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Understanding Your Gerbil’s Body Language

March 1, 2015

Do you have a pet gerbil? These little cuties are very sweet and lovable, and make great pets. While gerbils aren’t as expressive or easily read as larger pets such as dogs or cats, they can and do express themselves through body language. With a bit of research, and some observation, you can learn to read your pet’s mood by watching his body language. In this article, your Larimer County vet goes over basic gerbil body language.

Standing Up

If you’ve ever seen your tiny furball stand up, you know this is super cute to watch! Gerbils that are nervous or interested in something may hold their hands together when standing, almost as though they are praying. If your pet is just curious, his hands will be a bit further apart.


Thumping is a very cute habit gerbils have. When gerbils ‘thump’, they sort of bounce with their hind ends, so their back legs hit the ground hard. Wild gerbils often thump to ‘broadcast’ warnings or mating signals to each other. They also thump when they’re excited. Your little furball might just thump when he sees you enter the room with his favorite treat!

Puffed-Up Fur

If two of your gerbils are head-butting one another, and their fur looks puffier than usual, your little pets may be about to fight! Separate them immediately if they are displaying this behavior. Gerbils will also look a bit puffy if they aren’t feeling well.


Gerbils originated in desert habitats, where they could get moisture by licking damp cave walls. If your little one is licking the sides of his tank, he is probably thirsty. Check to make sure his water is fresh and full.


Did you know that gerbils purr? That little tiny motor won’t make as much noise as your kitty’s little engine, but you may be able to hear it. If you hold your gerbil in your hand and feel a slight vibration, you have a happy little pet!


Gerbils are pretty good at keeping themselves clean, but they won’t groom themselves completely if they are feeling nervous or threatened. If your furball is licking his tummy and sides, he’s feeling relaxed.

Do you have any questions about caring for gerbils? We are always happy to help! Please contact us, your Larimer County vet clinic, for all of your pet care needs.

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