Gerbils are often presented as the best pets for kids and beginners, they are fun, very active, and cute but what most pet owners are looking for is affection, and what a better way to show affection than holding your pet and cuddling it, but do gerbils like to be held?
Although each gerbil has its own personality and character, most gerbils like being held and petted and it’s easy to establish enough trust for them to let you hold and pet them. They are affectionate pets to each other and will show the same affection to their owner if they feel safe.
The fact that gerbils like being held does not mean you get to do it whenever and however you want, forcing a gerbil to something could backfire and have a negative effect on the bonding relationship you aspire to build with your beloved pets.
In this article, we will cover the why, when, and how to hold cuddle, and pet your gerbils in a safe way that will help you bond with your pet.
Why do gerbils like to be held?
Understanding why do gerbils like to be held is the key to bonding and establishing a great relationship with such energetic pets.
Gerbils are sociable animals in fact they should never be kept alone but at least in pairs, and they show affection to each other by touching a lot and they even sleep in piles, but being touchy-feely to each other does not mean they’ll enjoy human contact from day one.
Gerbils in groups whether it is in nature or captivity will spend a lot of time chasing each other, wrestling, cuddling, and grooming each other, so it’s their nature that makes them like being held and petted.
But it may take time for them to trust time and a lot of patience to let a human to hold them, which is understandable if we consider the fact that they are prey animals that consider all larger creatures as potential predators.
Is it safe to hold your gerbils?
Holding a gerbil is safe if done correctly, getting the gerbil to trust you enough to hold him is the hardest part, but even then you have to be delicate and careful.
The safest way to hold a gerbil is not to do it until your gerbil is willingly getting in your hand, because they are very quick and energetic animals and would easily jump off your hand and get injured.
When the gerbil is feeling safe being held by a human it is less likely for him to jump or try to run away.
So the first thing to do is to build trust and give it time and not to force it, this along with learning how to hold your gerbil correctly will sure make it safe.
How to use treats to hold gerbils
Food is the best way to bond with gerbils and to enforce behavior, taming your gerbils using food is the way to do it.
You just need some good quality gerbil treats we recommend the Kaytee gerbil treats (click here to check the current price at Amazon) they contain premium high-quality seeds and are perfect as treats for bonding since they’re high infant and gerbils prefer them over their regular mix.
Start by luring the gerbil using the treats once he’s comfortable around your hand, you can feed him directly.
The next step is to place a seed in your hand and put your hand open on the bottom of the tank and let him climb in but avoid any sudden movements and give it time before you try and pick him up.
Repeating this process for a couple of weeks will surely enable you to hold your gerbil while he is comfortable and enjoying his treats.
Is there a correct way to hold your gerbils?
Gerbils are very small animals that could easily be injured if you are not being careful when handling them.
That is why you need to know the correct and safe way to hold your gerbil.
The correct way of holding a gerbil is basically three points :
Picking the gerbil up gently
before holding your gerbil, he needs to be used to having you around of course and you’ve fed him and touched him before and he does not show any negative reactions when you touch him.
When your gerbil is relaxed and feeling safe around you gently place your hands together and scoop him from underneath very delicately.
You do not have to squeeze your gerbil so having him in a corner of his gerbilarium is the best thing to do.
Closing your hands gently
You do not want to pick up your gerbil and keep your hands wide open as he can jump off and fell or get injured.
While picking up the gerbil slowly and while you are still in the gerbiliarium close in your hands and fingers but not too much, just like you’d be holding water with both hands.
This prevents the gerbil from doing sudden moves and keeps him in your hands but at the same time gives him enough space without being squeezed or hurt, otherwise, he’ll no longer trust you.
Keeping your hands close to your body
While taking your gerbil out of the cage you need to keep your hands close to your body and fingers up especially when he is at a high position just in case he tries to jump at least he won’t fall from a high position and get hurt.
Once you’ve taken the gerbil out of his cage get as low as possible to make sure the gerbil doesn’t get hurt even if he fells.
Of course, making sure the room is gerbil proof before taking him out of the cage is the first thing you should do.
Does holding your gerbils help you bond?
I would say bonding would help you hold your gerbil because before you can hold your gerbil without him showing resistance or getting scared you need to establish a certain level of trust that you can only achieve by bonding with your pet.
That is why you should start by simply getting your gerbil used to you around and the best way to do it is to start by hand feeding.
