Why Gerbils Might Bite & How To Prevent It Or Stop It

Gerbils are typically funloving pets who enjoy their time inside and outside the cage.

But you may be wondering, do gerbils bite their owners?

Coming up in this article, we dove headfirst into everything there is to know about why gerbils bite, how dangerous their bites are, and the best way to stop them from biting you, and summarized our research.

Key Takeaway:

Yes, gerbils can bite. Their bites range from small nips to full on skin-breaking chomps. If your gerbil bites you, your inital response might be to yell or jump back. However, it’s best to react as calmly as possible. Gerbils bite due to stress, poor handling, illness, and loud noises, among other reasons.

Now that you have a better idea of why gerbils might bite, it’s important to learn how to handle them to reduce the likelihood of being bitten.

To find out why your gerbil is biting you and how to stop the biting, take a look at the next section of this article.

brown gerbil eating pasta

Do Gerbils Bite And How To Stop Gerbils from Biting

Like most animals, your pet gerbil has natural instincts to protect itself when threatened, and biting is its only defense.

You could also find yourself on the receiving end of a gerbil bite if your new gerbil falls into the following categories:

  • Intimidated–You’re bigger than them, and that’s intimidating
  • Unfamiliarity–You just brought your gerbil home, and it isn’t familiar with you. Instead of being a fun-loving gerbil owner, it sees you as a threat.
  • Improper Handling–Squeezing your gerbil when you pick it up is a one-way ticket to being bitten.
  • Loud Noises–Gerbils are easily stressed, and loud noises signal danger, causing them to bite.
  • Stress–Stress can be caused by too much handling or even sickness.

The likelihood of being bitten is higher if you have a new gerbil at home, but even a pet you’ve had for years can decide to take a nip out of you if you’re not careful. A few additional reasons why your gerbil may bite you include:

Curious Gerbils Bite

Gerbil nibbles could also be borne out of curiosity. New smells are interesting, and most gerbils like to taste their surroundings when curious. If you have a little leftover food on your finger, don’t be surprised if they take a small nip at it. Make sure you wash your hands before handling your gerbil.

hand holding a gerbil

You’re Trying to Break Up A Fight

These little creatures love living together in groups, which presents the potential for fighting. If you stick your hand into their cage to stop the fight, it’s possible you’ll end up being bitten. Gerbils may draw blood if the bite is deep enough, so it’s best to avoid sticking your hands into their cage unprotected.

Besides playing it smart by keeping your hands inside their cage, you can do a few other things to stop yourself from being bitten by your gerbil.

​How To Avoid Getting Bitten By Your Gerbil

#1. Learn Proper Handling Techniques.

How to stop gerbils from biting starts with learning how they like to be handled. The primary reason gerbil owners are bitten is improper handling. Gerbils don’t always love being picked up and held.

You can see the proper way to pick up your gerbil in this video:

Handling Gerbils

Handling Gerbils

The step-by-step process for picking up your pet gerbil is as follows:

  1. Form a cup with your hands on either side of your gerbil.
  2. Scoop your pet into your hands keeping them in the cup position.
  3. Keep your gerbil above a flat surface not high above the ground. This helps prevent injuries should they jump out of your hands.

Young Children & Gerbil Handling

Keep your children and your pet gerbil safe by not allowing young kids to hold gerbils. Gerbils are much more likely to bite young kids than they are adults, primarily because of handling issues. Keep it safe and avoid this encounter altogether.

#2. Get To Know Your Pet Gerbil.

A scared gerbil is more likely to bite its owner. Get to know your new gerbil first by handling it near its cage. You don’t have to spend every waking hour next to them, which could cause more stress, but if you spend time near their cage daily, you’ll reduce their stress levels.

#3. Learn Their Warning Signs.

It’s rare for a gerbil to bite without first warning you. If you want to prevent your gerbil’s bites from making contact with you, look out for common warning signs such as:


Gerbils tend to be nonverbal unless they mean business. Loud squeaks and teeth chattering are two of the most noticeable vocalizations that gerbils will make when they’re stressed out.

Tell-Tale Body Language

When gerbils run away from you, they don’t want to be messed with. If they feel threatened, their first instinct is to run away, but if they can’t, you could end up being bitten. Another sign is they’ll stand up with folded front paws, almost in a praying position. They may also push your hand with their head if they don’t want to be messed with.

When you understand your pet, you’re less likely to be bitten by them.

#4. Don’t Annoy Your Gerbil.

Gerbils bite in two ways: hard bites and nibbles.

Gerbils will bite hard when they’ve given you multiple warnings to stop what you’re doing. If your gerbil is nibbling on you frequently, it could mean you’re irritating it. Loud sounds, picking up your gerbil when it doesn’t want to be picked up, continuing to hold it when it doesn’t want to be held, and cuddling it closely when that makes it uncomfortable, are all easy ways to annoy your gerbil. Avoid this behavior to avoid being bitten.

#5. Watch How You React to Bites.

If your gerbil bites, try your hardest not to react negatively. It’s also important not to punish your gerbil after they bite. Small rodents don’t understand human punishment like withholding snacks, so you’ll have to switch up your strategy.

Stay calm instead of punishing your gerbil or screaming at them when their sharp teeth puncture your skin. Stressful situations and reactions, like yelling, only make everything worse for your gerbil. A calm voice and gentle approach go a long way to reducing gerbil biting behavior.

So, if your gerbil nips you, stay calm, still, and don’t react. Hold them gently if they bite you during a handling session, and put them back in the cage if they keep biting.

