Are gerbils the classic loners or do they live in packs?
In this article, we tell you how you should keep your gerbils in order to do justice to their natural social behavior.
Attention: This article is extremely important, because if you keep your gerbils in a wrong and not species-appropriate way, there is a risk of considerable psychological problems with your gerbils.
Are gerbils loners?
No, gerbils are not loners, on the contrary: gerbils are extremely social animals that only really feel comfortable in group housing.
No matter how well you take care of your gerbil, you will never be able to replace the presence of another gerbil.
However, despite their strong social behavior, there are some situations in your gerbil’s life where your pet may like a little time and space to himself.
For one thing, gerbils also like to have their quiet time from time to time, to relax and enjoy time alone. This is especially true if your gerbil is sick or a little older.
On the other hand, anxious animals that are quickly and frequently stressed would like to enjoy a little time out occasionally to calm down and recharge their batteries.
Note: Every animal is different by nature, so it is not uncommon for some gerbils to be more trusting and affectionate than others.
Nevertheless, it can be said that gerbils like to be temporarily alone, but (almost) no gerbil wants to experience this condition permanently.
Keeping at least two animals is therefore mandatory for a responsible pet owner, because only this way your gerbils can lead a happy and fulfilled life.
What is the typical social behavior of the animals?
In the wild, a gerbil group consists of approximately two to seventeen animals.
In each group there are two dominant animals. These are a male and a female animal that continuously produce offspring, which can create large groups. The parents of the young animals permanently retain the role of leader and can also give “orders” to the adult offspring.
The larger the group, the more likely it is that disputes will arise among the animals.
Especially rank fights are not uncommon with the onset of sexual maturity.
With advancing age of the ‘breeding pair’ it can happen that single young animals now and then try to rise in the hierarchy and get to the top of the group. Depending on the health of the older animals, the rank fights either lead to success or not.
Through these fights it also comes to the fact that the large group will split up in the course of time, so that the group does not continue to grow infinitely.
Gerbils like to cuddle and play with each other, groom and groom each other, and build deep bonds with the mates within their group.
For this reason, you should never keep gerbils alone if possible.
However, it is essential that you adjust the number of animals to the size of your enclosure. Ideally you should have a terrarium with a minimum width of 120 cm and a minimum depth of 60 cm for two animals.
Height is also important, as gerbils are excellent jumpers. An airy lid is therefore mandatory.
If your gerbil cannot live out its social needs, then it is very likely that behavioral problems will occur in this animal.
Why you should keep some gerbils alone and how you can make their life as comfortable as possible, you will learn in the next section.
Can gerbils theoretically live alone?
Theoretically, a gerbil can survive in solitary confinement. However, the animal will not be 100% happy and is much more prone to physical illness and behavioral problems.
However, there are some reasons why you should keep your gerbil alone.
For example, there are animals that do not get along with their conspecifics for various reasons and socialization is not possible. Also a very high age or a contagious disease can be a reason for keeping them alone.
In this case it is important that you deal intensively with your gerbil and arrange its enclosure as varied as possible.
Gerbils are not cuddly animals, however, it may happen that your gerbil enjoys cuddles from you, if you have built up a good bond with your animal and your pet trusts you unreservedly.
Here are some things you can do to help your gerbil feel comfortable in solitary confinement:
- spend a lot of time with your gerbil.
Spend several minutes throughout the day with your gerbil so that it does not feel lonely.
You will soon find that your gerbil is eagerly waiting for you to take care of it.
Of course, you should let your gerbil sleep and not wake her up if you have time for her but she has withdrawn.
Offer her contact, but never push her.
- allow tunnel building
Gerbils, like hamsters, do a lot of tunneling in the wild.
Therefore, to allow your gerbil to be as natural as possible, make sure that you design the enclosure so that your gerbil can pursue its passion for tunnel digging.
A bedding height of around 20 to 30 cm should be sufficient for your pet to pursue its passion.
3. Allow the animal to run freely and safely
Lots of exercise and an overall high level of activity are part of the core nature of gerbils.
With this in mind, it’s important to give your gerbil the opportunity to release that pent-up energy and explore new terrain from time to time.
While you can use a running wheel to help your gerbil release its energy, running in such a wheel is rather dull and offers less variety than secured free running in a room.
In order to provide a “gerbil-safe” run, it is important that you realize that gerbils are rodents and therefore will not shy away from chewing on cables, etc.
Also make sure that your gerbil can not get behind cabinets, etc., as there is a risk that your animal gets stuck or can no longer find its way outdoors.
- feed your gerbil by hand
You can intensify the bond between your gerbil and you by offering your pet food from your hand. This way you can show your gerbil that your hand or your presence means something good and that you are not a danger for the animal.
If your gerbil does not dare to touch your hand at the beginning, you can make things easier for him by holding a large piece of food, e.g. a pumpkin seed, between your thumb and index finger and offer the snack to your gerbil.
Over time, your gerbil will become bolder and eat the food while sitting on your hand.
- start with clicker training
Gerbils are highly intelligent animals that enjoy being mentally challenged by their humans.
Clicker training is an ideal way to combine play, fun and mental exercise. In addition, you can have a great influence on the bond between you and your gerbil and get to know your pet’s character better.
You can use clicker training to find out where your pet’s strengths and weaknesses lie, train agility and increase overall satisfaction.
- pay attention to the body language of your gerbil.
As described above, there are situations and moments when your gerbil can and wants to enjoy being alone.
Therefore, always give your gerbil the opportunity to withdraw and leave your animal alone if it clearly shows you that it would rather be alone.
How to find the perfect partners for your gerbil
Ideally, you should keep a neutered male gerbil together with a female to avoid possible quarrels.
If you want to socialize an older animal, it is recommended that you put a young animal with a maximum of eight weeks in the enclosure with your gerbil, because the animals have not yet developed their own smell at this age and will therefore subordinate to your older gerbil without any problems.
This way you can save yourself a lot of nerves and don’t have to worry about the health of your animals – because it is not uncommon for the younger animal to go after the older animal when sexual maturity has already set in and the socialization is carried out at this time.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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