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Can Gerbils Learn Their Names?

Last Updated: 29.04.20


Gerbils can learn many tricks, including responding to their name, but the environment matters a lot for successful training, and so does getting the rodent used to being handled by the owner. Any gerbil wooden toys should be removed at first, but they can be later used to reinforce positive behavior. 

Gerbils are active and intelligent pets, these being just two of the reasons for which they are one of the most popular types of rodents chosen as companions by many families. Their curious and energetic nature makes them capable of learning a lot of tricks, even recognizing their names in certain cases. 

However, before going into more details on what and how they can learn, it’s important to understand each gerbil’s personality and to learn how to handle him or her. It’s also crucial to earn the needed trust for the owner and the pet to bond and do things together. If you, as a pet parent, get this covered first, you shouldn’t have problems training your little companion. 

Gerbils are generally active, just as most rodents are, but they do have different temperaments and personalities. They are loving creatures, but just like pretty much any other type of animal, they can become aggressive if they feel threatened, and they can also display shyness in certain situations. 

Some actually say that gerbils are naturally prone to being rather shy, but you should know that deep down inside there is an inquisitive and social pet that can bond with family members if given the chance. For this reason, they don’t really enjoy being isolated or left alone for long periods. In fact, if they don’t socialize, the chances of training them are quite slim. 

If you own more than one of these lovely rodents, you will see them playing with each other for a large part of the day, which says a lot about how sociable and active they really are. Moreover, you should also bear in mind that gerbils can be quite territorial, so when you are introducing a new family member to your group of little rodent friends, this needs to be done carefully. 

While gerbils rarely bite, which makes them a good addition to a family with children (although toddlers should not be allowed to handle small pets), they can show signs of aggressiveness if they consider themselves to be in a dangerous situation.


Learning their names 

In this article, we are going to talk about many aspects of getting a gerbil trained, and provide useful tips and tricks, so you should check it out. However, before going into those details, let’s cover the main question, namely whether gerbils are able to learn their names. 

As we’ve already seen, when you get a gerbil, it’s important to understand that you’re dealing with an intelligent creature, so name learning is not out of the question. On the other hand, this is a trick that not every pet parent can manage to teach his or her little rodent. Some of the things that can be used for achieving this goal include treats. 

In fact, many gerbil owners state that while they are not sure whether their pets actually recognize their own names, they certainly respond to the sound of the treats box being opened. With this in mind, you can try teaching your gerbil his or her name by using treats. 

While you call out their name, you can also rattle the box. This will allow the little guy to associate the sound of your voice and the sound of the name with something pleasant, so in time he or she should start to respond to the name alone. Moreover, as you two are spending quality time together, you should say the name as often as possible. 

Another trick that you can use if you have more than one gerbil is calling each individual’s name when you are alone with him or her, without the other gerbils around. This way, there are fewer chances of confusing the little guys.



The environment matters 

If you want to spend some time teaching your gerbil tricks, you need to be aware that the environment matters as well. Things can become difficult in terms of keeping him or her focused if there are toys and other similar objects around, such as colorful tubes. For this reason, you should use a glass tank as a training environment so you have access to easily handling your pet. 

Moreover, you should also remove any chewing toys, the running wheel, and other such items from the environment, leaving only the water bottle and the food dish. This way, the entire acclimating and training process can be smoother, allowing your pet to focus on the task at hand rather than running around playing or hiding. 

Of course, you should always wash your hands both before and after you handle your pet, in order to keep things sanitized for both the little fellow and yourself. Furthermore, your own state of mind matters a lot. Remember that we’re talking about a small rodent to which you probably seem like a giant creature. 

It’s very easy to get scared in such a situation, so you should remain calm at all times to prevent this from happening. As you can imagine, if your gerbil gets scared, there is no way he or she will be able to learn any tricks or focus on anything else other than going back to safety, which in their world means hiding. 

Furthermore, you should refrain from picking the little guy up by the tail, and this goes for any child that will be allowed to handle the animal as well. This is a very painful experience for the gerbil, so there’s no reason to torment him or her. You should also keep treats within reach, such as toasted oat cereal or sunflower seeds. This will help reinforce any positive behavior. 

If your gerbil gets scared at any point, he or she might bite, but remember to remain calm if this happens and avoid dropping him/her. Instead, you can use a quick and light blow of air to discourage any such behavior. This way, the little pet will associate biting with an unpleasant result, but not with a truly harmful experience that might make him/her less sociable altogether. 



Make contact 

As we’ve seen, gerbils can get scared by a large presence, but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t initiate contact. In fact, this is crucial for any bonding that you are planning to have with your pet later on. The way to do this is by slowly putting a fist into the cage, on top of the bedding. Given that gerbils are highly curious by nature, he or she will come to check it out. 

Allow your pet to sniff around and walk on your hand while you speak to him or her in a friendly and soft voice. You might have to respond to some attempts to nip or bite, and you should do this by blowing air on him or her, but you shouldn’t remove your hand. 

If you do this entire process over a period of a few days, you should increase the amount of time that you leave your hand in the cage. This way, the little guy will get used to both your voice and your smell. Once your gerbil is used to your presence and your hand, you can start bonding outside of the cage as well. 

You can do this by slowly lifting him or her out of the cage, and this should be done by cupping your hands together and holding the little fellow close to your body in order to provide a sense of safety. Furthermore, the pet should be handled over soft surfaces and close to the ground, in case you accidentally drop him or her. This way, there’s a lower chance of any injury. 

It’s also a very good idea to keep the little guy away from any other household pets, as well as from places that can be used for hiding, such as under the bed or furniture. You should allow your gerbil to walk around for a bit and explore the surroundings, including yourself. 

Many gerbil owners say that once their pets got used to their presence, they often climb on their hands and body. These interactions should be repeated on a daily basis if you want to gain your pet’s trust and build a strong bond. 



Irina Ionescu

As a long-term learner and animal lover, Irina helps her readers find the best products and accessories for their pets, as well as the latest training techniques, tips & tricks on how to handle animals.

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