Gerbils: 8 Fascinating & Fun Facts

Two baby gerbils, one tan and one gray, sit in gently cupped hands.

Gerbils are small mammals found in the deserts of western Asia, but did you know they also have their own religion and language?

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most fascinating and fun facts about gerbils that will make you think twice before dismissing them as just cute and furry.

 

1) Gerbils are nocturnal

Even though they’re small, gerbils are active during both day and night—the only difference is that they sleep more at night.

The scientific name for a gerbil is Meriones unguiculatus, which means carpet mouse with a clawed foot.

These creatures are extremely social and live in organized groups of 20 to 40 individuals called colonies.

A gerbil will make its home out of whatever it can find, including cardboard boxes or tubes made from toilet paper rolls.

A group of gerbils is known as mischief. It takes about five minutes for a baby gerbil to fully develop after being born (called weaning).

Gerbils have an amazing sense of smell.

If you put your nose up against one you can tell what other animals have been near them by smelling the scent glands on their skin.

Gerbils eat their own poop!

 

2) They have their own language

If you’ve ever wanted to talk to your pet but weren’t sure what language to use, why not pick up a gerbil and start?

These rodents actually have their own language that humans can learn if they really put in some time.

Fortunately, for those of us who aren’t fluent, these furry critters have their own way of expressing themselves without our knowledge.

The average gerbil makes about 250 sounds per minute, which is nearly as many as a human speaks in an entire day!

 

3) A group of gerbils is called a business

Like hamsters, gerbils love to run.

A group of gerbils is called a business because they are very sociable and will always be found running in and out of each other’s cages.

When it comes to playtime, they can be rather rough!

If a male (or female) gerbil is feeling amorous, he will get down on his hind legs, bob his head from side to side and hop around in front of her.

This behavior is known as dancing or bobbing. Once she has accepted his advances, she will become more active and playful too.

This courtship ritual may go on for several days before they mate.

Male gerbils have two testicles while females have four nipples—yes, you read that correctly!

Gerbils must stay warm at all times or else their body temperature could drop by as much as 20 degrees Fahrenheit within an hour.

 

4) They remember their way home from new locations

Gerbils have an incredible sense of direction.

In a lab experiment, researchers placed gerbils in a maze, allowed them to roam freely for five minutes, and then removed them from their familiar home environment.

The next day, when released into a completely new maze—one that hadn’t been used before in any other experiments.

The gerbils ignored all wrong turns and ran straight back to their home cages at top speed.

Even more impressive is that they were able to find their way home even after several days had passed.

Their ability to navigate with such accuracy is thought to be due to a combination of innate navigation skills and learned landmarks.

 

5) Their teeth never stop growing

Gerbils have continually growing teeth, much like those of beavers and rabbits.

If their teeth grow too long, they can cause problems and can even become fatal.

Gerbil owners need to be sure to provide their pets with chew toys or other objects for them to chew on so that they can avoid problems.

People who are thinking about purchasing a gerbil as a pet should ask sellers whether or not their pet has any issues with its teeth before deciding to purchase it

It’s also important to note that older gerbils may develop dental issues due to age.

This is why it’s a good idea to purchase younger animals rather than ones that are older.

 

6) Their fur keeps them warm during winter

It has been noted that gerbils are much better than humans at coping with freezing temperatures.

Their thick fur actually traps a layer of air against their skin, which is heated by body heat and prevents them from freezing.

If a human being did that, they would die of hypothermia—but gerbils remain perfectly comfortable in sub-zero temperatures.

They sleep for up to 20 hours per day: Gerbils have an extremely slow metabolism.

So they don’t need to eat very often or burn many calories during exercise.

They, therefore, spend most of their time sleeping; one study found that these animals can sleep for up to 20 hours per day!

Some people even say that it’s best not to disturb your pet when it’s asleep.

If you wake it up, it may not be able to fall back asleep again.

 

7) They are very clean animals

Your gerbil’s cage should be regularly maintained and cleaned.

This is necessary because they are highly sensitive to odors and impurities, as well as allergic to dander.

Before putting anything new in your gerbil’s surroundings, make sure to wash it in soap and water first.

It is advised that you thoroughly clean their living space once a week.

You can clean it by wiping down all surfaces with a disinfectant cleaner.

A damp cloth can also be used for more delicate surfaces such as plastic or glass.

You can also use old newspapers to line their litter box and change it out every few days if needed.

 

8) They need to exercise every day

Gerbils are highly active and have an astounding need for exercise.

They should be allowed to exercise every day.

This means plenty of running wheels in their cages and toys to encourage play and interaction.

In fact, gerbils who are not given enough exercise may become hyperactive and experience health problems like heart disease.

This can also lead to behavioral issues as well; when left alone without adequate stimulation.

They will often chew on things around them or even each other.

The best way to prevent these issues is by providing them with ample space and lots of enrichment opportunities that keep them busy.

 

Check out this article about fascinating facts about raccoon dogs.

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