They need to associate your hands with food, that is why you should be gentle and avoid any sudden movements when doping their food or cleaning the tank.
Take things slow and make sure they are not running away from you before you can go ahead and touch them gently.
When the gerbil is confident enough to eat from your hand you can take it a step further and place a seed in your hand and let him climb in your hand to get it, with time they’ll be comfortable enough to feed on your hand and that’s your sign that you can hold your gerbil.
Of course, when you can hold your gerbil this will help the two of you bond even more and enjoy some quality time.
How often should you hold your gerbils?
Gerbils are curious animals and would love to explore the surroundings if they feel safe, so taking them out of their tank and holding them on your lap or on the floor to let them explore every couple of days is great.
However, holding your gerbil every couple of hours is not something they’d like, during active hours they are fine with it for a couple of minutes but not all the time.
I found that it is best to hold your gerbils when it’s time to feed them to enforce that association between food and your hands.
If your gerbil is sleeping or feeding it is not a good idea to hold them and also while they’re interacting with other gerbils.
So, once a day when trying to feed your gerbils would be the best time to do it and more than enough to bond and have fun with them.
When is the best time to hold your gerbils?
Gerbils are crepuscular animals, being more active at the transitions between light and dark so that would be the perfect time to hold them.
However gerbils do adapt to human activity if they are fed at the same time every day, so the best time will depend on your schedule and what your gerbils are used to.
Feeding time is the best opportunity since they’re expecting to have you around and touching them.
Do all gerbils like to be held?
Not all gerbils like to be held, it depends on every gerbil, but most of them do like it, it all depends on how you do it and if you are doing it correctly but even them some gerbils just won’t let you.
If you build enough trust and take things slow and do it the right way using food and good association, most gerbils come around and feel safe in your hands.
I myself never had a gerbil that does not like to be held, but some friends have had gerbils of the same litter react differently to being held.
The most important thing is not to force it if your gerbil does not like being held, you just have to let him be, they are fun to watch anyway so you don’t need to hold them to enjoy their company.
How do I know if my gerbil doesn’t like being held?
it is easy to tell if a gerbil doesn’t like being held, but to be sure you have to be patient all gerbils would not let you hold them from day one, trust must be established first.
You need to introduce your hands slowly feed them with your hand give them a small rub from time to time in their tank and lookout for signs of rejection.
If your gerbil is hesitant to take food from your hand even if it’s a nice treat that he likes or whenever you put your hand in the tank he runs the other way then it’s a sign that he does not like being held.
If you have many gerbils in the tank and only one of them is running away from you and when you try to pick him up he jumps off then he does not like it and it would be better not to force it.
You should only pick the gerbil up when he is on your hand and not running away, always give it a second or two before you hold them.
Does holding baby gerbils make their mothers abandon them?
You can touch gerbil babies but you have to be delicate since they still are fragile and can easily get injured, but In order to help the gerbils feel comfortable, you should avoid perfumes, lotion, or strong aromas when you handle them.
In some cases some gerbil moms will reject their babies and leave them to starve, sometimes they only feed a couple and leave the rest so it would be best if you don’t touch the babies, to avoid leaving any scent mark on them that would make the mom reject them.
Baby gerbils grow up really fast and it would take them about three weeks to be able to feed on regular gerbil food so be patient and avoid touching them just to make sure the mom doesn’t abandon them.
The best thing to do is not to touch baby gerbils and you should also avoid holding the mom since if she’s stressed or get scared she might reject her babies or even worst eat them.
I would suggest you check out this article about how to care for baby gerbils it has all the details you need.
How not to hold a gerbil
Just like there is a correct way to hold your gerbil there are always some don’t to avoid and here is the list:
- Don’t grab the gerbil from above because that’s what predators do so it scars them.
- Avoid holding the gerbils when they’re sleeping.
- Do not hold baby gerbils until they’re weaned.
- Do not hold or pick up a mom gerbil that just has given birth.
- Avoid sudden movements when holding or picking up your gerbils.
- Do not squeeze the gerbil while holding it.
- Do not grab the gerbil by his tail or feet.
- Do not hold gerbils high from the ground in case they fall.
- gerbil proof the room before taking your gerbil out of his tank.
- Do not take the gerbil out of his tank while other animals are around(dogs, cats…)
Here is a great video from Erin about holding gerbils with some great tips, enjoy!References