Do Gerbils Like to be Held, Cuddled And Petted?

Gerbils are one of those cute, small animals that live in families around the world due to their small size.

They can also be very alluring for little kids who want a pet but can’t have a larger animal in the home.

Do gerbils like to be held? This article will help explain petting, holding and possibly cuddling with gerbils. 

Do Gerbils Like To Be Held?

It depends on the gerbil—some like being held while others may not. Gerbils are social creatures; however, they have likes and dislikes. Each gerbil is an individual, so it’ll be trial and error to figure out if your gerbil likes to be petted or not.

You also need to earn its trust since we are so much bigger than a gerbil. 

This article will go into detail on what kinds of gerbils like to be petted and ways to help your gerbil like being petted as well.  


Why Do Some Gerbils Like to Be Petted?  

Gerbils are social animals. Like many other small animals, gerbils are social creatures. They thrive on interactions with others, whether it’s other gerbils or humans. So, they will often seek out their owners for interactions, which can be petting for some. Others may like to be held or cuddled.  

Male gerbils are more affectionate than females. There isn’t a clear reason why males are generally more affectionate; however, it has been seen when noting their behavior differences. It hasn’t been officially researched by scientists, so there hasn’t been a clear reason why, but it could help you when picking out a gerbil as a pet for your family. 

Their childhood can affect how much they like being petted. If the gerbil had a “mean” owner, they might not be trusting of humans, so they will steer clear of human touch. Gerbils who were handled with care in childhood will often seek human touch. It would help to know the history of your pet before adoption to know what they think of touch.  

The trust you build with your gerbil will affect how it likes being petted. Exposure to you will help your gerbil get more comfortable with being pet. This can be a great way to help build trust, as well. This can be a great method to show your affection to your gerbil, and for it to reciprocate with cuddles and seeking your touch. 

Can gerbils learn their name during this type of interaction? See how they are connected. 

How Can I Get My Gerbil to Like Being Petted?

Give your gerbil time to get used to you. You can’t expect your gerbil to immediately like being petted. It will take time to gain trust as well as comfort around you, so make sure you give your gerbil a chance to adjust to its new home and you. If you give your gerbil a lot of entertainment and exposure to you, it will start to recognize you and become friendlier in return. 

Let your gerbil explore the environment. Exercise can help reduce stress and anxiety in your gerbil. A stressed or anxious gerbil will not tolerate petting as well as a relaxed and happy one. Letting your gerbil out of its cage to explore the surroundings will give it a chance to exercise as well as provide some stimulus for it. 

Take small steps with your pet. Just like giving your gerbil time, you should also take smell steps in petting. Don’t try to grab your pet right away and force pets on it. You can start with light touches before stroking its head and then move to its body. This way, it can become desensitized to your touch and not be on alert when you reach to pet it. 

Spend time with your gerbil. If your gerbil is aversive to your hands or had a rough upbringing with humans, simply spend time with it. Put its cage somewhere where you spend a lot of time, so your gerbil gets the chance to see you and hear your voice. Once it’s comfortable around your presence, you’ll have a better chance of petting it down the road. 

How Do I Know If My Gerbil Likes Being Petted? 

Your gerbil will let you know right away. An unfriendly gerbil will most likely lash out with scratches or bites if you try to pet it. These signs can let you know that they don’t like being petted. This behavior will not be a permanent reaction as it learns to trust you, but it will be best to give your gerbil time to get used to you before expecting it to like being petted.

Gerbils will purr when they are content. Similar to cats, gerbils also purr when they are content. If your gerbil purrs after being pet, then you know that it likes being touched. Even if it doesn’t purr, so long as it doesn’t scratch or bite, you can know it at least tolerates your touch. This can be a great first step when working with anxious gerbils who may be frightened of human touch. 

Gerbils will get hyperactive when they are happy. A fast-moving gerbil is a good sign that they are excited and happy. If this behavior starts when they see you, then you know they are happy because of you. That can be a great sign that they are ready to receive pets and your touch because they trust you. 

