The gerbil is a social rodent. Many behaviours
can be easily observed even in captivity. This is one of the interesting things
about gerbil when you own some at home. They can be very diverting. Some peoples
told me that they were more interesting then their T.V. or that their
friends would come to their house to look at gerbils.
The gerbil will clean its fur or the other ones
fur with his paws and teeth. This behaviour is used to reinforce social links
between clan members.
Sometimes, they will groom so hard that they will
cut some fur part. This is not yet well explained why they do that but it seams
to be a sign of domination. Don't worry about the missing fur it will grow back. To
know more about that, visit the "Biology and Fur" section.
gerbils will stand on their back legs and will kick the other one with their
front paws. Young gerbils will often perform this behaviour, maybe to practice
for future territory defence. Adult also do it for playing or for rank
As long that there is no squeak sound of fight,
everything goes right. If they start a chase as in this video, it's better to
separate both gerbils and try a split cage introduction.
One of the gerbil will push the other one on his
side. The pushed one can kick with his hind legs or just free himself and push
the other. They can groom each other after that or they might just go back to
their normal activities. If a chase begins, a fight can start.
Sometimes, both behaviours can be observed at the
same time and can be hard to distinguish. Here are some pictures showing boxing
These behaviours are usually observed when 2
unknown gerbils meet. They will chase each other, bite, jump and make some
sounds like squeak. If you are witness of these behaviours, be careful, they are
quick and can bite. Wear gloves or use a towel to separate the fight. Often,
they are not aggressive against you but they won't make the difference between
the other gerbil and your fingers. And this hurt! I never been bite, but one of
my friend did and she said it bleed a lot.
Sometimes, fight can occur when you are not home
and thing get quiet when you get back home. Sometimes, the gerbils will have
mark of the fighting. These hints must be taken with a lot of serious because
they can lead to more and more serious fight that can end in death.
- Blood on the base
of the tail: This clue show you who been pursued, the dominated one. The
dominant one bit his tail many times. This is the first sign of a fight. From
that time, look at your gerbils with more attention. If you think that they
might continue while you're out, just put them in separated cages, or place a
mesh grid between them in the tank. Sometimes it's just a little fight but it
can also become more intense in a near future. Just be careful and look for
other signs of fight.
- A gerbil who sleeps
alone in his corner: Usually, all clan members will sleep at the same
place in their habitat, piled up on each other. If you find one alone, isolated
from the other or from the group, a fight might be near. Check out if the other
ones are not chasing the lonely gerbil. If he goes back with the group after
some days, everything should be ok. If not, check for other signs of fighting.
BE CAREFULL, this doesn’t apply when the temperature is too hot or when a mom
gerbil just had her babies.
- One gerbil squeak
hidden in a corner: A gerbil will stay hidden in a tube or behind the
house. It will make squeak sound each time the other gerbil pass by. This means
that he is afraid and that if he comes out, he will be attacked or chased. But
sometimes, he is afraid for no reason and the other one don't even want to fight!
Wait a few hours or days but be sure that the frighten one can eat and drink.
Often they will hide until they die from exhaustion. If you have a doubt, place
a separator between the two. He will come out from his hiding-place when he'll
see that the other one can't come near him.
When you'll see one, you'll know what it is. This
is exactly as in the cartoon fight. Only a rolling ball of fur moving in the
tank! When it happens, you must SEPARATE THE GERBILS
RIGHT AWAY! Use gloves or something else to help separate both gerbils
without getting hurt. If you tried to place a gerbil with a new one, you'll have
to use the split cage technique.
One will run behind the other one very fast.
You'll have to see what happen next. If they begin to groom each other, it's a
good thing. If a fight begins, you'll have to separate them. They may run, then
stop, smell each other, run again, stop, stand side by side showing their side.
It may also be a reproductive pursuit, see a breeding chasing.
When 2 gerbils meet, they will try to establish
rank. Who will be dominant or dominated. When they meet, the dominated one
will show his side to the other one and will ark his back to look bigger. He
will place himself in front perpendicular to the other or just next to him.
This behaviour can be used to impress the other and to avoid a fight. It's as
if the gerbil would say: Look, I can be big too, a can fight too, if you
continue like that, it's going to go wrong.
hard to explain
This behaviour can be observed when a fight
occurs and that there is an obstacle, as a tube, between the two. The pursuited
gerbil will hide in the tube and the attacking gerbil will kick the side of his
body on the entrance of the tube. It's like a fight but with a tube.
If a gerbil is afraid or surprised, it can begin
to thump on his feet. This is quite surprising when it happen for the first
time! The gerbil will jump on both feet at a time and make noise. You only have
to surprise them or make a strange noise as the Christmas bell!!! Hooo that is
frightening! When a gerbil thump, all the other will run and hide. In my kennel,
this is often produced when visitors come to see the gerbils. The gerbils smell
a new sent and ear unusual voice. As they are not sure of what's going on, one
from the whole kennel will begin thumping to alert all the others of a possible
and noisy run
the thumping and the run will be observed at the same time with different
gerbils. It's as if the gerbil will start to run doing to more noise it can.
They will do that when they run to hide.
in the air
The tail won't touch the ground and the gerbil
watch carefully around to see any danger. The gerbil will stand high on its four
legs, the eyes wide open, and ready to run if needed. The gerbil alerted by the
thumping will stand this way.
on 2 legs
The gerbil will stand on its hind legs and watch
around the horizon. They insure itself that the way is safe. They also do that
to tell us "Hello!" when we pass by.
They must tell themselves: " What's going
on... what,,, where... you come to see me?.. no.. no come back, I want a
in the corner (Stereotyped behaviours)
Many things can cause this behaviour: Tank or
cage too small, stress, behaviour learned from parents. Scientist made a
research on the polar bear's behaviour kept in captivity. These bears walk from
one side of their exhibit to the other all day long and repeat the same pattern
everyday. The scientist installed sensors on the head of the bear to get data
from their brain. They discovered that the impulses were almost the same as the
one sent when the bear was relaxed. They came to the conclusion that this
behaviour was a way to evade from the captivity restriction. In nature, the
polar bear travel many miles a day. So his instinct tells him to walk, and by
walking, he feels good. The gerbil digs tunnels most of the time. So dinging in
the corner or the tank or the cage makes him feel good.
How to get this problem solved? If your gerbil
does it already, it's too late. This behaviour is very hard to remove. Even if
you buy a 1000 gallons tank, the gerbil will get to a corner and dig anyway.
This behaviour is learned at a young age, if the parents do it, the young will
do it too. But if the tank is big enough, they might do it less often. Don't
worry about this behaviour it won't hurt them. This is a normal behaviour from a
Captivity point of view. To help, give your gerbils more toys, tunnels, gnawing
woodpieces, wheel, etc.
the aquarium glass
You can see this behaviour with babies who didn't
learned yet how to drink from the water bottle. They will lick the glass,
looking for a drop of water. We suppose that in nature, gerbils get their water
from the cold and humid walls of their tunnels. If a adult do this, check the
water bottle if it isn't stuck or empty!!
I see that often in young gerbils between 1 and 2
months. They jump and turn at the same time and run away! As if they were crazy
suddenly! And then, they jump on their sisters and brothers to play. This is so
funny! But I think it's normal.