Occasionally you might hear your gerbils thumping the ground. Usually if one gerbil starts it they all follow suit. Gerbils live in small family groups in the wild, they send on distress calls by thumping the ground when they are scared, frightened, or nervous. If you notice your gerbils are thumping, try and decide if what they might be trying to alert each other about. Sometimes new sounds, places, or even people can cause them to thump. Usually gerbils are standing up looking around, but not always.
Gerbils will also thump as part of their mating routine. The two types do sound very different. The mating thumping pattern is not as loud, and is quicker. Males are more likely to display this thumping pattern than females, especially when introduced to a novel female. Females only do this when they are in heat, and usually only when they are desperately trying to get the males attention. I usually don’t see this type of thumping pattern in same-sex pairs, I usually only see it in my breeding pairs.
Gerbils are burrowers they build large nests underground. Sometimes gerbils will dig relentlessly in the corner of their tank, under their water bottle, or in a box. This is called stereotypical digging. Gerbils raised in an artificial burrow system often display less stereotypical digging behaviors. All gerbils do dig.
Gerbils need to have tunnels.
· Try adding more bedding, if its deep enough for them to crawl under, it may reduce the digging.
· Adding tunnels, boxes, or tubes under the bedding may help.
Gerbils mount one another for a few reasons. Gender does play a role into why they do this.
Males might mount other males because they are showing dominance over each other, or they are sexually excited. Usually there is one dominant male who mounts the other(s). Do keep an eye on this behavior; there should be no squeaking involved. If your gerbils are squeaking, you should pay close attention to the pair and monitor them to make sure there are no other signs of aggression.
Females in heat are typically submissive. If you have a pair of girls, you may notice your females mounting each other. This is actually very common. You should be able to tell which female is in heat, and she should display signs of being in heat. Including running up to her cage mate, and sharply turning around and posturing. The girls could also both be in heat at the same time, and they may seemingly take turns. However, there are occasions when the dominant female will mount another female who is not in heat. Again, this is a dominance behavior, and I would monitor the pair to make sure the aggression is not building.
When females and males are housed together they will mate, which does involve mounting the female. Sometime the male will mount the female when she is not in heat, which might mean that your male gets boxed, pushed, or just squeaked at.
There is also another form of “mounting” where one gerbil may approach another gerbil and literally slide their bellies over the other gerbil effectively scent marking them. These are less common, and I’ve mainly only seen this happen where pups are being marked.
If you have two gerbils and they’re mounting each other it could be one of two things. First it could be them mating, and second one could be displaying dominance over the other gerbil. It is not uncommon for two gerbils of the same sex to be caught mounting each other in a display of dominance.
Licking the walls
If ever your gerbils are licking the cage, immediately check the water bottle. When gerbils run around licking things it means that they are thirsty and what they are attempting to do is lick dew off the glass, (which by the way the dew isn’t there.) This is a survival method for the gerbil because they do come from arid parts of the world. There is also the possibility that there is salt on the surface they are licking.
Gerbils are not known for biting. Biting is a last defense for a scared gerbil. The difference between nipping and biting is if they break your skin or not.
Nipping on the other hand is a little more common. Gerbils often learn to nip. If when you pick up your gerbil, and they nip you, and your response is to put them back down, they will quickly learn that nipping you means they get put back down. They can also learn the behavior in other situations where they benefit from nipping you because you stop doing whatever it is that you’re doing.
Sometimes they will nibble on your hand because there is trace amounts of food, salt, or smells. Gerbils rely heavily on smell. Sometimes these bad behaviors are the results of fragrances, moisturizers, lotions, creams, hand sanitizers, soaps, or other smells that are on your hands. New smells or ones that smell like they might be edible to a gerbil are more likely to cause the gerbil to nip you.
A simple way to deter your gerbils from this behavior is to not reward them by giving them treats, petting them, or putting them back down. Continue to hold them in whatever way you were holding them for at least a minute. You can also lightly blow a puff of air in their face.
If your gerbil really is a biter, consider using gloves to handle the gerbil. The gloves will protect you, and since the gerbil can’t hurt you, they will soon learn that biting you will not deter you from picking them up. Eventually the behavior should stop altogether, and you will be able to handle the gerbil bare handed. This type of behavior is really only found in abused gerbils.
There are two kinds of fighting, boxing and balling. Boxing covers a broad spectrum, of pushing, shoving, and batting. They may use one or two paws to deflect with, they may throw their whole body into it too. Overall there are many healthy ways a gerbil can assert their position, and to stop another gerbil from doing something they don’t want to do. I’ve also seen gerbils box over who was going to be groomed. There may be squeaking and running involved, but the running should not give way to being chased.
However, when they are truly fighting, they roll up into a ball and attack each other with tooth and nail, and draw blood. Once blood has been drawn these two gerbils most be separated. They will eventually kill each other. In the wild, fights don't usually reach the fatality point as the loser will usually run away before the fight gets too serious, in a cage there isn’t anywhere to run. So when they do run, it turns into a chase. If your gerbil is fast enough they can avoid getting into another ball fight. Often during these chases the aggressor will bite the gerbil as they runaway, leaving bits marks on their butt and tail as they try to drive the other gerbil off.
Once gerbils have fought, do not attempt to put them back together. Just because you think they are cute together, or that they should be best friends, doesn’t mean that they think that. What ever issues they were having escalated into a full blown fight, where serious attempts were made on each others lives. They are not friends. Separate them. For many people this may mean needing to buy a second cage, which can be pricey. After the gerbils have healed you may want to consider finding pups to be their new friends
Rubbing their Belly on Objects or Scent Marking
Gerbils have a scent gland on their stomachs. This is a patch of skin that is not covered by fur. When they rub their bellies on things they are marking their territory. Often you will see gerbils marking a new toy or hide.
Gerbils wink. If you wink at them, they will probably wink back. I am not exactly sure what the meaning of this behavior is. I've read a lot on anecdotes about why they might do it. I've never actually seen two gerbils wink at each other, I've just seen them wink at me or wink back when I wink at them.
Gerbils are not as prone to this as other rodents. Gerbil to horde food. Sometimes they are not very clever about it. You may find that your gerbils are creating stashes of food around their cage. If you are using a food bowl, don't be tempted into filling it just because its empty if you're gerbils stash food. gerbils should get bed about 1 table spoon per day. Over feeding them may lead to over eating but you will be wasting food.
While this is epically cute, it is not meant to be endearing. Gerbils who wag their tails, or rather whip their tails are displaying signs of annoyance and aggression. It looks ridiculously cute, but the gerbils are trying to be intimidating. Often this behavior is seen when gerbils meet unfamiliar gerbils or that are annoyed at you.