#6. Let Them Smell You

Introduce yourself slowly to any new gerbils you bring into your home. Simply hold your hand inside the cage and let the gerbil come up and smell you. Gerbils remember their owners based on scent and appearance, but exactly how their memory works is unclear.

Letting your gerbil get to know your scent is a great way to reduce their stress levels and your chances of being bitten.

#7. Wear Leather Gloves.

If you still cannot get your gerbil to stop biting after trying all these tips, invest in a good pair of leather gloves. You can also use a good pair of garden gloves inside their cage. This is a great way to prevent pain from the bite.

Do Gerbil Bites Hurt?

Curious about the level of pain delivered by the infamous gerbil bite? If you’re lucky enough to have not been bitten by a gerbil yet, the pain from their bite is more than just a scratch. Pain is a subjective experience, however.

Also, sometimes your gerbil takes a nip instead of a bite, which hurts much less than a chomp. You will likely feel pain and bleeding when a gerbil bites hard enough to break the skin.

How to Care for a Gerbil Bite

Gerbils have different bacteria in their mouths that can transfer to your open wound. Treat a bite from a gerbil like you would any other animal. Perform medical attention immediately. Follow this first aid process:

  • Carefully wash your wound. Use warm running water to wash out the wound as a first step. This removes dirt, bacteria, and saliva from your gerbil.
  • Apply antibacterial ointment. Add the ointment generously to your wound to ensure the wound is properly disinfected.
  • Use a bandage. After you’ve applied the antibacterial ointment, use a bandage to cover your wound.
  • Check your tetanus shot. Any bite from an animal that breaks the skin should be taken seriously, and a tetanus shot should be used to prevent additional infection.

A wound that takes some time to heal may require medical attention from a professional. If you aren’t sure about the pain you’re experiencing, we highly recommend seeing your doctor.

Are Gerbil Bites Infectious?

Yes, gerbil bites can be infectious. You likely have an infection if you notice any redness, swelling, or pus. In severe cases, a gerbil can transfer salmonella or lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV). However, that is not likely to happen.

Are gerbils aggressive by nature?

Gerbils may get scared and aggressive if and when they feel threatened. Positive interactions reduce the likelihood of a gerbil bite and aggressive issues.

Another reason why a gerbil can become aggressive is when they’ve spent too much time alone or were cared for badly by a previous owner. If they connect you with a negative experience from another human, they can act aggressively.

Despite their difficulties, it’s worth it to befriend your new pet and care for them as best as possible. Gerbils can be the best pets if you take care of them to the best of your abilities.

How to Reduce Stress Caused by Other Gerbils

Sometimes gerbils fight, and when that happens, it can cause stress to one or both of your pets. Keep an eye on your pets to see which one is the aggressor. Once you identify them, temporarily remove the more aggressive gerbil from the cage, but not permanently. To find out which one is instigating fights, look for bite marks. The gerbil with more bite marks is likely the victim.

It’s also a good idea to ensure your gerbil’s enclosure isn’t too small. A cage that is too small can put unnecessary stress on your pets, leading to fights and aggressive behavior. Follow general guidelines for cage sizes based on your breed of gerbil, typically at least 10 gallons (ca. 38 l) per gerbil.

Health problems could be another reason why your gerbil is acting aggressively. An injured gerbil is more likely to bite you than a healthy one. If you find that a previously happy and calm pet has turned aggressive, it could be a sign they’re hurt or ill. Be sure to rule out health issues if this is the case with your pet.

How to Avoid Biting Due to Territorial Behavior

Forming a healthy bond with your gerbil is the best way to avoid territorial behavior resulting in bites. If you’re wondering why my gerbil is biting me, it’s important to rule out unfamiliarity, especially if you have a new gerbil. When bringing your new pet home, avoid sudden movements in their cage. This can help your gerbil see you as a friend instead of a foe.

Why Do Gerbils Bite Their Cage?

white gerbil chewing card board

A gerbil will bite his cage due to boredom, a desire to escape their cage, a lack of space, or stress from their new environment. To prevent biting and scratching at the cage walls, you can increase the size of their enclosure.

Alternative methods for reducing this behavior are giving your gerbil an extra toy or two or increasing their playtime.

According to one study on gerbil behavior, the repetitive behavior of biting a cage is known as a stereotype, typically happening in caged animals. Scratching at the bottom or around the edges of a cage is also common in stressed gerbils who cannot satisfy their natural instinct to burrow.

Keep your gerbil happy by learning about the best environment for them, including what substrate to use and what types of enrichment they require to live a long and happy life. The more educated you are about your gerbil’s preferences, the less likely they are to bite at their cage.

Do Gerbils Bite More than Hamsters and Guinea Pigs?

Whether or not your pet will bite you is dependent on their temperament. Of the three, hamsters are more likely to bite you than guinea pigs or gerbils.

Guinea pigs are the least likely to bite due to their calm demeanor. Gerbils and hamsters can be much more temperamental. However, guinea pigs are easily overstimulated and are herd animals. Give your pet space and respect them to keep them all happy, regardless if you’re a pet owner to a gerbil, hamster, or guinea pig.

gerbils chewing a piece of cardboard

Create A Bite-Free Connection With Your Gerbil

Gerbils are fun, friendly animals that make great pets!

Remember that gerbils can bite if:

  • They’re stressed
  • Their cage is too small
  • Aren’t being handled correctly
  • Are scared of their owners

If you want to maintain a bite-free connection with your pet gerbil, follow these tips and suggestions.

Want more tips and suggestions to keep your pet gerbil happy? Stay updated with the Oddly Cute Pets blog to get the latest information and news about these furry animals.

Leave a Comment