Gerbils are best kept in pairs or larger groups but introducing gerbils that are older than 10 weeks or so can be difficult if they haven't already grown up together. 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. 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." Don't expect this process to be instantaneous but rather plan for about a week for an acclimation period.
Steps for Introducing Pet Gerbils
- Get a divided cage, or use a cage within a cage, to allow the gerbils to see and smell each other with no contact. Plexiglass pieces can be used to divide a cage.
- Place one gerbil on each side of the divider so that they can see each other but not get to each other.
- Several times a day swap the gerbils from one side of the divider to the other so that the gerbils get used to each others' scent.
- Continue swapping from side to side for a minimum of 7 days (it may take longer). Once the gerbils appear curious and not aggressive to each other the divider can be removed. Often times the gerbils will start sleeping near one another on opposite sides of the divider. This is a good indicator that they are accepting of one another.
- Once they are together watch them carefully for a while. Stay nearby for the first 20 minutes and have leather gloves handy so that the gerbils can be separated if serious fighting occurs. Gerbils will often play fight, boxing and chasing each other and squeaking. These behaviors are fine. Serious fighting usually involves the gerbils forming a tight ball and rolling around, squeaking shrilly, and biting at each others necks. Blood is often drawn.
- After about 20 minutes has passed keep an eye on them fairly closely for another three or four hours to monitor their behavior.
- If the gerbils fight go back to the divided cage stage and repeat, keeping them divided for a longer period of time. If two or three tries with the divided cage trick doesn't stop the fighting they will unfortunately most likely never get along.
- If there is no fighting after a few hours, 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. Go back to the divided cage if they seem to be injuring each other.
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.
- 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.
Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT