Gerbils are becoming increasingly popular as pets. But before you get some, you should know how best to keep them, what kind of food they need, how much space they need, and much more. An important question is whether gerbils can be kept alone.
Gerbils should never be kept alone. They are used to living in a family environment and will be unhappy if kept alone. It is also not true that single gerbils are easier to tame. Gerbils need a conspecific to play with and cuddle. It is best to get two gerbils of the same gender.
So it is not a good idea to buy a single gerbil. In general, if you decide to get these exciting pets, you should always buy at least two gerbils.
But what happens if one of the gerbils eventually dies? And how do you deal with a lonely gerbil? We will clarify these questions in this article.
We will also discuss whether you can leave your gerbils alone for a weekend, and for how long you should leave your gerbils alone.
We then discuss whether it is better to keep a pair or a group of gerbils. We also reveal what the ideal group size is for gerbils and what the ideal group composition is.
Can Gerbils Be Kept Alone?
Gerbils are used to living in family groups. They know no life without conspecifics. Therefore, it is against their nature to keep them alone.
Gerbils need at least one conspecific with whom they can play, wrestle, groom each other, cuddle, and communicate. It also helps them feel secure.
In the wild, gerbils live as a family unit. A pair of parents live with their offspring in underground burrows and tunnels. These can sometimes become quite large groups. In the wild, the groups of gerbils that live together are usually between 2 and 17 animals.
However, you do not necessarily have to buy a mixed-gender gerbil pair. I would even advise you against it because gerbils reproduce very intensively. It is better to buy a pair of male gerbils or a pair of female gerbils.
Same-gender pairs have the advantage of giving your gerbils much-needed companionship without uncontrolled breeding. With mixed-gender pairs, you might suddenly find yourself with 20 to 40 gerbils to care for after 1 or 2 years.
However, there is much more to consider with the ideal group size and composition. Below we explain everything important in separate sections.
Can Gerbils Live Alone After One Dies?
So gerbils should not be kept alone. But what happens if one of the gerbils dies and the other is suddenly alone?
Then you have a little problem. Not only should gerbils not live alone, but they are also difficult to socialize with each other.
However, there are several methods you can use to socialize gerbils. With these methods, the chances of the gerbils tolerating each other are far greater.
For older gerbils, the separation grid method is especially suitable. With this method, the gerbils can slowly get used to each other.
Separate the gerbil cage into two halves with two grid frames. You can easily build such lattice frames yourself by building two or three wooden frames of the right size so that they fit exactly inside the cage.
Staple a close-meshed square wire to the first wooden frame and nail the second wooden frame against it on the other side of the wire. This way, the animals cannot injure themselves on the protruding wire at the edges.
If you want to be absolutely sure, staple a second square wire to the other side of the second wooden frame. Then nail the third wooden frame against it on the other side.
The middle wooden frame should be about 0.5 inches thick, so there is a space between the two wireframes. This way you will have a double wire frame that will prevent the gerbils from hurting each other through the wireframe.
The gerbils should be able to see and smell each other, but not be able to reach each other.
Place the two gerbils on the two sides of the cage. If the gerbils are hand-tame, you should switch sides daily. The gerbils will then always alternate between spending one day in their own area and one day in the other gerbil’s area, and will also sleep in their nest.
If your gerbils are not hand-tame, you can also simply transfer portions of the bedding from one side to the other daily. This is sometimes less stressful for the gerbils.
This way, the gerbils will take on each other’s scent over time and develop a pack odor.
Offer the gerbils food directly at the divider. Observe how they behave while eating. If they are calm and perhaps a little curious, that is good. But they should not behave aggressively against the other gerbil.
As soon as the gerbils show interest in the other gerbil, try to sniff it and maybe even groom each other through the grid, they can remove the grid.
This process should take about a week. However, if the gerbils still behave aggressively after two weeks with the separation grid, the socialization will not be successful. You will not be able to keep these gerbils together.
What Do I Do With a Lonely Gerbil?
If your gerbil is showing signs of loneliness, it’s best to get him a companion. Use the MEthode from the previous section to socialize the two gerbils together.
Even if you really have a lot of time for your gerbil and spend a lot of time with it, this is no substitute for a conspecific. A gerbil living alone will eventually become lonely. Probably sooner rather than later.
The only thing you can really do for her is to give her a conspecific. Contact with people cannot replace contact with conspecifics.
