Gerbils have a very good sense of smell. They recognize their family by smell and will aggressively fight off any other gerbil that fails the family-smell-test. They usually live in pairs in the wild.
As a whole, gerbils cannot live alone. They are highly social animals that get very lonely if they are being kept alone. Humans cannot be the companionship gerbils need.
A gerbil that lives alone will become very sad and even sick. Even though gerbils cannot die from loneliness, they can suffer from loneliness, which can lead to health issues. These health issues can lead to death.
Imagine, you have to live in a house on your own without any other human contact. That’s ok for a few days or even weeks, but not for months, or years.
If you owned a pair of gerbils, and one died, you might be wondering if your gerbil is lonely.
You can see if a gerbil is lonely if it changes its normal behavior. Some gerbils show signs of depression by sleeping a lot more than before, chewing the bars, scratching the floor, lack of appetite, and overall lack of activity. Some even stop drinking water, or just lay around motionless, even if you pick them up.
In the wild, most gerbils live in pairs of one male and one female. There are also families of up to 15 gerbils, that live together, but it is more common that a family consists of only one pair.
Gerbils are usually kept in pairs and do not tolerate new gerbils. You cannot introduce a single gerbil to an existing pair. The gerbils will fight each other as they don’t accept each other as family.
The only exception is if one gerbil died and you end up with a single gerbil. It is possible to introduce a new gerbil to that old one, but you have to be very careful and do so only under your supervision.
How to Introduce Gerbils
If you are planning to introduce a new gerbil to your old one, you should use a split cage with two sides. The divider should be see-through so that the gerbils can see each other. The divider can be wired, but if the gerbils tend to bite through the wire, you can even use two dividers to create a space between them. Each side should be filled with bedding and prepared with food, wooden toys, a sand bath, and a water bottle, just like a normal cage.
1. Split the Cage and Place One Gerbil on Each Side
Place one gerbil on each side of the split cage. The gerbils are able to interact with each other, but cannot fight. They can see each other through the see-through wall and can get used to each other, without risking any injuries.
2. Switch the Gerbils From One Side to the Other Every Day
Change the gerbils to the other side every day so that they can get used to each other’s smell. Feed them normally during that time. They should feel comfortable and should not be stressed out.
3. Remove the Divider
If it seems like they are interested in each other you can think about removing the divider. A good sign is when the gerbils start sleeping close to each other.
Before removing the divider you should equip yourself with gloves that the gerbils cannot bite through.
Once the divider is gone, you should stay with the gerbils and watch them carefully.
If they start fighting, you might have to intervene and you should not do that with bare hands.
Dominant behaviors are normal. A gerbil could try to climb on the other one or they chase or tackle each other. But if they show any aggressive behaviors or start to fight and it looks like they might injure each other, it’s time to interfere.
Good signs of bonding are sniffing, touching the front paws, mounting each other, grooming, and chasing each other through the cage.
Lisa is one of the two founders of Animal-Knowledge. She has been very interested in animals and insects from a very young age and has owned different kinds of pets such as snails, ants, fish, turtles, mice, rats, hamsters, rabbits, a dog, … you get the idea 🙂