Are Gerbils Smart?

Gerbils Smart

The argument could be stated that a gerbil is a rodent and it is agreed that rodents are one of the most intelligent animals in the animal kingdom. A gerbil will express their intelligence through social skills, great memory and the awareness they have of space.

However, gerbils are not your average rodent. They are not quite as intelligent as most other rodents, yet, they are some very inquisitive creatures. Not only that, they are fast at learning and they tend to make wise choices.


Gerbils Smart

Now, they may not be as intelligent as other rodents, but a gerbil is quite smart. A gerbil likes to have his or her mind working, they like to be mentally stimulated. Depending on the genetics and the way they are raised will make a difference in the level of intelligence they show.

Gerbils will learn different behaviours easily when a reward is involved. They can be potty trained, they can be taught to run through a maze. Their great memory will enable them to get through the maze within the first two tries, they will remember the correct turns versus the wrong.

What an owner should remember is that the more the brain is stimulated, the smarter a gerbil will become. When a gerbil is under-stimulated, they become bored.

Scientists have determined that gerbils have a high amount of emotional and social intelligence. They are distinctly social creatures and can read other gerbils’ body language. Gerbils will form friendship circles and may even have arguments with other gerbils.

While there is no one magic test that will show you how smart your gerbil is, there are ways to tell. By watching the behaviour, you can garner some level of intelligence from your gerbil. Gerbils have not been studied as much as mice and rats. What is known is that they show various levels in different aspects.

Social and Emotional Intelligence

Gerbils Smart

One way of telling the intelligence is by watching the social bonding a gerbil does. The gerbil’s Social and Emotional Intelligence can be seen by the way they communicate. Gerbils can tell the difference between different vowel sounds or specific syllables.  That level of hearing helps them understand the meaning of other vocalizations.

They can understand the body language of their fellow gerbils. As an example, they know that if they see a gerbil with puffed up skin, that gerbil is feeling aggression.

They can recognize other gerbils. Their sense of smell is accurate enough that they can tell friends apart from others just by the smell. A gerbil releases a special pheromone that is distinct to each.

Gerbils form tight-knit groups of friends and rivals too. A gerbil will remember another gerbil if it has had a confrontation with it in the past.

Gerbils do actually have a strict and complex hierarchy. Each gerbil has a clear understanding of where they sit in the clan or group of hamsters. They will remember who is dominant and who the weak ones are.  For instance, a gerbil knows that it is not allowed to mate with a female if it is not the dominant male in the group.

Spatial Intelligence

Gerbils Smart

When it comes to gerbils, spatial intelligence relates to how they will solve navigational issues. Whether they can judge distances or if they are way off. Very seldom will a gerbil miss the mark if it jumps? It also relates to how well they recognize different objects.

A good tale for this is to tell how the Mongolian Gerbil lives underground. They burrow a series of complex tunnels that are all interlinked. One tunnel could have numerous entrances. Each gerbil in the clan needs to know the way in and how to get around inside.

Learning and Decision Making

Gerbils Smart

Every animal’s intelligence is measured by the ability it has to learn and how well it makes decisions. When doing Scientific Research a rodent tends to learn from the human using positive and negative consequences. The gerbil learns to relate a certain action with a positive consequence, be that a treat or something special for the gerbil. That form of testing is called conditioning.

According to the FAA, gerbils were, at one time, trained to sniff out bombs in the airports. They learned to press certain levers when they detected a certain smell. Not surprisingly, that training did not make it past the research, because gerbils are also known to be easily distracted.

Need for Mental Stimulation

Gerbils Smart

Animals and humans alike become bored easily, it is a sign of intelligence. An animal with intelligence needs extra mental stimulation. In order to feel satisfied, they need to be mentally stimulated.

One of the gerbil’s favourite toys is the puzzle snack ball. Or any puzzle toy that holds treats inside until they figure out the way to open it. When a gerbil is not sleeping, they are usually searching, investigating or trying to find things or activities they can do.

A gerbil loves new textures, new smells and new objects. Sometimes all it takes is an empty paper towel tube and they will find a way to play or have fun with that tube. When a gerbil has a large cage, such as an aquarium, there is room to put new structures or playhouses in it. The more the gerbil has in the way to play with or puzzles to solve, the happier your gerbil will be.

If a gerbil remains bored and has no stimulation, its mental health is going to suffer. You may notice excessive grooming, chewing on the bars of the cage, and broken teeth. You may also start seeing bald spots in your gerbil’s fur.

They may become lethargic, depressed and refuse to eat or drink. Toys are relatively cheap, and paper towel tubes are free once you use the towels. There are many things that you can do to occupy your gerbil.


Gerbils Smart

Gerbils have become one of the most desired pets for the home. They have sweet personalities and energetic temperaments. A gerbil makes a great pet for a single person who does not have a lot of room for a larger pet.

The gerbil is sociable and will likely be able to learn your work schedule if you interact with him when you get home each day. When there is an activity that they enjoy such as socializing with you and receiving food and a treat each day, there will be a bond built.

Gerbils were once known as Desert Rats. This is mainly because of the burrowing they did underground. Even living in a desert with the heat and UltraViolet Rays shining down, the fur of a gerbil will protect the skin from sunburn.

Benefits of Owning a Gerbil

Gerbils Smart

Yes, there are benefits to owning a gerbil. They are low maintenance and take up little room. The furry little rodents are friendly and love to be social. They do not require much in the way of maintenance. The cost to keep and maintain a gerbil is minimal compared to most house pets.

You do not need to bathe your gerbil. They wash their fur with sand. While they roll around in the sand, it removes any debris that is in their fur. While in captivity as a pet, you would be wise to have a small amount of chinchilla dust, this would replicate the sand. A gerbil does not have the same odour as hamsters, a gerbil is considered a cleaner, less smelly animal.

In the wild, a gerbil is an omnivore. They will hunt for insects and bugs to eat as well as plants.  While they are kept as pets, they have a plant diet for the most part. Humans are not able to hear the vocalizations that come from a gerbil. There are over 40 colour combinations for gerbils and their fur colouring.

Even if you think that your gerbil is safe in an empty aquarium, think twice. A gerbil is capable of jumping up to a foot in the air. So, yes the aquarium is a great idea, however, you do need to keep a mesh cover on it so the little furball does not jump out.

Some of the negatives about gerbils include that they are escape artists, they will get out of everywhere if there is a chance. Some employees at the pet stores are unable to tell the difference between the sexes. Before you go to adopt one or purchase a gerbil,  learn how to tell the difference yourself. This may be the only way that you will be able to get two of the same sex gerbils.

Being somewhat nocturnal animals, they may keep you awake at night if they are kept in your bedroom. You may want to consider this aspect before planning to sleep that first night.

To end this simply, their intelligence is dependent on you, besides they are so adorable and sweet and have a great personality! So if you spend time with your new friend and stimulate your gerbil mentally you will have a quite smart gerbil with a great personality.

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