Are My Gerbils Declanning – What are the Signs?

Taking care of a warm, fluffy pet like a gerbil can be a rewarding experience for its owners. And much like the people that care for them, gerbils are a typically social species.

This means that it’s generally a better thing to have more than one or two animals living together than just one alone.

Despite the need for gerbils to form social groups, known as clans, problems can happen when you keep more than one gerbil at a time.

One such case is something known as declanning. This is normal behavior but still something that all pet gerbil owners should be aware of.

So what are the signs of gerbils declanning? The major signs your gerbils are declanning are:

  • One gerbil constantly picking on the other.
  • Gerbils consistently sleeping in separate areas.
  • The dominate gerbil aggressively chasing the other.
  • Wounds on the back or tail of a gerbil.
  • Blood of the gerbil on themselves or in their cage.
  • A gerbil cowering away from the rest of the group.

What is a Gerbil Declan?

A gerbil declan is a process in which gerbils in a social group start rejecting the current state of affairs within their clan.

They start fighting among themselves, typically pushing out one or more members out of their social groups. If not taken care of immediately, gerbil declanning can be a very nasty affair.

More so for the individual being pushed out, as this can mean injuries and severe stress.

Despite the violent nature of it, a gerbil declan is considered to be normal behavior for gerbils. So don’t worry, it’s not your fault.

Just because it’s happening doesn’t mean that you’ve failed in taking care of them in any way. That’s just how these cute little rodents are wired to react to others.

It also doesn’t mean that just because you have gerbils inadvertently causing harm to one another that you have a particularly aggressive animal.

Usually, they’re just reacting to changes in their environment. These changes can seem minor to us as owners, but for them, it’s a big deal.

Gerbils declanning, playing, and fighting can all look similar to each other so sometimes there’s confusion on if they’re playing or actually fighting.

As someone who owns a gerbil, it’s your responsibility to spot the signs as early as possible and work with your pets to make sure it doesn’t get too out of hand.

Why do Gerbils Declan?

Before we can look into the signs of a gerbil declanning and what you can do to fix it, let’s first try to understand why a declanning happens in the first place.

Let’s not forget that gerbils have their own communities, much like humans do, and sometimes, just like people, they have arguments from time to time, even if they care for their neighbors.

Gerbils can start being really aggressive when they’re as young as 6 -10 months for males, and 4 – 8 months for females. So unless you are breeding them, it’s good to know how old they were when adopted.

Preventing gerbils from declanning can be as simple as either avoiding these factors or simply taking great care when you put your gerbils through them.

Listed below are just a few factors that can contribute to a gerbil declanning.

The right to breed. Much like other social mammals, gerbils adhere to a hierarchy.

  • The top male and female of that hierarchy gets to start a family with anyone they want.
  • Naturally, not everyone will be happy with this sort of arrangement, so it’s not uncommon for gerbils to fight one another for the right to breed.

Adding a new gender into the mix. Adding a different gendered gerbil will certainly cause it to happen.

  • Normally, it’s rare for a declanning to happen if you’re only keeping a pair of same sexed gerbil in one enclosure.
  • Adding a female with a pair of males will cause it to happen.
  • Adding a male with a pair of females forces one of the original gerbils to fight for dominance as well.
  • They do this since there’s a need to see who gets to breed with the new partner.

The Capulet-Montague conundrum. Sometimes, you may end up introducing a gerbil from a different, rival clan into your current one.

  • This can be a big deal among your gerbils.
  • Particularly if your newly-introduced gerbil is the alpha in its old clan, or is particularly high up in their old clan’s hierarchy.
  • Sometimes, you wouldn’t even need to put a new gerbil from a different clan into the mix to cause trouble.
  • Sometimes, sharing toys or little hideouts from one clan to another, especially if they have been scent-marked and haven’t been washed, could be enough to cause a frenzy.

The top gerbil is retiring. When the top one retires, this can create a power struggle with the rest of the gerbils.

  • This can happen whenever the dominant gerbil in the clan gets a little too old.
  • It can also happen if they are now too weak to retain their top spot.
  • When this starts to occur, the other younger gerbils may start causing trouble within the clan.

As you can see, it all stems from the fact that gerbil clans have a strict hierarchy. One gerbil will always be on top and any slight change can cause the next gerbil to for the top spot.

Signs of a Gerbil Declan

One of the easiest ways to know whether your group of gerbils is undergoing a declanning is when you notice one or more of the members being picked on.

One of the major signs of a gerbil declanning is when you notice blood on your pets.

If you don’t notice it on the animals themselves, you may see blood in or around their enclosure.

Another sign is when you see one of your pets cowering in a corner, with obvious signs of stress, like shivering or catatonia.

If your gerbils have wounds on them, you will be able to tell if they are the aggressor or the passive one in the conflict.

Gerbils with wounds on their backs or tails tend to be the ones receiving the attacks, while gerbils with the wounds on their faces or necks are usually the aggressors.

Can you Stop Gerbils From Declanning?

While it is possible to avoid all the factors that can lead to a declanning, it can still be inevitable, since as we’ve mentioned before, a gerbil declan is natural for them to do.

There are, however, steps to keep your gerbils from escalating their declanning process before it gets out of hand.

One of the easiest ways is to simply separate your gerbils and allow them to have some space apart.

Whenever you see the signs of a declanning happening, make sure to observe all of your animals, not just the ones you see that are obviously being picked on.

Whenever you find wounds, make sure you wash the areas off with clean, warm water and apply a good disinfectant, like Neosporin, Betadine or any other antibacterial cream. Just be sure that what you use is safe for gerbils.

Possible Separation

Separate any of your injured gerbils and keep them in a safe, clean and warm area where they can heal in peace.

The next thing you should do is to determine which of your animals is the aggressor and whether they’re attacking any other gerbils as well.

While it may seem counter-intuitive, it’s better to separate the gerbils that are being bullied instead of separating the aggressor from the rest of the clan, especially if they’re not attacking anyone else.

Although we may think that it’s better to punish the aggressive behavior with solitude, it’s actually much easier to find more compatible friends for the other gerbil.

Finding other gerbil friends for the more passive one (the one that’s being picked on) is going to be a smoother process than just removing the aggressor in most cases.

If you notice that the aggressor isn’t fighting any other gerbils for the top spot after removing the more passive one, then they should return to being normal.

Stopping gerbils from declanning is possible when you notice the signs and can be proactive about it, but remember to keep in mind that this is a totally natural behavior for them.

Always make sure to watch for any signs that your gerbils may start the declanning process to avoid as much bloodshed as possible. If they do go through it, be sure to get medical attention for any gerbil that needs it.


Hi, I'm Mason, I've kept small animals as pets since I was 8 years old. I love to learn and talk about them basically every day. Over the years I've adopted small pets like hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs.

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