Fun Gerbil Facts For Kids

Martha Martins
Nov 15, 2022 By Martha Martins
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Fact-checked by Yashvee Patel
One of the fun gerbil facts is that they drink less water to live in dry environments and never smell.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 10.0 Min

Gerbils are classified as a member of the burrowing rodents family. There are nearly over 100 species of these rodents. These species vary in color, size and also the type of habitat they live in.

Gerbils were originally native to Asia and Africa. But now due to their demand as a pet they are now found globally. They thrive in desert areas.

They have adapted very well to those harsh and tough conditions and have evolved to survive in these conditions. But they are not exclusive to these areas.

They can also be found around mountain slopes, savannas and woodlands. There are more gerbils in the wild than there are as pets. They also reproduce very fast and can account for great numbers in a short period.

But not all species of wild gerbils have thrived. Habitat, vegetation and loss due to increased human presence have been the reason for the decline of some wild gerbil species. Several wild gerbil species are now considered endangered.

The demand for gerbils as a pet is growing and now the US is the biggest market for pet gerbils.

Read on for more interesting facts about gerbils. For more facts about other animals, check out our articles on the Northern short-tailed shrew and Elephant shrew.

Gerbil Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a gerbil?

Wild gerbils are rodents from the kingdom of animals. Their scientific name is Gerbillinae.

What class of animal does a gerbil belong to?

Gerbils belong to the Mammalia class of the animal kingdom. They belong to the Muridae family and the genus, Gerbillinae.

How many gerbils are there in the world?

Gerbils live in the wild, as pets, and have even been used in experiments, which is why it is difficult to get an estimate of their numbers at present.  

Where does a gerbil live?

Gerbils live in the dry desert region on sandy plains of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

What is a gerbil's habitat?

Gerbils live in the dry desert region on sandy plains of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. While this is the normal gerbil habitat, many are also kept in a cage and raised as pets.

Who do gerbils live with?

Gerbils live in families of up to 20 members. They are very social animals and if left alone then can succumb to depression. They are happy and healthy when they live with species of their own kind and their life span also increases.

How long does a gerbil live?

The lifespan of a gerbil is 3-5 years. A clean and healthy environment with adequate food and water is required for a gerbil to remain healthy and happy.

How do they reproduce?

Gerbils have a very active reproductive cycle. Gerbils generally pair with each other for longer durations. They become sexually active at about three months of age. The mating ritual itself consists of a lot of chasing and mounting. Both genders check their undersides after completing each reproduction attempt.

Pregnancy among female gerbils lasts only about 24 days. The female gives birth to a litter of 1-8 infants. After the female gives birth, she is immediately ready to mate again and the cycle continues.

What is their conservation status?

Their status has been classified as that of Least Concern by the IUCN, but the species is threatened by certain activities like agriculture and urbanization which has led to habitat loss.

Gerbil Fun Facts

What do gerbils look like?

Gerbils have good eyesight and can pick up on scent easily.

All species of gerbils have hind feet which are long and ears and eyes which are larger. But these characteristics vary from among species. Some species might have stout bodies, while others may have slender or compact bodies. The Great Gerbil species from the Central Asian deserts are the largest species of Gerbil.

All gerbils species have hair all over their body including the tail. A fat-tailed gerbil is common. The color of the fur varies with the species. The colors include black, cream, white or spotted.

How cute are they?

Gerbils are very cute and can be adopted as pets. Pet gerbil’s are extremely social pets and are fun and curious. These cute little furballs in black white or cream colours likes to keep themselves busy. An exercise wheel, cardboard, non-toxic blocks or thick piece of wood could be some fun elements to keep them occupied.

How do they communicate?

Gerbils use non-verbal signs to communicate with each other and with their pet owners. You can observe the body language of a gerbil to determine whether they are happy, sad, angry or stressed. Try to understand the positive and negative signs in your gerbil is to understand their needs better.

If your pet gerbil jumps into the air, it’s a clear sign that your gerbil is happy and excited. He may do this gesture when he is happy to see you in the morning or when you are playing with him. Another indication that your gerbil is happy is, if he vibrates or purrs when you pet him.

If your pet gerbil sits upright with its arms on its side, it’s an indication that he is relaxing but he is also curious. He is observing the surroundings around him.

Notice if your gerbil grooms or washes himself. This is a sign that he is calm and relaxed. Gerbils often digs or burrows in its cage.

This indicates that he is very comfortable with his surroundings or in his cage. Another positive indication is when your pet gerbil plays, runs around or touches his fellow Gerbil. This clearly shows he is happy and enjoying his time with his fellow companion.

Some negatives signs that you should be cautious of are, when you see that your gerbil presses both his paws together. This signals that he is frightened. Sometimes gerbils licks the sides of his water bottle.

This is an indication that he is thirsty and in need of water. Often a gerbil is seen thumping the ground, this is called drumming. Your gerbil wants to communicate to his fellow mates that he is frightened or stressed.

How big is a gerbil?

The gerbil size is between 15-30 cm long and around 11 cm in height.

How fast can a gerbil run?

10.8 km/ph is the maximum sprinting speed of a gerbil. When they use an exercise wheel their average speed is 0.89 km/ph. Gerbils are not very fast runners but they run away to escape from their predators or to burn their energy. They also run a lot when they are playing with other gerbils.

How much does a gerbil weigh?

There are different species of gerbil and the weight varies depending on the species and also the gender. Males are heavier than the females. The average weight of a gerbil is 50-90 g.

What are their male and female names of the species?

A female gerbil is called a doe and a male gerbil is called a buck.

