Can gerbils swim? and why they hate water!

can gerbils swim

When you first think of rodents and water the first picture most people think of is a rat swimming through the pipes into a toilet, and although gerbils and rats are both rodents, but their natural habitat is very different.

Gerbils are desert species, they live in the desert, their natural habitat is dry and arid and they will almost never encounter any large water gatherings like lakes or streams.

Most mammals are natural swimmers and so are gerbils, but they will never deliberately swim unless their lives depend on it, and like most rodents they use their tiny legs to paddle their way to the shore if they do have to swim.

Can gerbils swim? Gerbils can swim but in the wild, they will only swim if they got no other choice. If you force a gerbil into water it will experience a lot of stress which is not good for its mental well-being. Gerbils may also get sick when they stay wet for a long time.

Do gerbils swim in the wild?

Gerbils are known as desert rats, they live exclusively in the desert part of the world like the Gobi desert in Asia, in these arid and extremely dry lands water is a very rare source and gerbils have adapted well to this environment.

Gerbils don’t need too much water to survive and their bodies have adapted to consume as little water as possible, they don’t pee much and their feces are very dry – that’s what makes them good pets because they don’t smell – so they don’t have to look for water.

Living in the desert most gerbils would never encounter any large gathering of water, and it rarely even rains in their natural habitat so they do not swim in the wild.

Even in the presence of water, a gerbil will never go in for a swim unless dropped in the water and would change his home or go for a long detour to avoid being in it.

Can gerbils swim as pets?

Gerbils are cute furry pets and they are very entertaining, so one would be tempted to drop them in a bathtub for a swim and enjoy their little paddling swim, However, it is not a good idea and it would stress the gerbil.

Pet gerbils that live in captivity have the same body characteristics as wild gerbils and are also adapted to consuming very little water, and their boddies are not equipped for water and swimming.

The gerbil’s fur loses his natural oil and can get very serious skin diseases when exposed to water for long periods and if kept wet for a long time.

So even pet gerbils should not swim or take water bathes for that matter even if they are naturally able to swim.

Do gerbils like to swim?

For gerbils swimming is a natural skill used as a last resort in swim or drown situations, no gerbil would ever go for a swim because he likes it.

In fact, gerbils don’t like being in water and would feel anxious around it, and if dropped in water it would be a stressful experience for them.

Studies in which rodents have been forced to swim have shown that gerbils will try and get out of the water as soon as they possibly can, and unlike rats they do not feel comfortable in water.

Will gerbils drown?

will gerbils drown

No gerbils do not drown if they have anywhere to swim to and will naturally paddle their way to land, they can stay alive in water when they don’t have anywhere to go for a couple of days and would die of fatigue rather than drowning.

Gerbils are very good swimmers considering the fact that they don’t like it and most of them never encounter water or have to swim.

Most mammals are natural born swimmers, gerbils and other rodents make no exception, their instinct guides them to automatically start to paddle their way out of the water.

Can baby gerbils swim?

Baby gerbils can’t swim, they spend the first three weeks of their life with their eyes closed so it would be impossible for them to see where they’re going even if they can swim.

Gerbil babies are weaned at the age of five weeks and until then they rely entirely on their mom for food and protection and they start to explore at the age of three to five weeks but they don’t have enough strength to swim.

When first born baby gerbils don’t even have enough fur to protect them from the cold so they wouldn’t make it even if they don’t drown.

Do gerbils like water?

Gerbils are not well equipped for a life in water and will, therefore, not play in the water, instead, they rather have their fun with other gerbils or toys.

Gerbils don’t like water at all and would not go in it unless they have to, and even then they’ll always try to get out of it as soon as they possibly can.

Gerbils are used to life in the desert and the arid climate, so water is very a long way from their comfort zone.

Can gerbils bathe in water?

No gerbils don’t bathe in water, they take sand baths, if they do get wet they can lose skin oils and have skin illnesses that may be very serious and bothering.

Gerbils should never have water baths unless they have something far more dangerous on their skin and in which case water should be applied directly on the affected spot and should be dried as soon as the harmful substance is cleaned.

Here is a video that shows the owner of a gerbil giving it a water bath and you can clearly see that the gerbil does not like it and is trying to get out of the water all the time.

Gerbil forced to take a water bath

The video is on YouTube and for informational purposes only, it’s obviously made by a child that does not know how to deal with her gerbil as she pulls it from its tail and makes it go into the water.

Sand or dust baths are the gerbil’s way to groom itself, but you should get pet-friendly sand that is specifically made for this or else you risk causing your gerbil respiratory problems.

Choosing safe bath sand is very important because the wrong one can cause your gerbil skin problems the one we recommend is the Natural Sand (check current price at Amazon) it works perfectly for gerbils, hamsters, and chinchillas and it’s not dusty.

What to do if your gerbil gets wet?

Gerbils getting wet is not dangerous if it’s accidental and doesn’t last for long, gerbils that stay in water or wet for a long time can get stressed and skin problems.

This of course doesn’t mean that you can drop your gerbil for a swim or a bath because repetitive exposure to water has the same effects.

If your gerbil somehow gets wet, you need to gently dry it using a soft cloth and keep it somewhere warm until fully dried.

There are some people suggesting the use of a hair-drier but it’s not a good idea, the fast transition of temperature even if you use the soft mode on the drier it’s too quick of a Thermalshock for your gerbil and they don’t like noisy machines so it will stress a gerbil that is already been through a stressful experience.

Does swimming make gerbils stressed?

swimming makes gerbils stressed
Gerbil swimming

Swimming is a survival experience for gerbils, so it is a very stressful situation to go through, that’s why you should never make your gerbil swim.

They simply don’t like water and do not feel comfortable in it and would never go for a swim unless their life depends on it so it’s understandable that after a swim gerbils would feel stressed.

This of course does not mean that they’ll be stressed if you use a little water to clean their fur (in case of emergency) but a full swim will make them stressed.

Conclusion: can gerbils swim?

  • Gerbils like all mammals are natural-born swimmers, so they can swim.
  • Gerbils don’t like to swim and won’t deliberately go into the water for a swim.
  • Gerbils will only swim if they had to and their life depends on it.
  • Swimming is a very stressful experience for gerbils.
  • Gerbils that get wet can lose vital molecules from their fur and get skin problems.
  • Wet gerbils should be dried as soon as possible with a soft cloth and kept somewhere warm.
  • Gerbils bathe in sand and water should only be used in emergencies (toxic substance on their fur).