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SOCIALIZING YOUR GERBIL

Your gerbil is probably one of the most social pets around. This furry, inquisitive, docile and playful pet will crave the companionship of another gerbil. In fact, in the wild, gerbils live in communities where they play, groom, sleep and cuddle with other gerbils.

Gerbil Playmates

When choosing gerbils for playmates, pick two of the same sex, from the same litter, around 5 to 6 weeks of age. Since gerbils tend to be territorial, picking from the same litter reduces the chances of aggressive behavior, since they're already familiar with each other's scent and consider the other gerbil as family.

Gerbils can breed at any time of the year, although the most activity will occur during the summer months. A female gerbil goes into heat every four to ten days until she's 15 to 20 months old. In her breeding life, she can produce up to ten litters, with an average litter size of five pups. Normal pregnancy lasts for 24 to 26 days.

It's not recommended that you place two gerbils over 10 weeks old together because they may be territorial and may fight. If your gerbil is under 10 weeks old, you can introduce a younger gerbil (around 5 to 6 weeks old) to him. At this early age, the two will not yet have learned how to be territorial, and you'll have a good chance of them getting along. When you bring a new gerbil home, quarantine him for a few days. He should be alert, curious and show lots of energy.

It's best to introduce him to your pet by using the split cage method. Divide their home into two areas and put each gerbil in his own area so the two gerbils can see and smell each other but can't bite or scratch one another. Use a fine wire mesh divider, a cage specially made with a partition or a small cage inside a larger cage. Every few hours, swap the gerbils to the other side of the divider so their scent will be in both sides of the cage.

After about three days, remove the divider. They should feel comfortable with each other at this point. They will recognize their own home as well as their roommate's scent and should settle in quite nicely together. If they start to fight, start the process over again. Always wear gloves when attempting to separate fighting gerbils to safeguard yourself from possible biting.

If your gerbils still continue to fight, you may have to permanently separate them. Chances are they'll never get along because of their territorial reactions.

Bonding With Your Gerbil

You will certainly want to bond with your pet as quickly as possible. Let him settle into his surroundings for a few days before beginning your introduction.

Remember, gerbils make terrific pets and rarely bite. Your gerbil will be very curious, which will make your introduction even simpler.

First, extend your hand in the form of a fist into the cage. Let your gerbil sniff it a few times. Next, place your hand in the cage, palm outstretched, with a tasty morsel, like a raisin or small piece of cheese, in it. Speak in a soothing voice and let him come and get the treat from your hand. By doing this, he'll associate your scent with something good and will soon come to you with no coaxing.

When your gerbil walks onto your hand, cup your hand and gently scoop him up from the side or from underneath. Keep your hand gently cupped around him to prevent him from escaping and falling, possibly injuring himself. You can now rub his back, scratch behind his ears or place him in your shirt pocket for a ride. Always speak to your pet in a soothing voice. Your gerbil is very sociable, and he'll express this social behavior to you and to his roommates.

Some Social Behavior Traits and Characteristics

Kissing: This is a form of greeting another gerbil. He may sometimes try to greet your nose this way.

Washing: It means that he's happy.

Jumping with all feet in the air: This shows excitement.

Sitting straight up with his front paws together, looking as if he's frozen: This indicates he's frightened.

Thumping his back feet on the floor: He's communicating danger or sexual excitement.

Looking relaxed, sniffing the air, moving his head back and forth: He's curious.

Lying on his back, offering his throat to another gerbil: He's saying, "Groom me."

Pushing another gerbil or your hand away with his head: He's saying, "I want to be left alone."

Your two gerbils look as if they're boxing with their feet: They're playing.

Your two gerbils push each other with their heads and start boxing with their feet: You may have a fight on your hands.

Winking: This may be a sign of pleasure or gratitude. Your gerbil will sometimes do this when he gets a treat. Try blinking at your gerbil and you might get a wink back.

Purring: You won't hear the actual sound, but you'll feel the vibration while he's in your hand. This means he's comfortable.

Licking his cage: It usually means he's thirsty.

As you live and play with your gerbil, you'll find joy in watching these activities. You might even discover some new ones of your own. As you watch your gerbil play and grow, you'll find him to be enjoyable, entertaining and educational. Your gerbil is a wonderful pet to love and care for, and he'll express his love back to you and his roommate in many endearing ways.