What would you call a baby gerbil?

In a litter, baby gerbils are called pups.

What do they eat?

Gerbil food consists of seeds, different kinds of vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and fruits.

Are they friendly?

Gerbils are extremely social animals. Research has shown that gerbils tend to get depressed and have a shorter lifespan if they live on without other members.

They love company and they love to play around with other gerbils or their pet owners. Gerbils are curious and inquisitive; you will often find them watching you while you do your daily chores. They love to be tamed and you will hear them vibrating or making a purr sound when you pet them.

Would they make a good pet?

Gerbils are great as pets. They are intelligent, playful and social. They love to play around and socialize.

For children, gerbils as pets are quite entertaining and fun but an adult should oversee when gerbils are playing with children. Gerbils are also agile and quick so sometimes it might be difficult for children to handle them. And you should be cautious of not holding a gerbil by its tail as it can seriously injure them.

Gerbils are nicer animals than hamsters as pets and they are more playful than the latter. Most gerbils that are kept as pets are of Mongolian (Meriones unguiculatus ) breed. Mongolian gerbils are not nocturnal but sometimes they are active in the night.

Did you know...

Gerbils are experts at burrowing and tunneling.  Wild gerbils can construct a network of tunnels and burrows. When they are in a cage it is best to mimic this natural habitat for them. You can provide them with plenty of material for them to dig around, play, and create burrows.

As their teeth continues to grow, gerbils love to gnaw. When in wild, they love to gnaw at a Pine tree branch with their teeth.

If you have a pet gerbil, then you can give him non-toxic cardboard or non-toxic wooden toy to gnaw in the gerbil cage. Your pet gerbil will love it and it'll keep their teeth healthy.

Gerbils love comfort. When gerbils are not busy, they love to take a short and cozy nap in their bedding.

Don’t use a cardboard or a plastic as their bedding in the cage as they will chew it off. Instead use a clay flower which can be cut in half for their bedding. Providing the right bedding for your Mongolian gerbil animal is key to appropriate gerbil care.

Gerbils are hoarders. Gerbils can hoard food when in need. Gerbils need a lot of protein in their diet. They like to munch on small quantities of broccoli, carrots, cauliflower served in a steel or an earthen pot.

Gerbils are great parents. Wild gerbils learn a lot from their parents. They spend a lot of time of time with their parents learning essential life skills in the wild.

They also learn what to eat and what not to eat. Gerbil dads also play an active role in the upbringing of the younger ones. They gather materials to build the nest, teach younger gerbils how to clean them and also how to gather food materials for themselves.

Like rabbits, gerbils move from one place to another by hopping rather than walking.

Gerbils are called the desert rat. The natural habitat of a gerbil is a desert and thus their alternative name is a desert rat. They adapt themselves to the dry and arid conditions of a desert. Hence, they can do without drinking a lot of water. They get most of the moisture and water from the food they eat.

Gerbils like to be held. Gerbils are social and very affectionate as pets and they like to be held, cuddled and played with.

Sometimes pet gerbils can get nervous when you hold them. So as a pet owner, you should build trust with these flurry creatures and then pet them. Holding a gerbil is a great way to bond with them and can be a satisfying experience for both of you.

In some rare circumstances, it might be necessary to wash your gerbil with lukewarm water but doing this often can cause skin conditions and rashes. In the wild, they often clean themselves with sand.

Gerbils don’t really bite you.  Gerbils are friendly creatures and they don’t necessarily bite you until and unless they feel really threatened. They can give you a small nip in your hand but that shouldn’t hurt you.

Do gerbils stuff their cheeks?

Unlike hamsters, gerbil’s do not have cheek pouches. But gerbil’s can carry food back and forth very quickly to their underground store and stock up food there.

What is the difference between a gerbil and a hamster?

Gerbils and hamsters are both extremely sought after pets. Although, they might look similar there are significant differences between them. Here's a rundown of the gerbil vs hamster.

In terms of size, gerbils are more slender and longer. Hamsters are stockier but shorter, especially their tail. Gerbils have dense and soft fur while hamsters have long hairs.

Gerbils are active, inquisitive and intelligent animals and are much more sociable. They like contact and don’t mind being held. And a properly trained gerbil will never bite or nip.

They adapt better to a human routine because they are not strictly nocturnal. Hamsters are purely nocturnal animals and can be a bit gloomy if they are suddenly woken up during the day. They are also aggressively territorial and mostly solitary creatures.

Gerbils also have a longer lifespan than hamsters.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including agouti, or kangaroo rat.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our gerbil coloring pages.

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Written by Martha Martins

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Linguistics

Martha Martins picture

Martha MartinsBachelor of Arts specializing in Linguistics

Martha is a full-time creative writer, content strategist, and aspiring screenwriter who communicates complex thoughts and ideas effectively. She has completed her Bachelor's in Linguistics from Nasarawa State University. As an enthusiast of public relations and communication, Martha is well-prepared to substantially impact your organization as your next content writer and strategist. Her dedication to her craft and commitment to delivering high-quality work enables her to create compelling content that resonates with audiences.

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Fact-checked by Yashvee Patel

Bachelor of Business Management

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Yashvee PatelBachelor of Business Management

Yashvee has won awards for both her writing and badminton skills. She holds a business administration honors degree and has previously interned with social media clients and worked on content for an international student festival. Yashvee has excelled in academic competitions, ranking in the top 100 in the Unified International English Olympiad and placing second in an essay-writing competition. Additionally, she has won the inter-school singles badminton title for two consecutive years.

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