As a gerbil owner, it’s essential to know the signs of a healthy and happy pet. Understanding the emotions of a gerbil is different than that of a cat or dog. By knowing what signs to look for, you can better care for your gerbil.
So, how do I know if my gerbil is happy? Gerbils often communicate their mood through body language. Here are positive indicators to look for:
- Energy to roam around the cage
- Excitement to see you by jumping in the air
- Sitting on her/his hind legs
Gerbils are intelligent animals who will communicate a majority of their needs through non- verbal communication. Once you decipher their body language, you’ll feel confident raising and caring for your furry friend.
It can feel overwhelming learning their specific needs, so I’ve collected some info to help you along the way.
Signs Your Gerbil is Happy
A happy pet gerbil will only groom themself when they feel safe and secure, so keep an eye out for their washing habits. A proper grooming session involves cleaning the tail, paws, and head with their tongue.
If you own two gerbils, their expressive body language will indicate their mood. When gerbils greet each other, they will rub their noses and face against each other. This is because they recognize each other through scent and saliva. When your two gerbils regularly groom each other, it’s a sign of bonding and affection.
Gerbils Are Social Creatures
If your gerbil begins jumping in the air, it means she’s thrilled to see you. The most exciting sign of affection is when gerbils purr while they are being held and petted, which makes their whole body vibrate.
Curiosity is an essential positive trait. Watch for these characteristics:
- Standing on her hind legs with her arms at her side.
- Making a point to survey the scene in front of her while also sniffing the air.
- Lots of energy to explore her cage and look around.
Sometimes people worry that when a gerbil burrows, it might be a sign of fear or anxiety. Surprisingly, it’s a sign of feeling content. Give your gerbil bits of shredded newspaper or cardboard to help him make a nest.
Negative Signs to Watch Out For
Of course, we all hope to never run across these, but to properly care for your pet it’s good to be aware of the negative signs.
Negative Body Language
A subtle sign to look for is if your gerbil sits on his hind legs and puts his paws together in a “prayer” stance. This is not a sign of a zen gerbil but actually distress and high alertness. It’s essential to be aware of the distinction between the stressed-out “prayer” pose and the relaxed stance with his arms at his sides.
Notice if your gerbil is thumping the ground with his feet. This is an indication your gerbil is feeling threatened and stressed; the drumming is a warning sign to other animals nearby. Males also use drumming as a mating tactic, so keep that in mind if you own more than one gerbil.
Over-grooming is a typical sign of stress and unhappiness. Grooming is very important, but if obsessive, it will lead to:
- Bald patches
- Scarring and scratches
- Worst-case scenario, this could result in bleeding wounds
Similar to depression in humans, lethargy can be a sign of sadness. Some indicators are a lack of interest in their surroundings and no signs of excitement as in jumping or making noise. If your gerbil just sits down when he’s let out of his cage, this can be a sign of sadness.
Gerbils are not shy in letting you know they need space. They will push your hand away if they don’t want to be touched. Don’t take it personally. Sometimes your gerbil will need some quality alone time.
What Makes Your Gerbil Unhappy?
Taking great care of your gerbil is a top priority because you are the center of her universe, and with great power comes great responsibility. So step one, what is the issue?
A proper gerbil cage:
- Ten gallons of space per gerbil.
- Made of glass or metal, as gerbils can chew through plastic
- Space for a wheel to get exercise.
- A way to burrow.
These are necessary to keep your gerbil happy, especially if you own a single gerbil. If you’re looking for a high quality cage for your gerbil I recommend checking out this one that’s available on Chewy.com
Tip: Keep loud noises and harsh lighting away from your gerbil as it will cause a significant amount of stress.
A healthy diet consists of a delicate balance between nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Gerbils need this combination to fight against diseases. If you want to learn more about how and what to feed your gerbil, read this post next.
Since gerbils and humans are both social creatures, it’s not surprising depression and loneliness is triggered by the same factors.
If your gerbil has a lack of attention, she will quickly spiral into a state of loneliness. Other reasons are a lack of exercise, boredom, and the most painful, the loss of their companion. So, it’s very important to not keep your gerbil alone.
Sharing a cage with a second gerbil (or more) is a great idea. If they begin to fight, this is called declanning and need to be separated as soon as possible.
In captivity, gerbils sleep equally as much during the day and at night. The sleeping pattern will stay consistent throughout her life, so if you notice a sudden change, it can be an indicator that something is wrong.
The most feared reason of all is that your gerbil doesn’t like you. If that’s the case then check out this post for guidance to making your gerbil like you.
If you’ve tried unsuccessfully to figure out the problem, drive your gerbil to the vet for a check-up.
What Can I Do to Make My Gerbil Happy?
You’ve read what can negatively impact your gerbil. Now, it’s time we identify the solutions to keep your gerbil happy.
Scan their cage and see if anything is missing. Do you have a wheel? Do you clean the cage regularly? If everything looks up to par, change the scene by throwing in a toy.
Moving him to a quieter space may help, as noise is a factor.
A second factor could be his diet. Research which gerbil pre-made mix has all the necessary nutrients he needs. A couple of choices to look into are:
- Oxbow Animal Health Gerbil Food (Chewy affiliate link)
- Kaytee Fiesta Gerbil Food (Chewy affiliate link)
If you would like to give your gerbil a sweet treat, stick to apples, pears, and melon- it’s often said the way to a gerbil’s heart is through its stomach… well, something along those lines.
As we know, being surrounded by others can improve our mood!
If your gerbil is lonely, introducing a friend can improve this! There are a few easy steps you can follow. These are the three phases:
- Wait at least a week or two to replace a gerbil if one has recently died.
- Buy a split tank and place one in each compartment.
- Slowly move them into the same tank.
Voila! A Happy Gerbil
One of the most comfortable and most fulfilling ways to make your gerbil happy is to shower her in love and affection. Of course, knowing what behaviors and habits to look for is sure to help you navigate when the right time to do that is.
Gerbils are known for creating strong bonds with their owners, so cuddling and playing with them regularly will make a huge impact on their emotional and physical needs. Enjoy some quality time with your gerbil, and you both will be better for it!