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Communicating with a

Gerbil: understanding

it's body language

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What is my Gerbil trying to tell me?

Of course, gerbils don't really talk, do they? Oh yes, they
do. Animals speak in both sounds and body language. Gerbils
speak mostly in body language and actions, rather than
sounds, but their body language has real meaning and is
easily understood by other gerbils just like your speech.
You can understand it too, with the information below.

1. "Hello, we are friends, not enemies."

Your gerbil says this to other gerbils when they haven't
greeted each other for a while. It says this by running over
to the other gerbil and touching its mouth or nose with it's
own. It may greet you the same way. Gerbils recognize each
other by the smell and taste of their saliva, so this action
is a way of reassuring both itself and the other animal that
there is no threat because they are familiar with each

2. "I am happy and I don't feel threatened or afraid."

When a gerbil feels safe and comfortable with you it will
often stop and give itself a bath by washing its tail,
belly, sides and face. Rodents like gerbils don't wash
unless they feel safe, because washing makes it hard to
watch out for danger.

3. "I want to be groomed, pretty please?"

If your gerbil rolls over onto its back for another gerbil,
it is showing submission and trust to the other gerbil by
asking for grooming. A gerbil sometimes asks another gerbil
for grooming by putting its nose under another gerbil's
mouth with its chin on the ground instead. In either case,
you can know that the two gerbils are getting along with
each other.

4. "What is that new thing? Is it dangerous?"

When your gerbil stands up stiffly on its hind legs with its
front paws together like a prairie dog or a meerkat, it
often does it for the same reason that they do - They are on
alert and watching for danger. It doesn't necessarily mean
that the gerbil is afraid, but it is watching something
unfamiliar and ready to stamp a warning to the other gerbils
and run for its hole. So when you see your gerbil stand like
that, you know it is a little alarmed at something.

5. "What are you doing? Will it bring me food?"

Sometimes, though, the gerbil is just curious about
something new in its environment or some new thing you are
doing. In that case its paws probably won't be together,
they will be just relaxed on its chest as it stands there
watching intently or looking around. Its body language is
saying that it isn't alarmed or afraid, just curious.

6. "I'm thirsty!"

Wild gerbils often get water by licking the dewdrops from
the rocks and plants in their desert homes, and tame gerbils
will often lick the sides of their cages or the outside of
the water bottle when they are thirsty or bored. If you see
your gerbil licking the water bottle or the cage and the
bottle doesn't look empty, take it out and make sure that
the bottle isn't stopped up somehow and that the water is
coming out easily for the gerbils.

7. "I'm angry and ready to have a fight!"

If two gerbils are standing side by side with their fur
fluffed up, and maybe having a pushing war with their faces,
they are irritated with each other and may start fighting.
Watch them and separate them if they do start a fight,
otherwise let them work it out on their own.

8. "Warning! Warning! Danger!"

Something that looks or seems like a predator will trigger
the alarm instinct in a gerbil, and it will begin doing the
warning stomp with its back feet. Usually all the other
gerbils will join in. It is an alert instinct just like that
of rabbits and many other animals that live in groups. Once
everyone is stamping, they will usually all run into their
holes and hide. (If a gerbil is stamping and the others
aren't joining it, the gerbil is probably doing the mating
stomp dance rather than the danger stomp dance. People who
keep gerbils sometimes learn how to tell the difference

9. "I feel like working."

Gerbils have a strong digging instinct, and in captivity
they will sometimes dig away in the corner of the cage like
they are planning to tunnel to the other side of the world.
This doesn't mean that your gerbil hates you and its cage;
it's just indulging its instincts.

10. "Happy, happy, joy, joy."

Some gerbils, when they are very happy, purr, or vibrate. If
you are holding your gerbil and you feel it vibrate in your
hand, it isn't about to explode, it is just very happy with
you. You are honored.

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