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Gerbil Handling Dos And Don'ts

Ensure safe gerbil handling with these tips.

By Jessica Cordia

Pet gerbils are small and delicate critters that need to be handled with care. Learn some important gerbil handling tips to ensure your pet gerbil stays comfortable and safe.

Handling Do’s
Always handle your gerbil close to the ground.  Sit on the floor when handling your gerbil. If your gerbil wiggles free, it won’t get hurt as easily. Linda Stern, DVM at Avian and Feline Hospital in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, said, “Gently handle your gerbil with a towel and cup it in your hand.” The towel will protect your hand from biting, and the gerbil will feel snugger.

Handling Don’ts
Never pick up your pet gerbil by the tail. Its tail will come off, and it won’t grow back. Avoid grabbing your gerbil by the scruff. Stern said that picking up your gerbil by the scruff stresses it out, and it could hurt its eyes.

Handling Reminders
Stay calm when you handle your pet gerbil. The calmer you are, the less afraid your gerbil will be. Always be gentle and don’t squeeze your gerbil. Remember that your gerbil is small, so handle it delicately.

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Reader Comments
Rachel, International
Posted: 8/31/2015 8:28:43 AM
thanks i love learning new things about my gerbils
mae, International
Posted: 11/10/2014 10:30:58 AM
Where is the mention of taming in this handling do's and don'ts? It is always better to slowly get them use to your hand- don't pick them up until they have "tasted" your hand- the soft nipping they do when they are first introduced to you. My gerbils will come right up to hand and know it is time to be out of the cage but I took my time with them. I would offer treats in the hand as well. They now come to hand for "treat, treat" time and get their sunflower seed- sometimes one of them will sit in my hand so I use my other hand to give the other one a treat as well. I also gently rub the nape of their neck or pretend to groom them like their cage mate would. They respond well to this.

Ms.Bitey ( one of my gerbils) was a very anxious gerbil and even when she seemed to be tamed enough for handling she bit me... I simply say "no" and press my finger to her nose ( gently but firm). This method seems to work best- I have read where people suggest blowing on the gerbil and saying no- BUT for some gerbils this can induce seizures! So I refrain. Your gerbil most likely bit you out of fear and you just need to re-tame by letting your gerbil come to your hand when they want to- do not pick them up for about a week. Work on building up trust by giving a treat with your hand- sit hand palm up in cage and wait for gerbil to approach... I also gently scratch the gerbils' backs as the pass by my hand when doing a mini clean on their cage. this also helps them to get familiarized with your hand. I also prefer to scoop them up with both hands once they climb onto one hand- my gerbils stay still during that time- so I assume they feel safer this way with one hand they would try to escape or jump from my hand.

hope this helps
Lexx, Brighton, MO
Posted: 3/25/2013 6:06:53 PM
my gerbil bit me and broke through my nail
zacharia, prospect, CT
Posted: 12/29/2012 7:19:28 AM
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