Can Gerbils Swim? {Do Gerbils Play in Water?}

Have you seen videos of gerbils splashing around in water? Can gerbils swim? 

Are they accustomed to swimming or is this something they learn from life in captive care?

In this article, we’ll look into gerbils playing or possibly swimming in water. 

Can Gerbils Swim?

Yes Gerbils can swim but they are not adapted to life in water and will, therefore prefer to avoid water.

Instead, they rather have their fun with other gerbils or toys that you provide them.

Read on to find out more about gerbils, how they react to water, and what you can do to encourage your pet gerbil to play.


Do Gerbils Like Water?

Some do and some don’t. Gerbils are cute little pets that just about anyone can keep in their home. All they need is a cozy cage, food, and water. 

Gerbils have a small stature and short legs, which are not suited for playing in water. If you put your gerbils in water, chances are they are going to struggle to stay afloat.

While they may manage to swim from one point to another, it is generally not a good idea to put them in water because they will drown when they get tired of trying to swim.

Instead of putting your gerbils in deep water, provide them with a little amount of water in a shallow plate that lets them wet their feet while drinking. 

Why Don’t Gerbils Like Water?

You must remember that gerbils live in semi-arid habitats, and such places do not typically have large masses of water. Even when they live in an area with rivers, springs or lakes, gerbils are unlikely to venture into the water. They only pay a visit to such water bodies when they need to have a drink.

Gerbils stay close to their homes, and that is where they forage for food. They are unlikely to migrate to other parts of the wild and rarely have to cross any mass of water. Because of their short legs and lack of adaptation to water, they may end up becoming easy prey for predators that hunt in water, and that is why they know better than to play in water even while in their natural habitat.

However, gerbils will attempt to cross any body of water if their survival depends on it. For instance, if there is no food where they are or if conditions get too dire, they may have no choice but to swim across to survive.

Can You Bathe Gerbils in Water?

No. People love to give baths to their pets. The experience is often exciting for both the pet and the owner. However, it is not very exciting for gerbils.

Instead of giving your gerbils water baths, get them some sand or chinchilla dust in a dish, bucket, or basin and let them play in it.

Gerbils love sand baths and will have a fantastic time digging and rolling in the sand. These sand baths help them to clean themselves and even get rid of some parasites that may be hiding under their fur.

The only time that you should give your gerbil a water bath is if it is necessary for getting rid of parasites or cleaning infections.

Otherwise, these pets do not need much grooming as they can do that by themselves. Not only can they clean their fur by licking and using their teeth, but they can also straighten it to look beautiful. They can also groom each other.

Make sure you know when it’s time for your gerbil to rest. See here as I help explain this further. 

Ideas for Gerbil Playtime

The fact that gerbils do not like playing in water should not discourage you from seeking alternatives to make them a bit more active. The following ideas can help you playfully bond with your furry friend.

1. Play with the Gerbils

It is a good idea for you to take out your gerbils and let them sniff you and play on your lap and hands. Letting them explore the room under close supervision is another way to ensure they are having a good time. While playing with your gerbils, don’t forget to offer them treats such as strawberries, pumpkin seeds, carrots, and dry mixes.

2. Gerbils Play with Each Other

Gerbils love to be in the company of each other. So, if you have two or more of these pets, they will enjoy playing with each other in their cage or enclosure.

If you only have one gerbil, you can always invite a friend to come with theirs so that the two can play. However, make sure to slowly acclimate the gerbils to one another before giving them free roam of a single cage.

3. Wheels are Good

Most gerbils stay in cages or small enclosures and do not get much exercise. However, to remedy this situation, consider getting a wheel for your gerbils. Wheels with a solid surface and solid back make it easy for gerbils to run and enjoy themselves while getting much-needed exercise. A Silent Runner or a Wodent Wheel would be ideal. 

If they are wobbling, you nay need to watch out for bigger concerns.

4. Chew Toys

Gerbils are particularly fond of chewing things, which is why you should consider providing them with some chew toys. 

Some great ideas for gerbil chew toys are:

  • A cardboard tube from a toilet paper roll is one of the simplest chew toys you can give your gerbil. 
  • There are also cardboard tubes that are specifically designed for pets to play with. These are a much safer choice.
  • Untreated wood can also make good chew toys for your gerbils. 
  • Tree branches are another option. Just make sure the branches do not come from evergreen plants.

5. Climbing Toys 

Another idea to get your gerbil playing is to use climbing toys and tubes. When you walk into a pet store, consider picking up a see-saw or wooden ladder for your pets. These can often be found in the bird or small pet sections of the store. 

If you buy plastic tubes for your gerbils, make sure you are around while they play with them because they have a habit of chewing into just about anything, and it can cause some complications due to splintering.

6. Digging 

Gerbils also love digging. This behavior is quite helpful to these animals because it helps them to build safe homes while in the wild. The burrows they make help them stay away from extreme weather and also keeps them from falling prey to marauding predators that would otherwise make easy meals for them.

That is why a part of their enclosure should be relatively deep with a substrate. This will allow them to keep busy by digging. The best substrate to use is a combination of hay, aspen shavings, and paper. A mixture of such materials makes it easier for them to build stable tunnels. You need to change the substrate every three to four weeks.

YouTube video

Can Gerbils Get Wet?

The majority of the time, gerbils can get wet if you place them in a pond or your own private pool. But the real question is whether you ought to let your pet swim.

You must avoid causing your pet to get wet because gerbils shouldn’t go near water in the wild. Because they are tiny and a member of the rodent family:

  • gerbils are extremely sensitive to water.
  • they have less insulation
  • being wet might make it easy for your gerbil to develop an illness

Many of gerbils experience hypothermia after going into a lake, pool, or other bodies of water. Due to the low temperature, your pet might perish.

Additionally, it may cause additional health problems and the animal can remain ill for a time before getting well.


Gerbils are cute and easy to take care of. Just provide them with adequate water to drink and enough food to eat, and they will not need much of anything else.

If you want to play with your pets, don’t hesitate to get them out of their enclosure and let them explore your room a bit.

Play toys mentioned above are another way to ensure your gerbils are not dull all the time but instead get to be active. However, avoid playing with your gerbils in water because they do not like it. 


Thank you for visiting for the best information to help you enjoy the life of your pocket pet companion in a fun, safe & healthy way.


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.