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Male vs. Female Gerbils: Which is the Better Pet? (Key Differences)

The main difference between male and female gerbils is the size, apart from their genitals. Male gerbils are slightly bigger than females. They are also less aggressive than their female counterparts. Both sexes have similar lifespans and characteristics.

Gerbils are friendly rodents that go along well with their owners. They love affection and are easy to keep making them ideal pets for children.

The first thing prospecting gerbil owners usually want to know is the difference between the two sexes of these rodents. 

This article discusses the differences between male and female gerbils and gives you tips on how to sex them.

Male vs. Female Gerbils (Overview)

Both male and female gerbils make excellent pets. Females are more active and energetic than males. Males also tend to be smellier than females.

Male and female gerbils look almost the same, except for their size. But there are some behavioral differences between the two sexes you should know about before picking one.

When it comes to lifespan, both males and females have an average lifespan of two to four years. Female gerbils do reach maturity almost a month before males though.

Male gerbils are generally lazier than female gerbils and prefer relaxing. In contrast, females have an energetic nature. 

Another thing to note is that male gerbils are generally smellier than female gerbils due to the large scent glands present on their stomach.

Size4-5 inches3-4 inches
BitingRarelyMore than males
SmellCan smellDoesn’t smell much
Lifespan2-4 years2-4 years

Differences Between Male and Female Gerbils

The biggest difference between male and female gerbils is their size. Both sexes have similar coats, and there is no visible difference in their bodies except for their genitalia.

Gerbils are small rodents that are almost as big as mice. They have intimate dimorphism meaning there are minor physical differences between the two sexes that sets them apart [1].

At first look, it is difficult to tell the difference between males and females. They look the same and have similar coats. 

On closer inspection, you will notice the following:

  • Males are bigger and bulkier.
  • Males have a large scent gland on their stomachs.
  • Males have a scrotum and a penis, while females have a vagina.
Differences Between Male and Female Gerbils
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Are Male Gerbils Bigger Than Females?

Yes, males are bigger than females. Gerbils are social animals and live in large groups. Every group has a dominant male that gets royal treatment. 

To become the dominant male, gerbils have to fight each other. The bigger the male, the better its chance is of winning.

This leads to the big and strong gerbils successfully passing on their genes as they get to mate first. Weak gerbils don’t get to mate as often. 

Due to natural selection, males have become bigger than females. Females do not fight for a mate and hence don’t need to be big.

The average size of a male Mongolian gerbil is around 4 to 5 inches, while that of a female gerbil is around 3 to 4 inches.[2]

If you want a smaller gerbil, get a female.

Are Male Gerbils Bigger Than Females
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Sexual Differences Between Male and Female Gerbils

Another obvious difference between male and female gerbils is their sex organs. Males have a penis and a scrotum that is located beside their tail joint. Females have a vagina and ovaries.

Female gerbils tend to reach maturity quicker than males. An average Mongolian male gerbil becomes sexually mature after 90 to 100 days of being born, while the vaginal opening of females occurs after 70 to 84 days.[3]

Gerbils are monogamous by nature and do not get involved with multiple partners.

Male and Female Gerbils Behavioral Differences

Female gerbils are more aggressive than males. They are protective of their pups and can bite if they feel you are threatening them.

Behavior is one of the most important aspects of a pet. You want a pet that behaves well.

Male gerbils tend to be friendlier and more affectionate than females. They are also more active in seeking attention and enjoy spending a lot of time with their owners.

Males are calmer and more relaxed than female gerbils when you hold them in your hand.

Male vs. Female Gerbils: Biting

Male and Female Gerbils Behavioral Differences

Biting is a natural reflex of rodents, and gerbils are no exception. They do bite when they feel agitated or afraid. 

There are several other reasons why gerbils bite:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Sudden movement
  • Loud noise
  • Lack of trust

Due to their friendliness, males become used to their owners faster than females. Female gerbils are more likely to bite, especially when they have pups.

