Why are My Gerbils so Scared?

Have you ever been watching your gerbils and wondered why they always seem so scared? Maybe you’ve just brought your new gerbil pals home for the first time and noticed that they were quick to scurry.

It’s like they seem to run back to their home or any cover they can find when any sound is made in the room.

Your gerbils may even dart back into their little homes at the first sign of movement they see from you.

When I brought my gerbils home they seemed to be scared of everything, so one of the first things I did was look into why they were so jumpy.

So, why are my gerbils so scared? Gerbils like most rodents are prey animals. Prey animals are typically sought after and captured by predator animals, so that’s one reason why your gerbils are always ready to run at a moments notice.

Gerbils are naturally anxious creatures and their first response is to usually escape the situation they deem too dangerous.

I found a lot of information when looking this one up, so let’s go over why our gerbils are so scared and what we can do about it.

What are the Signs Your Gerbil is Scared?

Gerbils have many ways of letting you know that they are uncomfortable with the situation.

They’re starting to get jumpy. A great way to tell if your gerbil is scared is to take notice of their body language and how they’re moving.

  • One of the more obvious signs is when they start to jump around erratically while trying to search for the quickest route to safety.
  • You’ll usually see this behavior when you’re trying to play with them and they aren’t as used to you yet.

They get into the scurry position. This is when your gerbil stops and gets on all fours in a position to run.

  • This is usually due to an unfamiliar sound they’ve heard or a sudden movement.
  • They get scared and get into the scurry position especially when they first wake up.

These next signs can mean multiple things for gerbils like when they feel happy, angry or aroused, but I thought that I’d cover it because they still do this when they feel distressed as well.

They will stomp their feet. When a gerbil gets frightened or surprised sometimes you will hear them stomp their hind feet.

  • Occasionally gerbils will get scared, run into cover and start stomping their feet.
  • This reaction is usually caused by them getting surprised.
  • Walking into the room too quickly can make them do this.
  • Getting up too fast when they don’t expect it will also scare them into stomping their feet.
  • They will also stomp their feet when they feel that danger is close by.
  • They also do this to alert any other nearby gerbils that danger may be close.

They may start squeaking. Another sign that has multiple meanings is when your gerbils make squeaking or chirping noises.

  • Again, you have to pay attention to their body language because gerbils squeak to communicate.
  • Typically a loud squeak is a sign that they are scared or sense danger, so be sure to try to recognize it.

Keeping Your Gerbils From Getting Scared

Gerbils scare easily, so often times they will run as soon as they feel like they’re in danger.

Some gerbils will even run away out of habit even when they don’t fully feel in danger.

Minimize Loud Noises

If you think you get scared easily, don’t forget that gerbils are small and things like loud noises and sudden movements will generally scare them even more.

It’s probably best to refrain from clapping when excited or yelling while in the same room as the gerbils, they have very sensitive hearing.

TV’s turned up too loud will sometimes keep your gerbils in their hideouts for most of the day as well.

However, some gerbils don’t mind it and actually prefer a constant flow of noises as long as it’s not too loud.

The reason being that the steady noise keeps them from getting shocked by random sounds throughout the day.

Cut Back on Sudden Movements

Try to minimize sudden movements while with your gerbils. If you keep your gerbils in the bedroom try not to spring up from your bed too fast.

The gerbils will usually flee from that sudden noise and movement and retreat into their home.

When it’s playtime and you approach them, move casually over to your gerbils.

You don’t want to startle them before playtime because it could potentially take them a while to calm down and be comfortable enough to come over to you.

Remember That They Startle Easily

When your gerbils first wake up you might see them go out to get food and water or maybe stretch and walk around.

This is the time of day when they’re still unsure of their surroundings, so remember this is when they are the most easily startled.

Most people early in the morning when they wake up aren’t always fully aware of their surroundings yet, this is the same for gerbils.

Be mindful of that and give them some time to fully wake up before interacting with them too much.

Making Sure Your Gerbils Feel Safe

The same way we buy things for ourselves to make us feel comfortable and safe, gerbils like the exact same thing.

They like to be able to play, sleep, and live their social lives together without being in constant fear of everything.

As pet gerbil owners, it’s our job to provide that kind of easy and carefree life for them.

Keeping Them as Stress free as Possible

Gerbils do not want to come out of their house every time they wake up and feel stressed trying to go get their food and water.

Keeping their food and water in a location that is easy for them to get to will add to their feeling of comfort. Place both in a location that isn’t too close, but not so far that they have to go on a journey to get it.

Also, extra bedding near and under their houses goes a long way for them. It will allow them to create their tunnels and it acts as a partial insulator from the outside noise.

Try your best to make sure the toys that you have for them to play with do not stress them out or scare them.

Gerbils like to chew on and move objects around and you don’t want the bigger toys falling on, or around them.

Give Them a Good Space to Live

The space that you have for your gerbils to live in needs to be big enough for them. The more gerbils, the more space.

If they don’t have enough room to scurry around, you will start to see them get stressed out more often and they can even show signs of declanning.

When it comes to their living space they need their essentials, like enough space to play-fight, a good exercise wheel, and a house at the minimum.

They need their exercise wheel or saucer to keep them happy and their stress levels down.

The same way you need more space to accommodate more gerbils, you also need more wheels or saucers for them.

However, you may still see them trying to run on the same wheel. This is how they play sometimes so don’t worry.

Make Sure They Have Hideouts

One thing that people often overlook when it comes to their living space is the number of little hideouts for the gerbils to go into throughout the day.

Sometimes when gerbils get scared they like to go into places where they can have their backs up against the wall.

Having little hideouts or homemade huts around their living space will give them the freedom to choose where they go when they get stressed.

They also like to go into these hideouts when they find a snack they like and want to enjoy it in peace.

They need these places so they can easily flee to the nearest safe space, so be sure to include these hideouts when considering a more comfortable and safe environment for your gerbils.

Getting Your Gerbils Used to you

Getting your gerbils used to you can lead to the most rewarding experiences in my opinion.

You’ll notice that they will be less jumpy around you and they may even try to initiate contact at times, but getting to that point will take some work on your part.

Gerbils need to feel safe before they start to feel comfortable around you, and if you took the time to create a nice environment for them this will be easier for both of you.

I’ll briefly go over a few things I found that will help you get your gerbil used to you.

Talk to Them More Often

From the moment you brought your gerbils home, you should be talking to them so they can get a feel for your voice.

They won’t recognize the names you give them but it will help them become acquainted with you and your voice.

This will especially help when you walk in the room and they’re out playing in their cage.

Getting Them Used to Physical Contact

Once you feel like they’re used to your voice you can start putting your hand in their cage and letting them get a feel for you.

They’re naturally curious so they might come over and sniff and walk on your hand.

They will move away and come back a few times so don’t chase them with your hand just yet because they are still getting used to it.

They may nibble at you at first which is natural, but you want to discourage this behavior. You can do that by blowing a little air at them, they find it unpleasant.

Don’t worry it’s not harmful to your gerbils, but a quick and efficient way of teaching them not to nibble at you.

If you put your hand in their cage and leave it in there longer each time you do it eventually they will start to get used to your scent and voice.

It Takes Time so Don’t Worry

Following those short simple steps will lead to less scared and more adventurous gerbils.

Don’t get discouraged if you can’t create a strong bond with your gerbils initially, it could take weeks or even months to build that trust.

All gerbils have different personalities so be mindful of that. One gerbil might bond with you after the first few days, while the others might take a while.

Just remember to be patient and caring and you’ll be on your way to happier, less afraid gerbils!


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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