How many gerbils should you keep?

Gerbils are sociable creatures – you’ll often find them cuddled up together in a ball when they’re sleeping or out foraging together. To avoid unwanted litters, they are best housed in same-sex pairs or small groups.

Gerbils are very particular about their companions and always opt to live in family groups. They will rarely accept an unrelated individual into the group and will often fight to the death rather than choose to co-exist.

If the partner of a pair of gerbils dies, you could consider finding them a new gerbil friend, but we would strongly recommend gaining the support of an experienced gerbil owner who has successfully mixed in the past, or ask us for advice. Attempts to introduce a new adult companion can be difficult and result in serious fight wounds.

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Introducing new companions to your gerbil

Often, the easiest mix is introducing a pair of young gerbils aged around 8 - 10 weeks to your lone adult. When introducing gerbils, always ensure their environment is cleaned thoroughly to make it smell unfamiliar to both gerbils.

Lay one or two towels on the floor of the tank so they can still rummage but not burrow out of your reach should you need to intervene quickly. Using towels as bedding will also reduce the risk of any fight wounds becoming infected. Check the towels regularly and remove any that have been damaged that could get tangled around your gerbils. You can also use a shallow bed of card cubes instead of towels.

Ideally, carry out the mix when you’re able to monitor the gerbils regularly for a few days, like the weekend.

Signs the gerbils accept each other:

  • More interest in their surroundings than the other gerbils
  • Gentle, short bursts of grooming of each other around the face and body
  • Following each other around while feeding and digging in a relaxed manner

Signs the gerbils might not be suited:

  • Instant fighting, rearing up and boxing or biting at each other’s rumps
  • Lots of squeaking and squealing
  • Lots of foot thumping and keeping their distance from each other for more than a day

Unfortunately, these signs show this particular mix is unlikely to work, and you should separate the gerbils.

While monitoring your gerbils, check them daily for injuries – gerbils can be very good at hiding pain until they’re unable to cope any longer. If you can’t find a new friend for your gerbil, don’t worry. Adult gerbils can live comfortably on their own.