Male vs. Female Gerbils: Playing

Female gerbils are more active and energetic than males. They love exploring their cages and are more likely to try to escape. Male gerbils are calmer and love resting than running around. They are interested in exploring but are more interested in interacting with their owners.

Every gerbil has a unique personality, but if you want a more playful gerbil, get a female.

Male vs. Female Gerbils: Aggression

Male vs. Female Gerbils Aggression

Gerbils aren’t usually aggressive with their owners but do get highly aggressive with other gerbils. They fight, squeal, and box a lot. Males fight to assert dominance, but females fight due to other reasons.

Gerbils are territorial and become agitated when others try to invade their space. 

Females are more brutal than males when it comes to fighting. They attack other females and remove them from the group.

If fighting erupts inside your gerbilarium, separate the gerbils to protect them from harm.

How to Sex Gerbils

Lift the tail of your gerbil to check its anus. If the urethra and anus are close, it is a female. If they are further apart, then you have a male gerbil.

Whether you are looking to breed gerbils or prevent unwanted pregnancies, knowing the sex of your pet is important. 

Here’s how to sex a gerbil:

  • Take your gerbil out of the gerbilarium and place it on your hand.
  • Have the gerbil face away from you so you can see its back.
  • Make your gerbil comfortable by petting it gently.
  • Take your thumb and index finger and grab your gerbil’s tail.
  • Slowly lift it up to see its anus.
  • If the anus and urethra are close together, you have a female gerbil.
  • If the anus and urethra are far from each other, you have a male gerbil.
  • Male gerbils also have a small scrotum below the tail joint.

If you are unsure about whether you have a male or a female gerbil, consult a veterinarian to get your gerbil’s sex checked.

Do Male Gerbils Have Nipples?

No, male gerbils do not have nipples. It is one of the ways to sex gerbils. Nipples are hard to see beneath all the fur though, so you have to feel your way with your fingers.

Female gerbils have eight nipples in two rows of four, each between the front and rear limbs. You can easily determine the sex of a juvenile gerbil by looking at the two front nipples closest to the front limbs. 

These are the most prominent and are easily observed in juvenile gerbils due to less fur.

Do Male Gerbils Have Nipples

Male vs. Female Gerbil Lifespan

Female and male gerbils have a similar lifespan. They have short lives, and finding a significant difference between their lifespans is challenging.

Gerbils have short lives. An average gerbil only lives for around 2 to 4 years. Because of this short lifespan, gerbils grow fast.

There is no significant difference between the lifespan of male and female gerbils. Even if there is a difference, their short lifespan makes it negligible to notice.

According to a study, female gerbils are 4% more likely to survive the weaning age than males.[4]


Male and female gerbils have similar physical characteristics. Males are bigger than females due to natural selection. They have to be strong to pass on their genes. Females are more active but aggressive. You are more likely to get bitten by a female gerbil than a male.

If you want to avoid fights, avoid keeping same-sex gerbils inside a single cage. Keeping opposite-sex gerbils results in breeding. You should also keep male and female gerbils apart to avoid unwanted pregnancies.


Are Male or Female Gerbils Friendlier?

Male gerbils are generally friendlier and more affectionate than females. They crave attention and interaction with their owners once they get used to them.

Do Male or Female Gerbils Smell More?

Male gerbils are smellier than females. They have a large scent gland that they use to spread pheromones which attract female gerbils. They also use it to mark their territory and to keep other males away.

Are Male or Female Gerbils Cleaner?

There is no difference between the cleanliness of male and female gerbils. Both sexes are equally messy and poop wherever they like. They also like to burrow a lot and can disperse the bedding everywhere without proper containment.

What Is a Female Gerbil Called?

A female gerbil is called a doe, while a male gerbil is called a buck. The term doe is not limited to gerbils. Females of several other animals are also called does. 

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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