Do Gerbils Like to be Petted, Cuddled And Held?

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. However, it may be hard to know how to care and show affection to such small animals. One of the ways we show animal’s affection is by petting them, if they like it that is. 

So, do gerbils like to be petted? It depends on the gerbil—some like being petted 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. 

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. 

Your Gerbil May or May Not Like to Be Petted

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. Hopefully, this article was helpful and informative!


I love animals! I grew up with everything from dogs and cats to rabbits and guinea pigs. I enjoy learning about pets and to share what I learn with others.