Can Gerbils Be Left Alone For a Weekend?
If you’re ever away for the weekend, that’s no problem with the right preparation. Gerbils can also keep themselves busy.
Make sure your gerbils have plenty of food and water for when you are away. Rather, give a little more food and water than they would normally give for that time. These are the most important things you need to prepare.
Above all, also make sure that the gerbils cannot tip over the food and water. In that case, they would have nothing left to eat or drink, which will suddenly make the situation dangerous after all.
If you have the chance that a family member or a friend can look after your gerbils, this is of course better than leaving them completely alone. Even though the danger is not that great if you are properly prepared, still something could always happen.
How Long Can I Leave My Gerbils Alone?
However, you should not leave your gerbils alone for too long. For a weekend that’s fine, but they shouldn’t be left on their own for too much longer. 2 to 3 days of absence are usually possible without problems.
In an emergency, you can leave your gerbils alone for up to a week. But this needs preparation and is not without danger.
You will need to prepare the food and water for a whole week and serve it to them. It is better to be a little too generous with both.
There is always a risk that the food or water will spill, that the food or water dispenser will stop working properly, or that the water will become contaminated. If you are absent for a week, this can be dangerous for your gerbils.
With such a long absence, it is really a good idea to have someone check on your gerbils. Ask a family member, friend, or neighbor to check on the animals every day or every other day. if possible, the person can also renew the food and water, and perhaps the bedding.
I would really only leave gerbils alone unattended for an entire week in extreme emergencies. Too much can go wrong, and it’s a long time for accidents and mishaps.
Should I Get a Pair or a Group of Gerbils?
Especially for beginners, it is best to get a pair of gerbils. It is also possible to keep them in larger groups, but this requires a little experience.
A same-gender pair is a very good start in the world of gerbils. Since gerbils also live in the wild as a family, keeping them as a pair is very much in keeping with their natural lifestyle.
In groups of gerbils, there is always the danger of tension and quarrels. This danger is not so great with a pair of gerbils.
You also need less space if you keep only two gerbils. With larger groups, the space requirement increases with each additional gerbil.
If you want to keep more than two gerbils, the best way is to keep individual pairs each in their own cage. However, make sure there is enough space between the cages.
What Is the Perfect Group Size for Gerbils?
The perfect group size for gerbils is two. It is always easier to keep a pair of gerbils than a larger group.
Although there are keepers who prefer groups of three instead of pairs. However, I do not recommend this, as groups of three are usually more unstable.
The larger the group of gerbils, the more likely it is that tensions will arise between individual group members. These tensions can become quite critical, as gerbils fight their territorial battles aggressively and with violence.
It can even happen that gerbils kill each other in these fights. They could even show cannibalistic behavior. Therefore, you should settle for two gerbils to be safe.
What Is the Perfect Group Composition in Gerbils?
Even though in their natural environment they live as a mixed-gender pair with their offspring, this is not recommended for gerbils as pets. Gerbils reproduce very intensively and pregnancy is also not entirely free of complications in gerbils.
A female gerbil can become pregnant several times a year and then give birth to 2 to 8 young. So your gerbil couple can become a large group with all the complications in a short time.
But also the pregnancy itself is associated with dangers. The babies can get stuck or lie crosswise. This then leads to high veterinary costs.
Therefore, it is usually recommended to keep pairs of same-gender gerbils. Whether you choose pairs of females or males is not so important. Males are considered to be somewhat more peaceful in cohabitation, but this is only an empirical value.
If you prefer a mixed-gender pair, you should have the male neutered. However, this is not an easy procedure with gerbils. Not all veterinarians perform this operation.
So the easiest solution is to keep a pair of same-gender gerbils. This will save you stress and possibly high costs.
Conclusion: Can Gerbils Be Kept Alone?
Gerbils should not be kept alone. It does not correspond to their natural lifestyle. A gerbil will also not be able to live a happy life alone.
Even if you spend a lot of time with the gerbil, it is not a substitute for a conspecific.
The easiest way is to keep a pair of same-gender gerbils. Larger groups can always lead to tension and fights.
With mixed-gender pairs, it will quickly come to the fact that they multiply unchecked. You will have a large number of gerbils in the house in a short time.
It is best to stick with the tried and true group size of two same-gender gerbils. This is the best solution both for the gerbils and for yourself.