Gerbils making lots of noise is a great sign as well. Gerbils use sounds to talk to one another, so any sounds towards you is a sign they are trying to communicate with you. Most often, it is for food or attention, but it can be a sign that they trust you and like you. If a gerbil likes you, there is a higher chance they will like being pet by you as well. 


Other Factors To Consider

Have your gerbil eat from your hands. Another way to help build trust, as well as comfort around your hands, is to have them eat from it. You can use their regular foods or tasty treats to make a positive association with seeing your hand. Then, when they eat from it, they won’t be as scared when you go to pet them. 

You should have more than one gerbil. Being that gerbils are social creatures, having more than one will ensure that your gerbil is happy. A happy gerbil will be more likely open to being pet than a sad or anxious one. The company will also help gerbils if you are away from home for work or school. Gerbils also like similarly colored gerbils. 

Make sure your enclosure is big enough. Having multiple gerbils will need adequate space to exercise and live happily. If the space is too small, fights can break out between gerbils as well as other issues. You should also include some way to exercise within the enclosure, like a running wheel. That can help when the gerbils need to stay in their cage for a long time. 

Are Gerbils Affectionate?

Some are. Gerbils that are connected in pairs or as families tend to be quite affectionate with one another. Given enough time and tender care, gerbils may develop strong bonds with their owners.

They resemble other pets in every way. If you are kind to them, they will like you. They will lose faith in you if you treat them poorly. Some gerbils really detest being touched.

This is not unusual, and if you have had a few gerbils by this point, you could have previously encountered one who dislikes being caressed or pet.

Most kids don’t completely grasp the concept of respecting a pet’s space and will take it up to hug and squeeze it right away. As a result, many gerbils reared by kids are less tolerant of humans.

Some gerbils will like giving and receiving attention. Additionally, your gerbil could be unhappy, perhaps as a result of recent conflict with other gerbils.

Are Gerbils Cuddly?

No. Gerbils may not classify as cuddly pets in the conventional sense.

They do not enjoy being petted and will not sit still for you to do so. Despite this, it is not because they lack affection in any way.

The main reasons behind this are that:

  • they have a lot of energy
  • would rather move about and discovering their surroundings
  • have trouble sitting still for lengthy periods of time

Although they are not the most cuddly of pets, gerbils show their owners devotion in other ways. They would rather investigate their environment and run around than be held or snuggled for any length of time. 

How Do Gerbils Show Affection to Humans?

Gerbils will typically pound their feet when they meet a new person, but not when they see their owner. Gerbils are more demonstrative in their fondness for their owners and exhibit greater joy while spending time with them.

Spending time with and constantly handling your gerbil can help you develop a close relationship with it.
Your gerbil could chirp to catch your attention for a number of reasons, such as:

  • when it wants to play
  • show you something it found while exploring
  • acquire some food
  • wants to be petted by you.

Chirping is an indication that your gerbil likes and trusts its owner. Because gerbils are such little creatures, it is important to use extreme caution whenever you are touching or stroking your pet’s head or body. In addition, you may scratch your gerbil’s head behind its ears.

Do Gerbils Like to Cuddle With Humans?

Some do and some don’t. The ability to stroke, cuddle, and otherwise physically interact with your animal companions is one of the most gratifying aspects of owning a pet.

Gerbils are prone to anxiety and fear, which may give the impression that they are not as friendly as other animals.

Most gerbils prefer touching or sitting on your palm. Once trust has been developed, you may be able to pet some gerbils or even embrace some of them.


We’ve discussed why some gerbils like to be pet and how to get your gerbil to like being pet. Give your gerbil some time to get used to you as well as being pet. You can try things like exposure to your hands and feed on them. As well as get more than one gerbil so they can keep each other company. Listen for positive signs like yips and purrs.  

All in all, your gerbil will be in a happy home if you are looking for ways to make it happy and enjoy being pet. 

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.