We’ve all heard the rumor that goldfish can only remember the past 10 seconds of their lives. We’ve also heard stories of lions recognizing people who cared for them for years after they had to leave. It’s easy to see why we often wonder what goes on in the minds of our pets, especially with smaller animals.
Do gerbils recognize their owners? The jury’s still out on the definite conclusion. There haven’t been studies that test a gerbil’s ability to recognize their owner by face or voice. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that gerbils bond, recognize, and love their owners.
If you’re wondering whether the cute little fuzz you bought sees you as a friend and remembers you, you’re not alone. Many owners have the same question! Here’s what we were able to discover about gerbils’ ability to recognize people.
Do Gerbils Recognize Their Owners?
The answer to this all depends on how much science you want to drag into the question. If you want to see specific studies devoted to the topic, you’re out of luck. There hasn’t been a solid experiment to see whether or not gerbils recognize their owners.
On the other hand, if you’re okay with anecdotal evidence from people who owned them, there’s plenty of reason to believe that your gerbil recognizes you.
Why People Believe That Gerbils Recognize Owners
If you’ve ever spoken to a gerbil owner before, you already know that you need to be able to bond with them in order to socialize them. Gerbils that aren’t slowly introduced to their owners and other humans may get skittish, panicky, or try to escape.
Like many other small animals, gerbils have to be taught to trust their owners in order to be relaxed around them. Socializing them by picking them up gently, letting them wander around with supervision, and also just getting them used to hearing you reduces the amount of aggression or panic they display.
Do Gerbils Recognize Faces?
We don’t know for sure, but there are plenty of owners who swear that gerbils recognize their face. The general consensus that animal behaviorists believe is that they don’t recognize human faces, but rather, recognize owners by smell.
Some people believe that gerbils can recognize their owners by face, but the problem is that human appearances can easily change with a haircut, makeup, or even a trip to the tanning salon. Gerbils can’t rely on sight alone.
Do Gerbils Recognize Different Human Smells?
Gerbils, like most other rodents, have extremely sensitive senses of smell. Among gerbil society, these little rodents recognize one another by sniffing each other. Considering that they are capable of recognizing different gerbils by scent alone, it’s not surprising that they can do the same with humans.
If you ever noticed your gerbil pressing his nose and mouth against you, it’s because he’s smelling you. This is a sign that your gerbil is bonding with you and getting a good whiff of your personal scent. Scent is a fairly reliable factor for gerbils.
Can Gerbils Recognize Humans By Sound?
Generally speaking, small rodents are blessed with stronger senses of hearing—and that includes gerbils. Owners believe that gerbils can recognize their owners’ voices as well as the voices of owners’ friends.
Gerbils aren’t stupid; they can even be trained to recognize their own names with a little work. That being said, their ability to judge sound isn’t always reliable. Though they can tell the difference between voices, it’s safe to say that gerbils primarily use scent to determine who’s who.
Do Gerbils Enjoy Strangers?
While gerbils can be loving and happy to see their owners, strangers are a different case altogether. The majority of gerbils will not be friendly towards strangers. Rather, they’ll view strangers with suspicion and fear.
It makes sense, especially when you take a look into their evolutionary traits. Here’s why they tend to be wary of strangers:
- Gerbils can’t tell what human intentions will be. If you were a pet to a giant 50 times your size, wouldn’t you be cautious about other giants? Gerbils don’t necessarily know what peoples’ intentions are. To protect themselves from harm, they will logically try to flee from strangers.
- Gerbils are wired to see larger animals as predators. Their top predators are cats and dogs. It makes sense that anything larger would terrify them.
- Many gerbils aren’t socialized to like strangers. Part of it is also a matter of training. Some gerbils can be perfectly friendly towards new people as long as they have been trained with many different people around them. Others will always be a little anxious with new people.
- Gerbils are also naturally anxious. Some animals are more skittish than others. Gerbils are known for being prone to anxiety, sometimes to the point of peeing themselves. Much like with other animals, bringing in unknown elements can add to a gerbil’s overall level of anxiety. New people fit under that bill.
It’s important to recognize that it can take several months before you are able to bond with your gerbils. Even then, most pet owners would call gerbils a “watch instead of pet” type of companion. Sure, they will recognize you, but chances are that they’ll never be too keen on getting pet or being brought around strangers.
How To Make Your Gerbil More Open To Bonding With You
If you want to make your gerbil capable of recognizing you and loving you, you’re going to need to put in effort, too. Gerbils are more likely to bond and recognize people if their owners use the following tips:
- Keep their cage clean and the room they’re in scent-free. Gerbils don’t do well with strong scents or unclean conditions. It stresses them out and makes them averse to bonding with others. By making their environment more inviting, you give them more reason to want to bond with you.
- Talk to them. Gerbils need to hear your voice in order to recognize you. The only way to make sure that your gerbil can remember what you sound like is to give them the opportunity to hear your voice on a regular basis.
- Wash your hands before you handle your gerbil. Your gerbil won’t be able to stand you if your hands smell like garlic or lemon. Those scents are too strong and may even throw off their ability to recognize your body odor if you’re unlucky!
- Regularly do bonding exercises with your gerbil. Scooping your gerbil up with your hands, letting them wander around with supervision, and giving them treats can help them learn to see you as a friend.
Can A Gerbil Recognize You If They’re Not Bonded To You?
It’s hard to say. Gerbils seem to be more comfortable around people who they see on a regular basis, even if they themselves are not directly bonded to them. However, no one really knows how much effort it takes to make a gerbil capable of recognizing your voice, face, or scent.
Understanding Gerbil Recognition
People who are worried about having a pet that’s not able to recognize them need not worry about gerbil ownership. If you listen to pet owners and animal behaviorists, they’ll tell you that gerbils are intelligent creatures that are capable of recognizing their owners after spending time bonding with them.
Just because there aren’t any science experiments containing hard data on gerbil facial recognition doesn’t mean that they are incapable of recognizing their owners. Gerbils love and recognize the people around them every single day. Though they typically recognize owners through scent and voice, you never know. Maybe gerbils do look forward to seeing their owners’ faces too!