Interesting Gerbil Facts You Must Know


Image Source

A well-known member of the rodent family, gerbils are small animals that many people tend to mix up with mice and rats. Sharing a striking similarity, they are known to range from between 4 and 20 centimeters long depending on the region and species of gerbil you are looking at.

Most gerbils are gentle creatures and have gradually become more and more well-known as great housepets due to their hardy personality yet immensely cute looks. That being said, these small yet slender animals are much more amazing than many people put them up to be. So, to help you gain an understanding of these cute yet fascinating pets, let’s go over some interesting gerbil facts that you must know.

They have incredible jumping strength

Gerbils are well known for their impressive agility which allows them to perform some quite powerful feats. Most prominently, these animals are able to utilize their hind legs to jump up to 30 centimeters (one foot) in the air. While it may not seem like a lot at first, it is many times their height. If a human could perform an equivalent act, it would mean jumping up in the air by about 15-20 feet which is an impossible act.

Taking advantage of their jumping ability, you can also teach Gerbils various tricks. For example, jumping from platform to platform across obstacles or even jumping from your hand or arm to your shoulder are common tricks that Gerbils are taught. That being said, do keep in mind that they are also known to escape using their jumping strength. So, it is advisable to have a closed top enclosure if you plan on keeping a Gerbil.

Gerbils are metaturnal

A cool gerbil fact that many people don’t know is that these animals are actually metaturnal. This means that they are active during both day and night. Gerbils do this by splitting their 12-hour daily sleep requirement into smaller naps throughout the day. These naps are usually between 1-4 hours at a time and continue throughout both day and night.

While this is one of the gerbil facts that may seem like an unnecessary feature, it is actually a survival evolution for the animals. This is because by taking these short naps, gerbil colonies in the wild were able to make sure that some members of the group would always be awake. So, if any predator were to attack, the gerbils would be able to see them quickly and get away.

More Than 100 Types of Gerbils Exist In The Wild

Surprisingly, while the most well-known domesticated species of Gerbil is the Mongolian Gerbil, there are more than 100 types of Gerbils in the world. With scientists regularly discovering newer species, Gerbils come in many forms ranging from varying body shapes to color coats and even personality traits. Some prominent Gerbil species are –

  • Great Gerbils – The largest species of gerbils known to exist, these large animals reach up to 20 cm in length and are found mostly in Central Asia. They are great at digging and utilise their massive front claws to create burrows and chambers for their families. However, while they are quite large, these gerbils only live for around 2-4 years.
  • Shaw’s Jirds – Unlike the Great Gerbils, Shaw’s Jirds are a species of gerbil that have retained a cute appearance and average size. These lovable animals are commonly found in North Africa and have evolved to live perfectly in the hot desert regions. With long tails and lots of fur, they are able to flourish in both the wild and in domestication.
  • Fat-Tailed Gerbils – As the name suggests these gerbils are known for their short yet thick and robust tail. Native to desert regions in northern Africa, they are quite small and only grow up to 10 cm in length. Fat-Tailed Gerbils are also great pets thanks to their friendly personality and unique patterned color coat.

They Utilise Ultrasonic Sound To Communicate

When you think of the sound a Gerbil makes, it is likely that a small and occasional squeak is what comes to mind. Well, this is both correct and incorrect. Gerbils are actually very social animals and communicate with one another constantly. However, instead of speaking in frequencies that humans can hear, Gerbil’s mostly make sounds in frequencies around 20 kHz. This comes into the ultrasonic range of sound and is much higher than the range of human hearing. So, while they may be talking throughout the day, you probably won’t even hear them!

These Cute Pets Are Much Smarter Than You Might Think

Image Source

Gerbils are actually very smart when it comes to things like learning tricks and their overall personalities. Similar to rats, these small pets are able to learn various complex tricks such as jumping up to your shoulder or even navigating mazes and obstacles. All they need are a few treats and some training and most gerbils can quickly pick up on basic tricks. This personality also makes them very curious and gerbils enjoy exploring new places and trying out new things!

Tunnelling Comes Naturally To Gerbils

While most prominently seen in their natural habitat, gerbils are great at tunneling and in larger colonies, they can build complex burrow systems. These burrows provide shelter from the environment and can also keep these animals safe from larger predators. With individual rooms for food storage, sleeping, and even multiple routes of entry and exit, these tunnels provide everything Gerbils need to live safely in the wild.

Due to this, it is also suggested that Gerbils should be kept in an enclosure with space to dig in. Soil and peat for example are great materials in this regard and can make for a great gerbil habitat which they can dig and tunnel in.

They Are Able To Shed Their Tails In Danger

Sort of like the feat performed by lizards, gerbils can “shed” their tail if they feel threatened or pulled too hard by their tail. Known as a ‘tail slip,’ this is mostly done as a form of self-defense and is highly effective for getting away from predators.

During a tail slip, the skin and fur covering the tail slips off. Following this, the tail itself begins to die and will gradually become an unnecessary extension of the animal. At this point, gerbils will either chew it off or in domestication, can be snipped off b a veterinarian.

Gerbils Are Great At Parenting

In their natural habitats, gerbils often have strong family structures and put a lot of importance into parenting. Parent gerbils will spend lots of time nurturing and training their kids for activities ranging from nesting to cleaning and even gathering food. Thanks to this, by the time they are adults, gerbils are quite smart and do not have to learn things like what to eat and how to find it by trial and error.

That being said, while they are great parents, they are also great at making more kids. Gerbils can start breeding when they are just 3 months old and can produce a litter of up to 10 babies every three weeks. While this is great for wild gerbils, if you have them as pets, keeping the males and females separated might be a good idea,

Sand Is Preferred Over Water For Washing By Gerbils

One of the more surprising gerbil facts is that these cute rodents prefer bathing in sand over water. This is because similar to their natural habitats, rolling around in sand helps them scrub their fur and remove any debris that is stuck in it. This activity also helps them smoothen out their fur and also give it a shiny appearance!

They Are Very Playful

Gerbils are very playful in nature and enjoy playing games with one another. Whether it is play wrestling or just chasing each other around, they benefit greatly from living in pairs or groups. This is especially true with younger gerbils, and they can be seen socializing and playing with one another all the time.

That being said, while they are playful in the wild, it is slightly different in domestication. Pet gerbils tend to be quite aggressive when kept with others that they don’t know. Thus, it is advisable to buy gerbils in pairs to avoid any unnecessary fighting.

Gerbils Are Totally Covered In Fur

Most species of Gerbils are covered in fur from head to toe. While it may seem surprising, even the tail is often encompassed by a thick layer of fur to keep it safe. This is an evolution that these small animals developed to keep themselves safe in hot environments as well as from predators. Also, due to all this fur, they are able to avoid getting sunburnt.

A Final Word On These Fascinating Pets!

Summing it up, we hope this list helped you learn about various new and interesting gerbil facts. These animals are very versatile and can make for great pets with a wide range of features helping them prosper in both domestication and in the wild.

You May Also Like