Many members of the animal kingdom hibernate, particularly during winter.
Gerbils exhibit similar behaviour that raises a lot of questions about going into hibernation.
Do Gerbils Hibernate?
Gerbils do not hibernate in the literal sense like most other animals. However, they still exhibit a hibernation-like behaviour by going into prolonged sleep when they get freezing.
Unlike most other animals, it is possible to revive Gerbils by merely providing them with warmth when they go into excessive sleeping. Likewise, there are noticeable differences when they go into hibernation and when they are dead.
It is best to understand your Gerbils’ condition before pronouncing them dead or conclude that they are hibernating. Contacting a vet can help you ascertain that better.
Likewise, you should expect some unusual behaviour about Gerbils as soon as their temperature begins to drop.
When Do Gerbils Hibernate?
Gerbils usually go into hibernation when the temperature is too cold for them to handle. These furry animals are warm-blooded, and freezing weather can cause them to hibernate.
Gerbils will hibernate when the temperature is less than 13 degrees Celsius or 55 degrees Fahrenheit (12.78 °C).
Once Gerbils go into hibernation, they will remain in that state, as long as the temperature stays low. To bring them back or revive them, you have to provide them with enough warmth.
They will come out of their prolonged sleep as long as the temperature is warm enough to help them maintain their friendly internal environment.
How Long Do Gerbils Hibernate For?
There is no stipulated time for Gerbils to hibernate. They will remain in their hibernating mode as long as the temperature stays lower than they can handle.
If you intend to bring them out of hibernation, there are two ways to do it. You can either let the reactivation occur naturally or instigate it.
Letting the reactivation happen naturally means you will wait until winter is over and the temperature is relatively warm. In this case, they might hibernate for a prolonged time.
Alternatively, you can supply them with warmth to raise their temperature to force them out of hibernation.
Both work pretty well, but the formal is dangerous. If you wait for winter to be over, it might get cold enough to kill Gerbils.
Therefore, it is better to supply your Gerbils with warmth to keep them active regardless of the environmental temperature.
Signs That Gerbil Is Hibernating?
Different signs will help you tell when Gerbils are hibernating. First off, you will notice that they will
- Become inactive and slow : They can also become lazy, and some of them noticeably lose their appetite
- Heartbeat and breathing will become slower than usual : You will also notice a slight spasm of the whiskers rather than the regular active movements.
In the end, you will find your Gerbils sleeping longer than usual. At first, you might confuse them with being dead. But closer evaluation and observation will help you tell the difference between a dead Gerbil, and one that is hibernating.
If you see your gerbil wobbling, there could be greater concerns that I outline here.
Why Do Gerbils Hibernate?
The only reason Gerbils hibernate is that they can no longer handle the low temperature in their environment. Hibernation is more of an adaptive act than typical behaviour.
It helps them to conserve their energy so that it will take them through the period of inactivity.
During the cold season, Gerbils body temperature drastically drops, affecting their metabolism rate and other essential functions. Similarly, their heart rate, breathing, and other vital body functionalities slow down.
The essence of hibernating is to cope with this slower rate of body activities to conserve energy. They use a lower amount of energy during hibernation; hence, the stored up energy will take them through the period when the environmental temperature remains unfavorable.
Why Do Gerbils Become Lethargic?
There are two significant reasons why Gerbils can become lethargic. It’s either they are sick, or the environmental temperature is not favorable for them. In either case, it is dangerous for Gerbils to become lethargic.
Once Gerbils becomes lethargic, their activities will drastically reduce. They will become slower, lazier, and disinterested in their regular activities. Some of them might even lose their appetite.
Lethargic conditions that arise as a result of a cold environment might force your Gerbils into hibernation. However, it is best to contact your vet once you notice any lethargy sign in your Gerbils.
Should you try letting them play in water? See why or why not in my other article.
Should I Try To Prevent My Gerbil Hibernating?
It is not a bad idea to prevent your Gerbils from going into hibernation. Ordinarily, they will not go into hibernation when the environmental and body conditions are right with them.
In fact, preventing Gerbils from going into hibernation is doing them a favor because it means keeping the temperature and other environmental conditions at an optimal level.
Preventing Gerbils from going into hibernation is relatively easy. All you need to do is provide them with warm indoor temperatures, and continuously monitor their environmental temperature.
You can consider providing them with artificial warmth to ensure that the temperature is at a reasonable level for them. Similarly, you should keep your Gerbils away from doors and windows of your home, where they can quickly get cold.
While doing this, it is also imperative to ensure that other conditions are in their favor. It will help if you provide them with a healthy diet, protect them from stress, and ensure their cage’s cleanliness.
What To Do If Your Gerbil Won’t Move?
There are only two possibilities if your Gerbils won’t move; they are either dead or hibernating. If they are dead, you can do nothing to bring them back, but if they are hibernating, you can provide them with warmth and contact your vet immediately.
This video below might also help you decide the best thing to do in this case
The first step, is to find out if your Gerbil is dead or hibernating. If Gerbils are dead, there is nothing one can do to bring them back. But in a case where they are hibernating, you should provide them with warmth as first aid.
Next, you should contact your vet, and he will help you tell if it is a serious issue or not. They can also help you find out the severity of damage done, and the next line of action.
Difference Between Hibernating vs. Sleeping
Sleeping and hibernating might appear similar, but they are entirely different. Hibernating is a period of inactivity that lasts longer than 24 hours. Sleep is less prolonged than hibernating as it ordinarily lasts less than 24 hours.
Hibernating is so similar to sleep that some people even label hibernation as prolonged sleep. However, the two are different.
Sleep is a normal body phenomenon in living things, while extreme conditions usually trigger hibernation.
During hibernation, body metabolism drops to less than five percent of normal. However, it stays almost the same while sleeping. Likewise, sleeping only happens for a short period while hibernation takes a prolonged time.
A sleeping Gerbil is more sensitive to happenings in their environment. It takes a lot to revive a hibernating Gerbil and bring it back to life.
How To Keep My Gerbil Warm In Winter?
Keeping Gerbils warm during winter is necessary to prevent them from hibernating. You should keep them indoors and ensure that they have a reasonably stable temperature. It will also work better if you provide them with artificial temperature.
If you intend to keep Gerbils warm during winter, you should ensure that the indoor temperature does not drop too low. Keep Gerbils away from windows and doors to ensure that their cage, and the room they occupy maintain a reasonably stable temperature.
You can provide them with extra warmth by covering their cage with a blanket. However, you should consider ventilation while doing this. It is equally essential to keep the blanket away from the Gerbils’ reach; else, they will chew it.
Is My Gerbil Dead or Hibernating?
A dead and hibernating Gerbil might appear the same from afar, but you can tell the difference from close examination. The significant difference between a dead and hibernating Gerbil is the formal will stop breathing entirely while the latter will only breathe slowly.
Similarly, the body of a dead Gerbil is excessively stiff and rock hard. A hibernating Gerbil will still maintain its naturally soft body.
Also, a dead Gerbil’s heartbeat will stop completely, while the heart of a hibernating Gerbil will only beat slowly. You can bring back a hibernating Gerbil merely by providing it with adequate warmth, but nothing can get around a dead Gerbil.
Gerbils are furry pets, but they will get affected by their environmental conditions, just like most other animals. One of Gerbils’ responses to cold temperature is prolonged sleep or inactivation, fondly called hibernation.
However, hibernation is not a death sentence when you know the right thing to do. You can start by providing them with warmth as first aid before contacting your vet on the next line of action.
Keeping your Gerbils indoors and warm during winter can mitigate the risk of Gerbils going into hibernation.