The best companion for a gerbil is another gerbil. As much love and attention as we can give a gerbil, we are a poor substitute for another gerbil. Gerbils are gregarious and have a complicated social structure. Living in groups in the wild, gerbils feel more secure and happy when living with other gerbils. Gerbils living along often become stressed and aggressive. Learn more about Introductions using the Split Cage Methods.
Aggressive Gerbil Interactions
Its cute, its adorable and its filled with rage. Gerbils whip their tails back and forth as a display of anger. Sometimes that anger is directed at another gerbil, usually an intruder. Sometimes that anger is directed at you.
This is a behavior is when gerbils arch their backs and try to circle each other. Gerbils that do not know each other may do this.
This is uncommon, but can certainly happen. Usually aggressive grooming involves the aggressor roughly over grooming the shoulder or neck. Often curling the submissive gerbils head completely under their belly, and may scent mark the other gerbil this way.
Sometimes gerbils will chase, bite and nip at their tank mates. This is aggressive. The gerbils are trying to evict the other gerbil by encouraging it to leave. However, the gerbils are stuck inside a cage. The victim can not get away. The victim will often squeak and may jump around frantically trying to get out. Sometimes this includes scuffles where they will ball fight momentarily until the chase renews. This is kind of behavior, if seen, should mean the separation of your gerbils from each other.
This isn't a behavior of an aggressive gerbil, but rather the submissive gerbil. When gerbils are declanning the gerbil who is being evicted may jump at the door or lid of the cage as they are trying to get out and away from their cage mate. Gerbils typically only jump at the top of the cage because they want to escape due to fear or lack of food or water. If you see your gerbils jumping around something is wrong. Though some gerbils do hop when you're taking them out to play with.
These behaviors shouldn't be normal. These are signs that your gerbils may just be tolerating each other. These behaviors in excess can be early warning signs of a declan.
Two gerbils may stand up and try to push the other gerbils head down. They will stick their noses as high up as they can. Typically only pups do this as part of play. As adults, it means that the two gerbils are disagreeing about who is more dominant.
Another fairly common form of mounting. This behavior in males is often the dominant male asserting himself over his tank mates. With a pair of males mounting each other, the submissive male will probably ignore or avoid the dominant male. If excessive squeaking or running is occurring, this may be aggressive.
In a group of females, mounting is usually due to sexual tension and may or may not be asserting dominance.
Assertive grooming is a little pushy. Often the dominant gerbil will push or pin the other gerbil just to groom them. You might see two gerbils bickering back and forth about who is getting groomed and who isn't. Typically they try and get a butt sniff in too. Submissive gerbils will usually close their eyes and lower their heads to the ground.
Gerbils may steal food or toys from each other. The dominant gerbil is the thief. The more submissive gerbil will usually run for a corner and hide with their prize. If the gerbils are passing or sharing the prize, well then its really not stealing.
Gerbils that are well bonded to each other do not spend their time scent marking. Typically dominant gerbils will do the majority of the scent marking and its far more common in males. You should really only see active scent marking when you change the cage or add new toys.
Occasionally you might see a dominant gerbil run over to a submissive gerbil and scent mark them really quick. Well bonded gerbils do not usually do this.
Friendly grooming is gentle. Usually involves grooming more than just the head and butt. They meticulously clean the hairs along the back and belly. The gerbils are relaxed.
Sleeping in piles together. Building nests together. Gerbils that regularly sleep apart from each other may not get along very well.
Ignoring each other
Well bonded gerbils tend to ignore each other. Or they aren't concerned about what the other gerbil is doing. They are at ease and relaxed. They eat side by side (or butt to butt). They don't try to control what the other gerbil does.