Why Does My Gerbil Try to Escape? {How to Prevent it}

Gerbils make great pets. They are curious and playful creatures, full of personality and really fun to watch. In fact, you may find yourself having to keep an eye on them! They are known to be sly animals and will often try to get out of their cage.

Why does my gerbil try to escape?

There are four main reasons your gerbil will try to escape:

  1. It is looking for food and water.
  2. It is bored.
  3. It is nervous.
  4. It simply got lost.

Read on to learn more about why your gerbil tries to escape and the steps you can take to prevent it and keep them happily at home.

Why Does My Gerbil Try to Escape

1. Your Gerbil is Looking for Food and Water When It Escapes

Like all creatures, gerbils require feeding and having a source of fresh water available for them to drink. If these two basic needs are not met, your gerbil will try to escape from its cage. Gerbils need fed every day or at least every other day. 

They enjoy grazing and need around a tablespoon of gerbil food each day or two tablespoons if you feed them every other day, to maintain health.

A source of fresh water is vital for your gerbil to remain alive and satisfied. Be sure to change out the water in its water bottle when you feed it to keep its thirst at bay.

2. Your Gerbil is Bored

Just like humans, your gerbil gets bored if it is not adequately stimulated. Your gerbil is dependent on you to supply him with adequate toys, chew sticks, and above all else, attention from you. Other reasons gerbils get bored and try to escape are that:

  • They do not have any other gerbils to socialize with
  • They eat the same diet every day without any snacks
  • Their enclosure is too small 
  • They do not have an exercise wheel

You can do several things to alleviate your gerbil’s boredom, such as the following.

Handle and Bond With Your Gerbil

Gerbils are social creatures and love to be held and played with. However, there are a few tips you need to know. 

  • First, allow your gerbil time to get to know you. Once it sees you are not a threat, it will settle down and enjoy your encounters. 
  • Second, wash your hands before and after handling your gerbil as human diseases can transmit to gerbils and vice versa. 
  • Third, be sure not to make any loud noises or move too quickly so as not to frighten your gerbil.     

Organize Your Room and Allow Your Gerbil to Run Free

Gerbils love to explore new places, so after preparing your room, put your gerbil onto the floor and allow it to explore.

To prepare your room close the doors, clear away human food, and take other pets out of the room. Allowing your gerbil to run about and be a gerbil will keep it from becoming bored, and it will be less likely to attempt escape.

Make Sure Your Gerbil Has Enough Toys

Gerbils love to chew and love to hide. Supply your gerbil with cardboard tubes to hide in, or better yet, put together a maze of tubes to create tunnels for your gerbil to explore, toilet paper rolls are perfect for this. Supply your gerbil with wooden stick toys to chew on and enjoy.

How you you know if your gerbil is happy? Let me explain it here

3. Your Gerbil is Stressed, Nervous, and Feels the Need to Escape


Gerbils display excessive digging, gnawing, and other escape behaviors if they are feeling stressed and nervous. Your pet gerbil can become stressed when other pets are around and disturb it. After all, your gerbil is in a cage and cannot easily escape. But, if it feels threatened by a cat, it will try its best to get out of its cage for self-preservation. 

Another reason your gerbil is stressed is if they have not got enough places to hide. 

Gerbils, like any rodent, have an instinctual need to hide and not be out in plain sight. This behavior is understandable as in their typical habitat, they would be vulnerable to predators. To alleviate the problem of your pet being stressed, make sure it has lots of places to hide, such as inside tubes or under mounds of bedding.

4. Your Gerbil Got Lost While Exploring Its World

There are times when your gerbil goes exploring in its cage and accidentally finds its way outside. When this happens, your gerbil will have gotten lost and not be able to get back into its cage.

You can tell a gerbil escaped accidentally if all its needs have been met. If your gerbil has got what it needs, such as food, water, and a comfortable shelter, then it is most likely lost.

How to Prepare Your Gerbil’s Habitat to Prevent Escape

Creating an excellent habitat for your gerbil will prevent it from wanting to escape. There is a myriad of different types of cages on the market, including wire and plastic cages. Some pens have a complex series of tubes, and others are formed from a ten-gallon glass fish tank with a secure screen lid. Some tips for a good habitat include:

  • Choose an appropriately sized habitat as this will prevent your gerbil from escaping and inhibit its urge to do so. Here’s a perfect gerbil cage that we recommend (affiliate link)
  • Include several inches of small pet bedding to dig through and to absorb your gerbil’s waste. Be cautious. Do not use corncobs or cedar chips because corncobs are not good for your gerbil’s digestion, and cedar chips can cause respiratory problems. We recommend the Kaytee Clean & Cozy bedding (affiliate link) for all small pets, as it has great odor control and leaves no dust.
  • Provide chewable items in the cage for your gerbil, including wooden chew toys and edible toys. Chewing on toys allows the gerbil to chew and keep their teeth worn to a comfortable length. Here are some great chewing toys available on Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Make sure to include a exercise wheel. Make sure the wheel is big enough to accommodate your gerbil’s tail to prevent it from becoming injured. The cage we recommended above comes with a built in exercise wheel of high quality. However, if you already have a cage, or looking to buy one that doesn’t have a built in wheel, then we recommend this completely silent one (affiliate link).

Good Gerbil Care to Prevent Escape


Gerbils may be low-maintenance pets, but they still require regular care. If they are not well maintained, they will try to escape. One vital need of gerbils is to have their bowls, bottles, and cages washed regularly. 

To wash the cage, use a mild solution of bleach and allow it to sit for twenty minutes until the odor of the bleach has subsided. Then allow the cage to dry before refilling it with fresh bedding.

You should wash your gerbil’s food bowl and water container daily with fresh, clean, mild soapy water. Make sure to rinse out the bowl and water container thoroughly, or you could accidentally poison your pet. 

After you are done washing, make sure to refill your gerbil’s cage with fresh bedding and give it fresh food and water.  

Where to Look If Your Gerbil Escapes

No discussion about why your gerbil escapes would be complete without addressing what to do if he does. The most urgent information to know is where to look after your pet has escaped.

But first, before you panic thinking your gerbil has escaped, check its cage thoroughly. Gerbils are good at hiding and may still be in its enclosure. Check all its bedding and inside even the smallest tube or toy as gerbils are limber and can squeeze into about any space.

There are many places that gerbils enjoy hiding when they get free and each of these spaces share common characteristics.

  • Gerbils like enclosed spaces. Gerbils enjoy using enclosed spaces as their base of operation. Your gerbil will leave its base occasionally to search for food. He will set up such a base and camp out there!
  • Gerbils will hide near food. If your gerbil escapes, it is guaranteed it will not be far from a food source such as your kitchen. Gerbils can eat lots of types of human food, even though it is not healthy for them. It’s not uncommon for them to establish their base near bread or other sources of food.  
  • Gerbils run along the wall. Like other rodents who live in human homes, gerbils love to run along the wall when out looking for food.
  • Gerbils like cozy spots. Think of soft and comfy places out of sight and off the beaten path. For instance, your gerbil may be hiding include behind furniture or in piles of clothing.

Gerbils make excellent pets and with a little care and lots of loving maintenance your gerbil and you will enjoy several years of fun and adventure.


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.