My Gerbil Won’t Stop Biting Me

I can only handle my gerbils if I wear gloves. What can I do to tame them - they bite me hard!

In all the years I have kept gerbils, I found them lovely, inquisitive creatures and had problems only when they were alarmed. They are fun to watch (especially since they are active during the day, unlike hamsters) and normally make great pets. Since they have relatively short life spans, it is important to get them used to being handled at a young age. Since even a child’s hand is as large as a gerbil, it is understandable how terrifying being approached by a human hand must be. If painless contact is to be allowed to develop, everything must be slow and gentle.

To begin with, I would suggest placing your hand in their cage for up to 15 minutes every day. You must keep your hand motionless. Hopefully your gerbil will be inquisitive and will eventually build up the courage to sniff your hand. If it appears like he may be going to bite you, do not flinch until you are certain. Gerbils have a habit of lightly gnawing fingers (very painlessly). This is an act of trust.

Once your gerbil becomes accustomed to your hand being present, you may put a peanut or sunflower seed in the palm of your hand. This will hopefully tempt him to crawl onto your hand to retrieve his treat. Do not attempt to pick him up at this point.

After your gerbil becomes content with sitting on your hand to eat the peanut, you can start to move the hand. Do not suddenly grab him or pull him out of his cage. You will become aware when your gerbil is happy to stay on your hand after he has finished his peanut, even though you are moving. You should gently and slowly move the hand out of the cage and cup your other hand behind the animal to stop him falling off. Be sure to hold him over something soft (like your bed) incase he falls or he bites.

I hope this helps. However, if it does not, you must learn how to deal with him including his bad behavior. Never pick him up by grabbing him or scooping him. You should avoid picking him up completely if he is not happy with it. If it is absolutely necessary, such as when cleaning his cage, you should always pick him up by the base of the tail, since the end of gerbils’ tails are designed to detach.