Like many other animals, gerbils can be quite social at times. It may sound odd when you hear that a gerbil talks, however, in their own way, that is exactly what they do. Being social animals, vocalizations only make sense.
Gerbils actually have a wide range of vocalizations. There is more to a Gerbil communicating than just hearing a squeak. Honestly, even the same chirping sound, but in different volumes can mean different things when it comes to your gerbil.
Gerbil Sounds and the Meaning
Your Gerbil is going to communicate with you and with other Gerbils through vocalizations and also body language. The vocalizations come in a range of 13 syllables.
These sounds and body language movements, when used at different frequencies, mean different things to a Gerbil.
When the owner pays attention to their Gerbil, they begin to understand the sounds, the vocalizations and the body language. The more you hang out with your gerbil, the more you are possibly going to learn.
You will begin to be able to tell the difference between the positive vocalizations and the negative sounds.
Are Gerbil Sounds Audible
The sounds that are made by a Gerbil are audible. Each of the following sounds is heard by human ears. The squeaking, purring, chirping, yipping, clicking and thumping, are all easily heard by human ears.
What do each of the sounds mean and why are there different volumes to the sounds? When the truth is known, not every sound that a Gerbil makes can be heard by a human. Many times only other Gerbils will be able to hear and decipher what a Gerbil is saying.
When a Gerbil Squeaks, it is the most common sound that you will hear from your Gerbil. When your Gerbil squeaks, it could be for one of a few different reasons. The gerbil may feel threatened or frightened. Some of the reasons that the gerbil may be feeling frightened or threatened would include:
- Another gerbil in the cage.
- The gerbil sees you or another person in the vicinity
- The gerbil senses another pet in the home.
- Fast movements caught out of the corner of the gerbil’s eye. This could include movement on televisions also.
Squeaking may also be a sign that the gerbil is in pain. It could be accidental, however, when you pick up the gerbil, you may have grabbed him too tightly.
When you want to pick your gerbil up, do not swoop down from above. This will frighten the gerbil. Picking up the gerbil needs to be done very gently. A reminder, never touches the gerbil on the tail, do not pick the gerbil up by the tail either. The tail of a gerbil could be damaged very easily.
When a gerbil is happily excited, you will hear squeaks then also. You will also notice excitement from the gerbil even if it is a negative emotion. Some of the other reasons you may sense or see the excitement include:
- The gerbil was jumping up and down before you reached in to pick him up.
- The gerbil was running around the cage before you decided to pick him up.
- Your gerbil was extremely happy that you are there and is excited to communicate with you and spend time with you.
Your gerbil will make other happy sounds too. Purring is one of those such sounds. When a gerbil purrs, it sounds like a low rumbling noise. The volume of a gerbil purring is actually quite low, making it harder to hear than the squeaking.
When a gerbil purrs, it is different from how a cat purrs. The cat uses its voicebox, the gerbil does not. The gerbil will tap their teeth and grind their teeth together to make the rumbling sound.
If you were to look closely, you would be able to see the gerbils’ jaws moving. This is why the purring sound is often called teeth chattering. You will also notice a vibration when your gerbil is purring. This purring is also easy to confuse with fearful shaking.
As a form of vocalization, purring signifies that the Gerbil is content and happy where he is at the time. This could be in the company of another gerbil, but more often than not, it is because he is with you.
If the Gerbil enjoys when you are holding him, he will start to purr.
When a gerbil chirps, it sounds quite similar to a squeak. A gerbil will begin to chirp early on in its life. The baby gerbil uses this sound as a way to get the mother’s attention. This is a behaviour that the gerbil may bring with it to adulthood. Although, it must be said that once a gerbil becomes independent, at around 6 months, this is the time when the chirping will stop for the most part. It would be used primarily to obtain your attention.
However, a gerbil will also chirp when it is happy and exciting. The chirping, if it continues, may mean many things, such as wanting your attention. The question then becomes ‘why does the gerbil want your attention?’ This is easily answered by spending time with the gerbil. The gerbil may want to show you something he discovered as he was exploring, maybe he is wanting to play with you, he may be out of food and is asking you to feed him. Or he simply wants you to pet him for a bit.
The bright side to the chirping sound, your gerbil will only chirp in a positive manner. He will not chirp if he is about to get aggressive with you.
Yipping is the most exciting form of vocalization that the Gerbil can make. This is the sound he uses when he wants to boast to other gerbils about how happy he is. Gerbils are social creatures and they want everyone to know how good things are for them.
This yipping is also done as a way to entice the other gerbils to play. Other forms of trying to get them to play would include:
- Running around the cage
- Hopping up and down on the back feet excitedly
- Scrambling and trying to get out of the cage as you are trying to open the cage door. Playing is one of the most enjoyable activities that a gerbil has.
Simply, this yipping sound is made in anticipation of what is about to happen. This includes when a Gerbil gets to meet another gerbil, they will yip quite loudly with excitement. Granted, the two gerbils may not get along, however, the excitement of a new friend is an astronomical feeling for a gerbil.
A gerbil will also use its feet to make noises as a way of communicating. For instance when a gerbil thumps its back feet. Rather than being happy and in anticipation, the thumping that a gerbil does is done more in the way of dominance. They are trying to warn others that this is their domain and that they should back off.
A gerbil has small feet, so it is quite surprising that the thumping can become as loud as it does.
Mating is also a time when a gerbil will begin to thump. When it comes to mating, the male will run around the cage and thump its feet. The male is the dominant gerbil, and the thumping is more of a mating ritual at this point.
You may also hear a clicking sound coming from the gerbil. However, this is not a vocalization that will tell you how your gerbil is feeling. Rather than a form of communication, the clicking sound that you are hearing, is a sign of a breathing problem that the gerbil is having. This generally happens when your Gerbil has a respiratory infection or very bad cold.
You should, at this time, take the gerbil in so he can get some antibiotics. You may think that a gerbil is too small to be seen by a veterinarian, this is wrong. A gerbil gets sick too and needs medications just as other animals and humans do.
Other Body Language
Gerbils do use many forms of communicating, other than just squeaking. They also have different meanings for the majority of the sounds that they make. When communicating with other Gerbils, some of the ways the gerbil will use to communicate include:
- Belly Rubbing
- Nose rubbing
As you sit there enjoying the time that you spend with your gerbil, listen for the variety of sounds that a gerbil will make. As you sit there try and determine what it is the gerbil is trying to tell you or ask you.
Once you get it correct, you could be met with even more excitement in the form of communicating with the gerbil.
The key to learning the vocalizations is spending time with your gerbil, watching what it is doing as it makes the vocalizations and hopefully this will help you to determine what they are saying.
There is so much more to a gerbil communicating than just squeaking.