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Do Gerbils Bond with Their Owners?

Last Updated: 30.04.20


Gerbils do bond with their owners, but the environment in which they are kept is very important, as is maintaining a consistent and thorough taming schedule, to get the desired results. As you can see in our recent article, ensuring the right toys can also help tame and socialize your gerbil. 

Given that gerbils are fun and cute animals, you can see right away why they are among the top choices when it comes to keeping rodents as pets. Both older children and adults enjoy their presence, and when they are properly cared for and handled with love, these adorable creatures are sociable companions that can definitely bond with their owners. 


A few words about gerbils

One aspect that makes them an excellent choice for homes with older children is that they rarely bite, and they can provide the right opportunity for young family members to learn more about being responsible for a pet. Gerbils are known for being intermittently active during the night and  the day, and they love to burrow and dig in the bedding of their cages. 

You can also provide some cardboard pieces to make this activity even more interesting, given that they can build small nests and hiding places. While at first, these little animals might seem a bit shy, they are in fact rather territorial, which is something that you might want to keep in mind, especially if you plan on adding another gerbil to the same cage. 

If they are introduced as adults, both genders have the tendency to fight, and in some cases, females can be even more aggressive than males. On the other hand, if the owners give them the right amount of care and attention, they will become loving pets, and this is something that we probably all want, in the end. 

If you are less experienced with keeping a gerbil but you are sure that this is the right choice for your home and family, then this article will certainly prove to be helpful. You need to understand your pet’s behavior and personality in time, but making sure that you properly handle him or her from the beginning is crucial to forming a great bond. 



Preparing the cage 

The first thing you should have in mind before welcoming the little guy into your family is where he or she is going to be housed. Getting used to all of the family members is a longer process, so you need to ensure the necessary comfort, especially from a psychological point of view, right from the beginning. 

That’s why you should purchase a cage that ensures the necessary space for one or more gerbils, before actually getting the little fellow. Providing a comfortable home will smooth the taming process as well, and you should place the cage in an area with less traffic around the house so that the gerbil doesn’t get stressed out by too much activity. 

Remember that, just like any other pet brought into a new home, gerbils also need some time getting used to the motions and noises that are usually taking place in a home. Then you need to fill the cage with the right bedding, and going to the local pet store should allow you to get everything you need. You can also use some shredded cardboard for their entertainment. 

Next, you should buy toys and accessories for the cage that can be used by your gerbil to hide, chew on, and play around. Furthermore, given that these rodents are known for being highly social, maybe you should consider getting a pair, and keep in mind that the younger the pet is, the higher your chances of taming him or her are. 

On the other hand, you shouldn’t get a gerbil that is younger than 5 weeks old, because this would mean he or she didn’t have enough time with the mother to be both physically and mentally healthy, as many reputable breeders will tell you. The first weeks spent with the mother are crucial for pets of any species, so this is something you should bear in mind. 

Another useful tip before bringing your new pet home is making sure that he or she is healthy, so stopping by to have a vet check everything out is something that you should do. The eyes should be shiny and bright, the coat glossy, the nose clean, and these are just some of the signs you should look after. 


Taming the little guy 

To make things easier for both yourself and your pet, you should create a taming plan that you can follow consistently. Routine activities help animals accommodate faster to a new home, but you should know that you need to be patient in order to bond with your gerbil. Making a plan can also help you notice the different personality traits of your new pet. 

Furthermore, you need to make sure that you keep any training and bonding activity fun for yourself and your gerbil. Even something such as running around on your lap can prove to be a lot of fun for the little friend. However, before handling your pet, you should first allow him or her to get used to your presence and your scent.

You can do this following the taming plan you’ve created, in which the first stage might include placing your hand inside the cage every day, for a while, and allowing your gerbil to get used to it and, therefore, to your scent and presence. Taming a gerbil is a task that, first of all, requires consistency, so you shouldn’t expect results over one day. Take your time and be patient. 

Another aspect worth knowing is that young gerbils need less time getting tamed than older ones, so you should start the process as soon as you get your new pet home. On the other hand, this doesn’t mean that older gerbils cannot become great pets. They might simply need a bit longer to get used to you. 



A bit about scents 

Given that these are rodents we are talking about, gerbils are highly sensitive to various smells, which means that this can be one factor you don’t even think about but that might affect the way the little friend responds to you handling him or her. That’s why you need to wash your hands before any handling takes place, and make sure that you don’t use soap with a strong scent. 

If he or she is not bothered by any smell and your hands are clean, then this can be an important calming factor that enables your gerbil to be excited about playing and bonding time. It’s very important to often place your hand inside the cage and handle the little rodent, as this allows you to gain the necessary trust for genuine bonding. 

On the other hand, you should make sure that the little guy knows you are there before placing your hand inside the cage, to avoid any situation that involves getting scared. Moreover, remaining calm at all times is key to this entire process, as gerbils can otherwise smell the adrenaline and respond to that scent. 


A bit about handling and socializing your gerbil 

Once you’ve gained your little friend’s trust, you can and should hold him/her on a daily basis, especially if you have more time on your hands. Letting him or her explore you just for fun is a great bonding practice, so you should do this as often as possible. Furthermore, you should scoop up your pet with both hands, in order to provide a gentle and secure experience. 

You can also place some treats or seeds in your hands to provide a positive overall experience. As you will be more experienced with your furry friend, you might even pick him or her up with one hand, but remember to never pick up any gerbil by the tail. This is a traumatizing and painful experience for them. 

Some of these lovely rodents might simply be shy and might not like being held, so if that’s the case, simply take your time and remain patient as you work toward creating a bond between you two. It’s crucial for any gerbil to be properly socialized which means getting exposed to other people and fellow gerbils. 

This will enable any individual to be comfortable in a wide range of situations, as well as reduce risks of any aggressive behavior. If you have friends over, you can ask them to allow your gerbil to sniff them around for a bit. 




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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