take care of each other.
In some cases, however, the animals may not be able to separate again because neither animal wants to be subordinate to the other. Here it can happen that a ranking fight ends fatally for one of the two animals – or possibly even for both, if the injuries are too strong.
So watch your animals carefully and intervene in case of emergency.
Cause 2: Illness or pain
If your gerbil is in pain, it will react much more aggressively to its environment than it usually does.
Especially if your gerbil has always been very peaceful and friendly to other gerbils and the aggression occurs very suddenly without any apparent cause, you should become alert and observe your animal a little more closely in the near future.
If the gerbil shows other symptoms of pain, such as fluffy fur, fast and shallow breathing and narrowed eyes, the cause for the high aggression potential is obvious.
A visit to the vet is the logical consequence!
Cause 3: Stress
The death of a pack member, a serious change in the animals’ routine, or a move to a new location can cause your gerbils’ stress levels to skyrocket.
The higher your gerbil’s stress level, the more likely it is that it will not want the other animals around.
Stressed gerbils want to be left alone, so it is not surprising that your gerbil will begin to chase the other animals out of the nest when it has retreated there to sleep.
If the other gerbil does not want to accept this reprimand despite repeated announcements, it may well be that the stressed gerbil uses its teeth to get the space it wants.
Cause 4: Territorial fights
Territorial fights do not occur within a pack.
However, if you are planning a socialization between your existing pack and a new gerbil, without adequate preparation, your gerbil group may perceive the new addition as an intruder that they are determined to scare away.
If this fails, then the group members may kill the unfamiliar gerbil.
In captivity gerbils have only a very limited space available, which is why escape is usually not possible!
Why do gerbils bite humans?
It happens rarely, but it is not impossible: Some gerbils also bite their owners!
However, there are basically only two possible reasons for this behavior. On the one hand the cause can be that your gerbil is afraid of you and feels cornered by you. If you want to catch your gerbil and lift it up, your gerbil may well panic and bite your hand.
The other reason is that your gerbil is or was not kept species-appropriate. Especially animals that live in solitary confinement for a longer period of time usually develop one or the other behavioral abnormality.
If your gerbil only pinches your finger, but does not bite properly, it is possible that your hands smell like food and your gerbil wants to test carefully if your hand is edible.
To avoid such situations, it is a good idea to wash your hands before reaching into your animals cage.
Why are there rank fights in gerbils?
Rank fights occur either when a lower ranking animal wants to move up in the hierarchy or when two male gerbils compete for a female animal.
Rank fights are thus something completely natural and as a rule there is a winner and a loser.
In the wild, the loser would take flight when he realizes that he cannot win this fight.
Since this behavior is not possible in captivity, the ranking fights are usually more brutal and often end with the death of one of the animals, if humans do not intervene in time.
Attention: It is definitely not recommended to put a female in a group of males.
If you want to keep males and females together, you should make sure that the ratio of the sexes within the group is balanced.
By the way, rivalry can also occur if you do not keep males and females directly together, but they are housed in the same room, so the male gerbils can sense the scent of the females.
Often, however, even harmless play among the animals is misinterpreted as rank fights.
To help you avoid this mistake, we will discuss the differences between fighting and playing in gerbils in detail in the next section.
Are your gerbils playing with each other or fighting? How to tell the difference!
Gerbils interact a lot with their conspecifics. This also means that the animals like to play with each other extensively.
For a layman, a game among gerbils may seem a little strange at first glance – because during a classic game it can often get wilder.
Especially when your gerbils are chasing each other around the enclosure, you should look a little closer to see if the situation is serious or not.
Usually you can tell within a few seconds or minutes if it is play: If your gerbils are taking turns chasing each other, appearing relaxed and boisterous, you can be sure that your gerbils are playing together.
However, if you notice that one animal is chasing the other and there is no role reversal and the chased animal seems panicked, turns around again and again and there is even a tangle of both animals in between, then the situation is very serious.
As soon as blood flows, it is absolutely necessary that you intervene and separate the bullies from each other.
Another sign: If your gerbils are playing with each other, this game usually takes place without a sound. If, on the other hand, the situation is serious, you will hear excited squeaking.
In addition, both animals are capable of stopping a game at any time if it becomes too much for them and they feel uncomfortable. In playful hunting, the hunted animal is also never cornered, but the action takes place where there is room for movement.
If you notice that the situation is threatening to escalate or your animals have already bitten into each other, there are a few ways you can separate your animals as quickly as possible.
A prompt spatial separation is absolutely necessary, so that none of your animals is further hurt and the tempers can calm down again. In the next section we will tell you three effective countermeasures…
What should I do if my gerbils chase and bite each other? 3 countermeasures
First and foremost in such situations: Keep calm!
Do not panic, do not start screaming and do not try to separate the animals by force! If your gerbils have really bitten into each other and you pull the animals apart, it can lead to serious injuries!
Instead, try one of the following three actions.
1: Grab one of the animals with gloves on
If a gerbil is chasing another gerbil through the enclosure and really wants to get at it, quick action on your part is required before the animal is backed into a corner, unable to escape, and a bite inevitably ensues.
Since the tempers of your animals are very heated, you should put on thick work gloves and use them to grab the pursuer to separate it.
2: Shield the animals with cardboard
If your gerbils are already fighting each other and there is a real “battle ball”, you should not separate the animals by force for the reasons mentioned above.
Instead, it is recommended that you take a long piece of cardboard and push it from above between the animals, so that they are automatically separated.
Gloves are also highly recommended for this procedure!
If the animals let go of each other, you can grab one of them and physically separate it from the other.
3: Separate the squabblers permanently from each other
Gerbils that have been involved in multiple fights and have even suffered profound injuries should not be allowed together again under any circumstances.
Here only the permanent separation of the quarrelsome remains!
Depending on how large your group is, you can make sure that the more compatible animal stays in the group and the quarrelsome animal gets company from a submissive animal with whom it gets along well.
If there is no “compatible” mouse available for the more aggressive animal, you can start a new group of two with this animal – ideally with a young gerbil (<8 months). Since gerbils at this age have not yet developed their own scent, a socialization here usually runs without problems!
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