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Gerbils are cute rodents, extremely active, that delight their owners with their range of behaviors. Here are some of the most common behaviors in gerbils their meaning.
This is probably one of the most curious behaviors of Gerbils. When they feel there’s reason for alarm, they will pound their hind legs on the ground at the same time, creating a rhythmic sound. If one of them starts doing this, the others either join him or hide. Sometimes a quick move from you is enough to scare them.
But the thumping isn’t just for communicating danger; it can also mean excitement, since gerbils thump to let the partner know that they are ready to mate. Although for us it is very difficult to distinguish the two sounds, it is clear that gerbils can, since a mating thump won’t cause the same reactions as the alarm thump.
Young gerbils that start to thump are usually just practicing.
Gerbils will happily chew on everything, so it is important to provide them with safe toys, like wood blocks, and keep them away from plastic. There are different reasons for gnawing: to build a nest, ro look for food (if they are hungry) or they might even gnaw as a sign of stress (in this case, they usually chew the cage bars).
When there aren’t any signs of stress or malnourishment, gnawing is actually a healthy sign: it means they are keeping their teeth in shape, since these can overgrow and pierce the gums.
In the wild, Gerbils live in a complex system of tunnels that they dig themselves. In captivity, even if they don’t have the chance to dig, they will express that instinct by digging in the corner. Once this behavior becomes persistent it is difficult to eliminate it, even if you provide him with tunnels. So, the best is to give him, as early as possible, enough bedding to dig.
Licking usually means the gerbil is thirsty. You might want to check the drinking bottle: the height, if it has water or if it’s clogged.
Gerbils spend much time grooming themselves or others. Although this allows them to be clean, this is, in fact, a social behavior. Grooming is a way to bond or even to define the social status of an individual amongst the group: usually is the highest ranked gerbil that grooms other gerbil first.
As young, gerbils tend to be more vocal. As they grow older, they usually only vocalize they are excited, whether from happiness, while playing, whether in alarm.
Sometimes isn’t obvious to tell whether two gerbils are fighting or playing. The young gerbils simulate fights very often, but they aren’t being aggressive, they are playing and learning. Usually adults don’t play the same way. Fights are different from playing, being the first ones louder and more aggressive. If you see bit marks or if there’s an individual that has been kicked of the nest, then you should separate the animals, since fight may be occurring or about to occur. Two gerbils that have fought and lived (since many times they fight to the death) will hardily get along after the quarrel.
Gerbils have a long and yellow scent gland in the middle area of their belly that realeases a unique smell. They will mark their territory by rubbing on their belly objects or even other gerbils, to show dominance.
Gerbils seem to greet each others by touching the other’s nose. As a sign of appreciation or submissiveness, gerbils usually wink. You can try to interact with your gerbil by touching his nose or blinking at him.