Unlike hamsters, gerbils are best kept in pairs or larger groups. But introducing new gerbils to each other that are older than 10 weeks or so can be difficult. This guide should help you introduce single gerbils to each other with the hopes that they will accept each other and be able to live together. Typically, trying to introduce a new gerbil to an already established group is not recommended, as the group may gang up on and kill the "intruder," so don't expect this process to be instantaneous. But with some patience and time, there is a chance you can successfully introduce new gerbils to each other.
Steps for Introducing Pet Gerbils
- First, get an already divided cage or use a cage within a cage, to allow the gerbils to see and smell each other without having physical contact. Plexiglass pieces can be used to divide a cage that you already have.
- Place one gerbil on each side of the divider so that they can see but not touch each other.
- Several times a day alternate what side of the divider the gerbils are on so that they can get used to each others' scent.
- Continue swapping the gerbils from side to side for a minimum of 7 days ( but it may take longer). Once the gerbils appear curious and not aggressive towards each other the divider can be removed. Often times the gerbils will start sleeping near one another on opposite sides of the divider. If this happens it is a good indicator that they are already accepting of one another.
- Once the gerbils are together, watch them carefully. Stay nearby the cage for the first 20 minutes of their time together and have leather gloves handy in case you need to separate fighting gerbils. Gerbils will often play fight by boxing and chasing each other and squeaking. These behaviors are fine but if serious fighting occurs you need to step in. Serious fighting usually involves the gerbils forming a tight ball and rolling around, squeaking shrilly, biting at each other's necks, and blood is often drawn.
- After about 20 minutes has passed you should be able to distance yourself from the cage but continue to check in on the gerbils for another three or four hours to monitor their behavior.
- If the gerbils' fight, separate them and go back to the divided cage stage and repeat. This time keep them divided for a longer period of time.
- If there is no fighting after a few hours of being together, the gerbils can be left together. If they cuddle up to sleep and groom each other they will likely be okay.
- Watch for any signs of bite wounds and fighting over the first several days and go back to the divided cage if they seem to be injuring each other. If two or three tries of going back to the divided cage after fighting ensues doesn't stop the fighting, it is unfortunately unlikely the gerbils will ever get along.
Tips to Successfully Introduce Gerbils
- If possible, try to introduce a younger (i.e. less than 10 weeks) gerbil to an adult. This seems to work particularly well with males. Females may be harder to introduce to each other.
- If you can't rig up a divided cage, you can place a smaller cage inside a larger cage. Simply swap the gerbils between the larger and smaller cages.
- Never try to introduce a gerbil to a pair or group of gerbils, or introduce groups of gerbils to each other. The already established pair or group could gang up on the newcomer.
Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT