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Do Gerbils Bite? Why Your Gerbil Bites You

Yes, gerbils do bite. They bite when they feel afraid or stressed. Your gerbil can also bite you if it is not used to your scent or if you are holding it wrong, causing it pain.

Gerbils are small delicate creatures. They make great pets and are generally not considered dangerous. But only if they are treated right.

Gerbils are highly docile and do not turn aggressive without a cause. Some owners do complain about being bitten by their rodent friends though. 

So why do gerbils bite?

This article talks about why gerbils bite and give you tips to avoid getting yourself bitten by them.

Why Do Gerbils Bite?

Gerbils bite when they feel threatened or afraid. They are calm and affectionate creatures by nature but become aggressive at times. Female gerbils can also bite to protect their kits.

Gerbils are not aggressive by nature. They are loving and affectionate rodents and usually do not harm their owners. 

They do get aggressive towards each other at times though, especially female gerbils.

There are four main reasons why gerbils bite:

  • Provocation
  • Fear
  • Pain
  • Stress


Gerbils Bite Due to Provocation

Gerbils bite when they are agitated or threatened. Don’t make your gerbil do something it doesn’t want to. This can be anything like touching them when they don’t want to or making them get out of their cage.

Gerbils also bite you if you try to clean their cage. They prefer to keep things organized. If you continue to provoke it, it can bite you.


Gerbils are gentle creatures that are easily startled. If you wake up your gerbil suddenly or if you chase it around in its cage, it can become frightened and bite you as a response.

They are also spooked by a sudden noise or movement. 

If you have a new gerbil, it can be afraid of your presence. Gerbils need time to get used to their owners, which is why proper interaction and training are needed.


Gerbils Bite Due to Pain

Pain is one of the biggest reasons why gerbils bite. When a gerbil becomes injured or sick, it bites to relieve the pain. 

Gerbils get injured during gerbil fights. This is why they should be kept in separate containers if you keep multiple of them.

If you see your gerbil in pain, put on gloves before touching it to avoid getting bitten.


Like humans, gerbils can develop stress. Stress is triggered by many things:

  • New cage
  • Other pets
  • Too much touching
  • Unfamiliar faces
  • Loud sounds (such as fireworks or firetruck alarms)

If your gerbil is stressed, approach the cage carefully. Otherwise, it might bite.

Allow it to cool down before you interact with it, and avoid letting other pets get close to the cage, as other pets can make them anxious.

How to Stop Your Gerbil From Biting You

To stop your gerbil from biting you, make sure it’s comfortable around you. It should be used to your scent. Use positive reinforcements to train it and interact with it on a daily basis.

The best way to stop your gerbil from biting is to train it. New gerbils bite their owners out of fear of uncertainty. 

Gerbils can be trained to be calm around their owners. There are several ways to do this.

Positive Reinforcement

Gerbils Positive Reinforcement

The best and the most effective method to train your gerbil is via positive reinforcements. Don’t punish your gerbil when it does something wrong; instead, reward it when it does something right. 

Studies have shown that positive reinforcements are better than negative ones in training a pet.[1]

There are several foods gerbils can eat which you can give them as treats. Give your gerbil a treat before you pick it up and another one if it doesn’t bite you. 

This helps gerbils get comfortable with the human touch.

Do not give too many treats. Gerbil can quickly become obese, which is dangerous.

Hold Them Properly

Gerbils are sensitive and fragile rodents that are easily injured. 

Many gerbil owners are unaware of how to hold their gerbils. Improper holding causes your gerbil to become uncomfortable, leading to biting.

New owners often grab their gerbils too tight due to fear of dropping them. If your gerbil is held too tight, it might think it’s getting attacked, leading to biting. 

The right way to hold a gerbil is by holding them flat on your palm and slightly cupping your fingers.

Gerbils can see the distance from the ground and usually don’t jump out of their owners’ hands.

Train Your Gerbil to Eat From Your Hand

Train Your Gerbil to Eat From Your Hand

Feed your gerbil from your hand daily. This allows them to become used to your scent and recognize it. Keep on feeding your gerbil from your hand till you earn its trust.

You can then try to hold them and feed them snacks in your hand.

Hold Them Daily

Daily interactions help speed up the taming process. Once your gerbil is comfortable enough to eat from your hand, pick it up. Start moving it from one hand to another, and try not to make any sudden moves.

If your gerbil remains calm, reward it with a treat. Do this daily. Your gerbil will learn to appreciate its owner and stop biting you.

How Often Do Gerbils Bite?

Gerbils rarely bite. They are calm and affectionate creatures. They bite in defense if they feel agitated.

Gerbils are peaceful rodents and do not bite as much as rats and mice. They only bite when they have a good reason to protect themselves.

Anything that makes them feel vulnerable or uncomfortable can spark a bite. If you dig your hand inside their burrow, they can bite out of fear. 

Gerbils also bite when they are startled. If you touch your gerbil suddenly, it can leave you with a bloodied finger in reflex.

How Often Do Gerbils Bite

Are Gerbil Bites Dangerous?

Gerbils generally don’t carry diseases that can affect humans, but some people can get anaphylaxis from their bites.[2] 

They also have sharp teeth which can easily nip off your skin.

A recent study did show that gerbils were involved in spreading the Black Death in the 14th century.[3]

How Strong Is a Gerbil Bite?

Gerbils’ bites can be painful. If your gerbil bit you and there isn’t any blood, you have nothing to worry about. Most of the time, gerbils bite fiercely and tear the skin. This can cause lasting pain for days.

If your gerbil latched onto your skin during a bite, try not to make sudden movements. Sudden pulling leads to an even bigger tear which can be dangerous.        


Gerbils are docile rodents that rarely bite. They remain calm but bite in defense. You can train your gerbil to stop biting by making it used to your scent.

Gerbil bite can be painful and lead to some blood. They do not usually carry any human diseases, so their bites are not dangerous. You should know that regardless of what you do, some gerbils do not stop biting.


Why Do Gerbils Bite Their Cage?

Gerbils bite their cage due to dental issues. Their teeth grow indefinitely and need to be trimmed regularly to maintain a safe length. They bite their cage and bedding to file their teeth naturally.

Do Gerbils Bite Each Other?

Yes, gerbils often bite each other during fights. Female gerbils are more likely to bite others than males due to the protectiveness of their litter. You should separate fighting gerbils before any of them gets bloodied.

About Misfit Animals Staff

The Misfit Animals staff consists of animal lovers, pet enthusiasts, veterinarians, zoologists, and other animal experts. Our goal is to provide people with information on proper animal care.

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