How do you tame a gerbil?

It is important that we remember that gerbils are not cuddly toys. By nature gerbils ate prey animals, therefore instinctively have a fear of being picked up if they are not familiar with human interaction. Approaching gerbils from above is a bad idea as they associate this with a predator, therefore their instinct is to run away or hide, so you should always keep that in mind. Picking them up can cause a lot of stress in the beginning, so it is important to get to know your individual gerbil, and take it at their own pace. It is definitely possible to bond with your gerbils and for them to gain your trust, but this takes time and patience. 


Basic guidelines for taming:

  • Hand feed your gerbils. This technique works very effectively and is based around positive reinforcement. The idea is that you get your guinea pigs to associate you with a good thing. Try this with grains, seeds, flaked peas etc.

  • Do not expect instant results. Gerbils can take months to years to gain your trust, however some may make progress in just weeks. As they are prey animals, they may see you as a threat to begin with, but over time you can develop a bond and they learn to trust. If your gerbils have been adopted, you may not know much about their past, so it is essential to work with each as an individual because a traumatic experience in the past may have an impact on the taming process.

  • Time and patience. Those two things are key if you want taming to be successful. Not all gerbils will respond well to human interaction in the beginning, but if you are patient with them, you have a better chance of a good outcome.

  • Let them come to you. Something I find that is very important with all animals is to let them come to you by choice rather than forcing them to be picked up or 'cuddled'. This is where the hand feeding fits in. Some will even climb out of the cage onto your hand.

  • Don't be disappointed. Not all gerbils appreciate human interaction, and you must accept this fact. It is so important if you are thinking about getting gerbils, you don't just want a cuddly pet. There is so much more to them than this! In general I find that gerbils are best for watching rather than handling, however time and patience may enable you to interact more with your gerbils.