Do Pet Gerbils Enjoy Being Held? [Handling Guide]


When it comes to the comfort and happiness of our furry friends, understanding their preferences is key.

Gerbils, with their curious eyes and nimble paws, are popular pets in many homes across the US, UK, and Canada.

A common question among gerbil enthusiasts is: do gerbils like to be held?

In this post, we’ll delve into the world of gerbils to understand their handling preferences and how it affects their overall health and happiness.

We’ll uncover the signs showing whether your gerbil enjoys being held, the right way to pick them up, and the crucial bond-building process.

Whether you’re a seasoned gerbil owner or considering adopting one, this guide will teach you how to foster a loving and trusting relationship with your pet.

Yes, many gerbils do enjoy being held, but it heavily depends on the individual pet’s personality and how used to human interaction they are. Building trust is a gradual process.

When you’ve earned their confidence, they’ll often show their affection by allowing you to hold them.

However, some gerbils may never become comfortable with being held due to their nature or past experiences. It’s vital to respect their space and comfort levels.

When a gerbil is content in your hands, it may sit calmly or even groom itself, indicating it feels safe. Conversely, a stressed gerbil may try to jump away or might freeze, a sign that it’s time to give your pet a break.

With patience and gentle handling, your gerbil can come to see you as a friend rather than a threat.

Gerbils are known for their energetic and inquisitive nature. They can make delightful pets for those who appreciate their vivacity and are willing to invest time into understanding them.

A gerbil’s temperament is often a blend of curiosity and caution, as they are prey animals by nature. This means they are always on the alert, scanning their environment for any signs of danger.

How Gerbils Show Affection

Gerbils show affection in more subtle ways compared to other pets. They might gently nibble on your hand, follow you around their cage, or chirp softly when you’re near.

Some may even come to the front of their enclosure when they see you, anticipating interaction.

Signs of Stress in Gerbils

Recognizing stress in gerbils is crucial for their well-being. Signs of stress can include excessive chewing on the cage bars, overgrooming, or hiding more than usual.

If you notice these behaviors, it’s a signal to review your approach to handling and spend more time building trust.

Fun Fact: Gerbils can enjoy a small piece of banana as an occasional treat. However, it's crucial to remember moderation, as too much can upset their sensitive digestive systems. So, share a tiny slice of banana with your furry friend for a fun and healthy snack!

Handling a gerbil correctly is essential to prevent injury to the animal and to ensure that the experience is positive for both of you. It’s about gentle movements and a lot of patience.

Best Practices for Picking Up a Gerbil

To pick up a gerbil, you should let it sniff your hand to acknowledge your scent. Then, scoop it up gently with both hands, supporting its body fully. Never pick a gerbil up by the tail, which can cause severe injury.

Creating a Trust Bond With Your Gerbil

Trust is the cornerstone of your relationship with your gerbil. Begin by spending time near their cage daily, whispering to get them used to your presence and voice.

Gradually, you can start offering treats from your hand, which is a great way to build a bond. Once your gerbil is comfortable taking treats, you can gently encourage it to climb onto your hand and progress from there.

Fun Fact: Integrating gerbils without a split cage can be challenging. Begin in neutral territory, monitor their interactions, and introduce them gradually to shared space with hiding spots and enrichment to reduce conflicts.

The way you interact with your gerbil can significantly impact its trust in you and its willingness to be held. Here are some valuable tips to enhance your handling sessions.

The Do’s and Don’ts


  • Move slowly and speak softly to avoid startling your gerbil.
  • Allow your gerbil to approach you on its terms during the out-of-cage time.
  • Frequently handle your gerbil to maintain and strengthen your bond.


  • Make sudden movements or loud noises that could frighten your gerbil.
  • Handle your gerbil roughly or ignore signs of distress.
  • Neglect daily interaction, as gerbils need regular engagement to stay socialized.

Age and Handling: Does It Matter?

The age of your gerbil can influence its handling preferences. Younger gerbils are often more energetic and may be more challenging to hold as they explore their world.

As gerbils mature, they may become calmer and more amenable to being held. However, each gerbil is unique, and its personality plays a significant role in interacting with humans.

Fun Fact: When introducing male and female gerbils for breeding purposes, it's essential to select a compatible pair. Place them in a spacious, well-furnished habitat with ample nesting material and observe their interactions. If they get along, you can expect baby gerbil pups in about 24 days!

A comfortable and enriching environment is key for a gerbil’s well-being and can also affect how they interact with you. If a gerbil feels safe and secure in its home, it’s more likely to be receptive to being held.

Setting Up a Gerbil-Friendly Habitat

To create a habitat that makes your gerbil feel at ease, focus on providing plenty of space for exercise, burrowing, and exploring.

Ensure there are hiding spots where your gerbil can retreat to when it feels the need for privacy. Also, include chew toys and tunnels to satisfy their natural behaviors.

The Role of Play in Gerbil Handling

Incorporating play into your interactions is a fantastic way to encourage your gerbil to be more comfortable with being held. Use toys to engage their attention and establish a positive association with your presence.

This not only stimulates their mind but also gently encourages them to interact with you, reducing any anxiety they might have about being held.

Fun Fact: Gerbils can indeed enjoy small amounts of apple as an occasional treat. However, it's essential to remove the seeds and core, as they contain cyanide, which can be harmful to these furry little critters. Remember, moderation is key when it comes to feeding your gerbils fruits like apples.

Q1: Do gerbils like to be picked up?

Gerbils may enjoy being picked up if they are accustomed to their owner and associate being picked up with positive experiences. However, this preference varies with each gerbil’s personality.

Q2: How do you tell if your gerbil likes you?

If your gerbil likes you, it will show signs of trust and comfort, such as approaching you, not flinching when you reach into their space, taking treats from you, and not hiding when you’re around.

Q3: How do you get a gerbil used to being held?

To get a gerbil used to being held, spend time near their habitat to let them get comfortable with your presence. Progress to offering treats and soft spoken words before gradually introducing your hand for them to climb on.

Q4: How much attention do gerbils need?

Gerbils are social animals that require daily interaction, either with their human owners or with other gerbils. They thrive on a regular schedule that includes playtime, handling, and habitat maintenance.

Embracing the joys of having a gerbil as a pet means understanding and respecting their unique needs and behaviors.

Whether your gerbil enjoys being held or prefers admiration from a slight distance, the bond you share is a testament to the care and attention you provide.

Remember, patience and consistency are your best tools in forming a lasting friendship with your furry companion.

Cherish each step of the journey, and you’ll find the experience of owning a gerbil both rewarding and enlightening.

Keep these tips and insights in mind, and you’ll foster a nurturing environment where your gerbil can thrive and perhaps even enjoy being cuddled in your hands.

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