Gerbils are social animals and you should not keep them alone. Despite that, if you have a gerbil and tend to add some others, you should wonder how many gerbils you can keep together. Also, you should be worried about the space you can provide them with. What’s more, male and female gerbils have a different story, and you should consider their sexuality when intending to pair them in a cage.
Gerbils, as social animals, usually live in large burrows consisting of several members. A wild gerbil clan can accommodate up to 15 gerbils at the same time, including male and female ones. In their clan, gerbils may groom, chase, and sleep with each other. The truth is that the gerbils we have today certainly have their instinct and tend to live like how they do in a wild burrow.
Since gerbils love to be accompanied by their own kind, it is not fair to keep them alone. Even if you play with your gerbil the whole time, it still needs another gerbil to interact with. They may fall into depression if left alone for a long time, and the connection between them and their owner is not as strong as it can be with other gerbils.
Although wild gerbils live together, they are prone to splitting up. This process is called “declanning.” In general, smaller groups of gerbils are less likely to declan. It is best to keep a pair of gerbils living together, as it is the safest option and has the lowest declanning risk. Also, keeping a trio of gerbils is also a good option and still, you are safe.
Gerbils tend to compete for dominance and those that are not satisfied with their ranking in the clan may leave others. Pet gerbils are no exception. If you keep a large number of them in a cage, you must worry about declanning as a real risk.
The safest option is to buy a pair of gerbils to avoid the risk of declanning. Two gerbils that have built a strong bond are least likely to leave each other. However, you cannot just pair any two gerbils of your choice. Try to buy two gerbils that are from the same litter. This way, they are already used to each other and can live peacefully together.
Keeping two gerbils that do not know each other in a cage may not be practical and they will not get on well. They will probably know the other one as an intruder. The reason for that is in the wild, gerbils do not make friends with other gerbils from a different clan.
To overcome this issue, another solution is to use the split cage method. In this method, you put a see-through divider in the middle of the cage, put each gerbil on one side, and swap their places regularly to let them gradually know each other’s scent. This method works best with juvenile gerbils, or one juvenile and one adult. Two adult ones will have difficulties matching. Also, keep in mind that you should not place a male in with a female gerbil unless you tend to breed them.
Gerbil trios can also live well together. However, the risk of declanning in trios is a litter higher than in pairs. In pairs, there is always a dominant gerbil and the other one relies on it. In trios too, there is one dominant gerbil; however, the two lower-ranking gerbils may decide to gang up on the other as the power is already imbalanced between the three. Therefore, the risk of fighting and declanning is a bit higher in trios. Despite that, many gerbil owners keep their trios with no problem in most cases.
If you tend to have a trio of gerbils, you should choose them from the same litter. A trio of siblings, for example, have been raised together and have a strong bond. You should never add a new gerbil to a previously matched pair as they will not accept the new member with ease. In most cases, the newcomer is attacked. Even worse, if just one member of the previous pair likes the newcomer and the other does not, the risk of declanning can significantly soar and you may lose the paired connection between them.
We already know that gerbils live in groups in the wild. Therefore, it should be normal to keep a large group of four or more gerbils together in the same cage. However, it takes a lot of work and gerbils are in this case highly prone to attack each other to achieve dominance. The risk of declanning is so high among large groups of gerbils.
Fighting is what follows the declanning issue, as the gerbils cannot find their own territories. In general, it is not suggested to keep a group of four or more gerbils in one cage. Only highly experienced owners may be able to handle this number of gerbils, and even in that case, it is still not recommended.
Various gerbil owners may tell you that the male-male pair is probably the best pair of gerbils to keep. Males can much more easily connect to each other than females and build strong, lifelong friendships. They are much calmer than female gerbils and can live in large groups together. As long as there is no female gerbil there, male ones can live along with each other very well and stay easy-going.
Even in the wild, male gerbils can live together in large groups with ease. In the case of pet gerbils, one male gerbil will instinctively find himself as the dominant gerbil and the others will peacefully live in his hierarchy. Occasionally, though, the dominant gerbil may find it necessary to remind them who the boss is.
Studies show that the risk of declanning is much lower in groups of male gerbils, in comparison with female ones. As a result, a higher number of male gerbils can live together. Up to 7 male gerbils are said to be able to live together without much conflict. However, large groups of male gerbils will require lots of space and if the clan breaks up, many subgroups may be built. Therefore, it is recommended that you do not keep more than 3 to 4 male gerbils in your cage.
Even if there are no male gerbils out there, female gerbils are instinctively highly likely to fight. Female gerbils are more aggressive than males and a dominant female may bully a subordinate female increasingly until it leaves the clan.
In the case of female gerbils, try to keep two gerbils together at most. Keeping three or more females often leads to declanning and the resulting fights are inevitable. Despite that, the story is different in the case of female siblings or females from the same litter as they can live together with ease.
Although a male and a female gerbil are highly likely able to get along well in most cases, it is not wise to keep them together as they might breed and produce up to 10 babies at once. They can even get pregnant the same day they give birth to their pups. It is very time-consuming, difficult, and expensive to care for gerbil babies.
Having a group of three gerbils (two males plus one female, or vice versa) will never work. That is because the two same-sex gerbils will fight to mate with the opposite sex gerbil. An even worse case is to keep one male with multiple female gerbils, as the non-breeding females can cannibalize the babies that are not their own.
The short answer is no.
If you do not have the money or the space required to keep more than one gerbil, you should know that single gerbils are prone to get depressed if left alone in a cage without a friend. Imagine yourself in a cage where there are no other humans; even if there are plenty of animals around you, you would still need human interactions.
Single gerbils may get bored, depressed, stressed, and sad. It does not matter how much love and attention you give them. In worst cases, single gerbils may lose their appetite and weight, sleep too much, become sluggish or aggressive, etc.
How Much Space Do I Need?
Although gerbils are social animals, they need their own space too. As a result, the more gerbils you keep, the more space you need to help them have their own privacy. A small cage or tank may make your gerbils stressed. Ultimately, you may see your gerbils fighting or digging and biting at the cage bars as a result of the inadequate space they have.
A rule of thumb states that a minimum of 10 gallons is required for the first gerbil, and an additional 5 gallons per every new one is a must. Therefore, 15 and 20 gallons of space are just enough for a pair and a trio of gerbils, respectively. However, it is more generous to prepare 10 gallons of space for every new gerbil if you can.
Gerbils are social animals that love to live together in groups. It is best to keep two gerbils together in a cage as the safest option, since having larger groups of gerbils increase the risk of declanning through which gerbils may attack each other and leave the clan to build a new one with their own dominance.
You can also keep three, four, or more gerbils in your cage if you want. However, it is going to be more challenging to keep gerbils together as they are in higher quantities, and the risk of declanning soars exponentially. Even highly experienced owners are not also recommended to handle four or more gerbils.
Also in the case of sexuality, the best option is to keep a pair of male gerbils in one cage. Female gerbils are more prone to fighting and are highly at risk of declanning. Even a pair of female gerbils is not that safe to keep, as female gerbils are much more aggressive than males. Additionally, beware that keeping a single gerbil alone is not a reasonable approach as it might lead to depression and loneliness in the gerbil.