Can A Gerbil Be Kept Alone? {Will They Feel Lonely?}

When it comes to caring for certain pets, the number of pets you have can be an important factor in keeping them alive.

For example, many types of fish can’t be kept alone without potentially causing them to die. Cows, too, can lose years off their lifespans if kept alone. If you’re looking to get a small animal, you need to know if they can be left alone. 

Can a gerbil be kept alone?

Though gerbils are known to be skittish around people, it’s important to realize that they are still highly social creatures. Gerbils cannot be kept alone without their loneliness, causing serious damage to their overall wellbeing. 

If you were hoping to keep a pet gerbil solo, think again. Once you learn about what effects loneliness can have on a gerbil, you’ll realize that you can’t have just one. 

Though some pet owners do keep single gerbils, this is never a good option. Gerbils don’t fare well when they’re left alone, and can even get some ill-health effects as a result of the loneliness they endure.

Even though it’s rare that gerbils die out of loneliness, these ill-health effects that occur from loneliness can indirectly lead to gerbil death.

Why Do Gerbils Need Other Gerbils Around?

Much like other social creatures, gerbils need others around them to help them live well. Having multiple gerbils living together means that they can:

  • Groom Eachother. Gerbils practice social grooming, much like many other mammals. It helps keep them calm and also keeps them clean. 
  • Play. Gerbils need to play with other gerbils in order to avoid anxiety. 
  • Sleep Together. Some gerbils find comfort snuggling up to other gerbils. 

What Happens If You Own A Solitary Gerbil?

It’s a known fact that many creatures don’t do well when they are forced to live alone, and that includes people. Much like humans, gerbils require some form of socializing with their own kind to stay happy and healthy. 

With gerbils, you have some good and bad news when it comes to leaving them in isolation. The good news is that they won’t necessarily die as a result of it. The bad news is that they will become lethargic and possibly depressed.

Will they die from loneliness? I need to explain this further in another article. 

Is There Ever A Time When Owning A Single Gerbil Makes Sense?

While it’s usually best to have a small clan of gerbils, there are some situations where having a solitary gerbil makes sense. These include:

  • Having a gerbil that’s old. If you have a senior gerbil, trying to get him introduced to new pups might stress him out more than being alone. 
  • Having a sick or injured gerbil. Too much action can cause a sick gerbil to die, or even spread the disease to healthy pets. If your gerbil has a serious injury that’s a lifelong matter, introducing them to a new clan might worsen their situation.
  • Having a gerbil that’s a loner. Believe it or not, there are some rare gerbils that never really get along with other gerbils despite it being the norm to want to clan. If you have tried introducing your pet to others repeatedly without any luck, you might have a loner gerbil. 
  • You are trying to phase out your gerbil ownership. If you’re done owning gerbils, phasing out the number of pets makes sense. That being said, you might be better off just transferring ownership of your gerbils to someone who can house multiple critters.

Generally speaking, you should only try to keep gerbils alone when putting them together would interfere with their health or the health of other pets in the area. 

Can you try putting them with other pocket pets? See why or why not in my separate article. 

How Many Gerbils Should You Keep?


Gerbils live in clans that range from in size from two to 15—so any number between those two will work well. Most pet owners find that owning two same-sex gerbils or a small group of three is the best way to keep things peaceful. 

Do You Need To Introduce Gerbils To One Another?

Yes, absolutely! Gerbils need to have slow introductions to one another in order to avoid seeing each other as a threat. To introduce them to one another, it’s best to use a cage that’s split down the middle with a transparent divider.

Introductions are made by getting your pets used to each other’s scent. Swap where each gerbil sleeps every day to get the gerbils used to smelling one another. Once they start to get curious enough to attempt interaction at the divider, you can remove the divider safely. 

Why Aren’t My Gerbils Getting Along?

Assuming that you introduced them using a split cage, there are a couple of reasons why gerbils might still want to fight it out after having become a clan. The technical term for this phenomenon is “declanning.”

When this occurs, the bond between the gerbils is broken due to a change in social structure or increased territoriality. You might be able to fix it by removing extra parts of the cage, or in more drastic cases, doing a full re-introduction. That being said, not every clan can be saved.

What’s The Worst That Can Happen During Declanning?

Declanning isn’t something that should be taken lightly. Gerbils might look cute and tiny to you, but when they fight amongst each other, it’s serious. Gerbils that have declanned are known for causing serious injuries to each other. 

Depending on how aggressive your gerbils can get, a single fight can cause serious injury or even death. 

What Are The Signs Of Declanning?

The best way to avoid injury towards your gerbils is to keep an eye out for the early signs of declanning and to act before it gets out of hand. If you notice any of these signs, it may be time to give your gerbils a time out from one another:

  • One gerbil is regularly picking on the other. Bullying behavior from gerbils is a warning sign of a serious fight about to break out. 
  • You notice wounds on one of your gerbils. This suggests that you’ve already had a fight and that it could get worse. 
  • Your gerbils are sleeping in opposite cage ends. This is one of the first signs of declanning that you will likely witness.
  • The dominant gerbil has started to chase one of the other gerbils around the cage aggressively. Aggressive chasing, particularly when it comes to one specific gerbil, is a sign that you might have a serious problem on your hands.
  • One gerbil is cowering away from the rest of the clan. Much like what you’d see in a schoolyard, this kind of behavior suggests that one gerbil is getting bullied by the others.

Should you notice declanning in the works, the best thing you can do is separate your gerbils and gently try to reintroduce them. That being said, if re-introduction doesn’t work out, you will need to keep them separated.

Here’s a video of common declanning behaviour:

How Common Is Declanning?

For the most part, it’s a normal aspect of life as a gerbil. Around one-quarter of all gerbil clans eventually break up or declan. It’s not a sign of failure on your part, nor is it a sign of a problematic pet. 


For the most part, gerbils aren’t meant to be left alone. In nature, they are found in small groups called clans—and that remains the best way to keep them when you own them as pets. You don’t need to have a dozen of them to keep them happy; just one extra buddy will be enough to give them benefits.

Though they are social creatures, they still have their own social issues that you need to watch out for. How you introduce your gerbils to one another matters, as does watching out for signs of declanning. As long as you make an effort to keep your gerbils safe and social, you’ll have a happy bunch of furry friends for life.


My name is Anna and I work full time in my local pet shop where we sell many animals that I write about on this site. I love all animals and love writing about them.