I cannot find any information on this anywhere so I am resorting to asking here.

I have had my gerbils now for about a month and I have no desire to hold them, as I am naturally a flighty person and when I have tried when I first got them, they were very young and nipped (not bite) me and I jumped which was concerning me that if I did this too often that they would become afraid of me. I give them a good quality of life, I change their water everyday; food often and clean their cage once a week and fill it with toilet rolls and some treats.

They are still fairly young, not even a year old and they get along so well with each other, often sleeping right next to each other.

Despite me not holding them, they don't seem in any way afraid of me, as the more extroverted one, always comes near the edge of the cage to talk to me and the introverted one does sometimes but he is very shy and doesn't really try.

To bond and have some interaction with them, I sometimes stick my hand in the cage and stroke their bodys/heads which they seem to be fine with and I very often gently come close to the cage and talk to them. My friend has gerbils and she is VERY touchy with them and always is holding them and putting them on her shoulder.

The reason why I am posting this is because I am concerned that I am not giving my gerbils a good quality of life just due to the fact that I do not hold them. This sounds so silly because they seem happy and healthy, it is just, that I have never come across information that states that holding is optional and not holding them is okay.

I understand that if I do not hold them on a regular basis that they will not be 'tame' however when I do sometimes stroke them they are not aggressive in any way.

There is the background info on my situation, Please tell me your answers to put my mind at rest, as I do love my gerbils and want them to have a good life.

My question is: Is holding a gerbil optional or is it vital for them to lead a happy and healthy life?

1 Answer 1


It sounds like you are taking very good care of your gerbils, and they are relaxed and happy. You are doing fine as you are. I would continue to stroke them, both because it's good for bonding and because it will make things easier if you ever have to give them medicine. Your gerbils don't need to be held.

If someday you do want to be able to hold them, I suggest you take it slowly, in a series of steps that you practice regularly over several days or weeks. Only proceed to the next step when both you and the gerbils are completely comfortable with the current step.

  1. Put your hand, open, with the palm facing upward, in the cage. Let them walk onto it, but don't close your hand around them. Perhaps put a treat in your hand to encourage them.
  2. Partially close your hand around the gerbil, then open it again. Do this slowly.
  3. Fully close your hand around the gerbil, then open it again.
  4. Pick the gerbil up an inch or so, then move your hand back down and open it. Do this slowly.

From there, you can proceed to holding your gerbil. But this is all optional. You don't need to hold your gerbils unless you want to. They are happy as they are.


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