9 Interesting Facts about Gerbils


If you are thinking about getting a new pet, either for yourself or for your children, you might really want to think about getting gerbils. These little creatures are sociable, friendly animals that adapt well to living with children and in the home. In fact, although gerbils may be less popular than guinea pigs and hamsters, they are often the superior pet.

Along with this, there are many interesting things about gerbils that you may not know. Read on to discover 9 interesting facts about gerbils. After reading, you may want to rush out to your local pet shop today and buy a pair of gerbils!

1: Gerbils are Social Creatures

In the wilds of Africa, India, and Asia where gerbils come from, these sociable creatures live in extended families that consist of the main breeding pair and several generations of their offspring. A dozen or so gerbils might thus live all together. Although only the one pair may breed, the rest all chip in to help with the raising of the young.

One reason for the gerbil’s popularity is that they are rarely aggressive with their owners as long as they are treated well, feed regularly, and are not stressed.

All of this friendly activity may seem strange when you know that their scientific name, Meriones unguiculatus, means “little clawed warrior.”

2. Dad helps out

Unlike many other rodent species such as hamsters, the male of the breeding pair of gerbils helps out in the rearing of the young. Gerbil dads help out by collecting materials for nests, building the nests, and keeping the gerbil babies clean. It’s been shown that gerbil babies with fathers present open their eyes earlier than those without fathers.

3: Gerbils are Clean

Gerbils and other rodents may have gotten a bad reputation for being dirty pets, but this couldn’t be any less true in the case of gerbils. For one thing, since gerbils come from very dry parts of the world, they drink quite little and thus do not urinate very much. This means that their cages do not smell bad.

Also, gerbils enjoy keeping their fur clean and shiny by rolling around in sand. If you can keep a shallow dish with sand in it in your gerbils’ cage, they will demonstrate this great behavior.

4. Gerbils Thump

Another interesting gerbil behavior is the thumping sound they make with their hind feet. They will make this thump alone as well as all in unison. They perform this behavior in many situations, including when they are mating, when they are excited, and even when bored.

The gerbil’s long hind legs in comparison to their shorter front legs helps them make this distinctive sound.

5. Gerbils are Smart

Gerbils are naturally very curious creatures and love to explore their environment and learn about the place they live. If you let your gerbil out of its cage, it will happily sniff along your floors as it discovers your home. Gerbils also learn a lot from their parents such as which foods are the best for them to eat.

6. Gerbils Like to Hoard

In the wild, gerbils have been found to store extra food in up to two or three separate places. You may find that your gerbils hide their food in some corner of their cage, beneath a pile of straw or gerbil bedding, or inside a toy you put in their cage.

7. Gerbils are Fairly Long Lived

Most pet gerbils will live 2 or 3 years if it is well cared for and gets a good diet. Make sure to feed your gerbil a good mix of fresh foods and a high quality gerbil food. Many gerbil owners have seen individual gerbils live beyond their typical life span.

8. Gerbils are Active Chewers

If you watch your gerbils a lot, it may seem to you that they spend a great deal of their lives chewing and gnawing on things. In fact, gerbils spend much of their energy gnawing in order to keep their teeth which keep growing all throughout their lives in good shape. Thus, as a good gerbil owner you should always provide your pet with plenty of untreated wood objects, veggies, and even dog biscuits for them to chew on.

In addition to all this gnawing, your gerbils will probably run around their cages a lot and spend a good deal of time digging in their straw bedding.

9. Gerbils are Tunnel Builders

In the wild, gerbils live in burrows that they dig out with their active claws and feet. These wild burrows may go several feet down into the earth and extend fifteen feet or more horizontally.

This may explain why gerbils like to dig and burrow through their bedding. Your pets will like it if you give them tubular toys they can crawl in and out of.