How to Identify and Help Depressed Gerbils

Updated on July 26, 2019
Cam Anju profile image

Cam has kept gerbils for several years and likes to supplement her pets' diets with the occasional healthy treat.

Learn some warning signs of depression in a gerbil and how you can help your furry friend feel better.
Learn some warning signs of depression in a gerbil and how you can help your furry friend feel better. | Source

My Gerbil Is Depressed, What Do I Do?

Do you have a gerbil that seems depressed? Depression is not only common among people these days but also can apply to animals/pets, including gerbils.

Let me first state that having a depressed gerbil does NOT make you a bad owner, and there are easy fixes for your gerbil's depression. If you suspect your gerbil is depressed but are unsure, I will also list some warning signs of depression in a gerbil.

Is My Gerbil Depressed? I Can't Tell

If you are unsure if your gerbil is depressed, then this part is for you. Gerbils are overall social animals, and they love to be out and about, running around. Oftentimes, once they're tamed, they love to handled by people.

However, just because your gerbil doesn't run around their cage, love people, love being held and other activities like that doesn't mean that your gerbil is depressed. It could mean that the cage is in the wrong place or that your gerbil is not yet tamed or used to you.

Signs of Depression

Here are some signs that your gerbil may be depressed or verging on depression:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Constantly laying down/doesn't move often
  • Doesn't drink a least once a day
  • Will not care if picked up and held
  • Is limp and doesn't start getting excited/move a lot when held.

It is normal and natural for gerbils to start moving and run around when being held. They are excited; this doesn't always mean they are trying to get away. If they don't move—if your gerbil sits perfectly still or lies down—they are most likely either depressed or sick.

Signs of Sickness

Sickness could include symptoms like:

  • Excessive sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Excessive scratching
  • Lack of appetite
  • Loss of weight
  • Bare patches where there should be fur
  • Small bugs in the fur
  • Not bathing
  • Looking ragged

For things like this, I suggest either Googling your gerbil's symptoms or taking your gerbil to a veterinarian.

So, My Gerbil Is Depressed, What Do I Do?

If you have a depressed gerbil, then a few things should fix the gerbil's depression quite easily, actually! So there's really no need to fret over it.

While I would like to tell you what to do, I can't, because I don't know your gerbils, how you care for them, or what the gerbil's personality is like. However, I can give you some of the most common reasons a gerbil can become depressed and how to fix them.

Gerbils like to be held, like to be in an active environment, and like to have activities for them to participate in! Lack of entertainment is the most common reason for gerbil depression. If the gerbil is in an empty cage, in a closed off room, or never gets human interaction, the gerbil will often become depressed.

Gerbils, being social animals, love interaction, and they also love to try new things and keep themselves busy. A combo of gerbil toys, paper boxes, paper tubes, human interaction, good placement for a gerbil cage, and being held will help fix this type of depression!

Easy Toy Choices

For easy gerbil toys, a couple of suggestions are:

  • Paper towel tubes
  • TP tubes
  • Cereal boxes
  • Shredded paper—newspaper, white paper, and brown paper are all fun!

Also things like bird perches (for some gerbils), hide-outs, edible logs, chew sticks, and cleaned sticks from outside to climb on are all great toys.

Handling Gerbils

Now about handling gerbils: They love it! However, if the gerbil bites, scratches excessively, etc., then the gerbil may not be tamed. Most are not when you get them from a pet store. I can give you some basics on taming a gerbil, but that's another article!

  • Talk to them through the cage
  • Hold them once a day for 10–15 minutes (with a towel if they bite)
  • Make sure you have good cage placement.

My Gerbil Is Always Hiding, Does That Mean It's Depressed?

Some gerbils just do not have a very social personality, and they like to hide. This doesn't mean they are depressed. It is most likely the gerbil had a traumatic experience with humans when it was young or some such thing. While I would recommended at least trying the taming process, it doesn't always work, so don't beat yourself up about it.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


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    • profile image


      4 months ago

      This was very helpful gerbil lost his brother just yesterday and he had been so sad.

    • profile image


      9 months ago

      i am doing a speach and this was great information

    • profile image

      Teenaged girl 

      2 years ago

      Just yesterday my gerbils sister died and my gerbil is not used to not having her sisters company around while I'm at school, she looks depressed. I don't know if these techniques will work, do you have anymore recommendations or tactics I could use

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Omg! Thank you so much! I'm a kid and I put my Gerbil in my mom's room because it was bitting it's hampter wheel (Don't know if that's normal...) anyways, I put her in my mom's room and ever since I put her in there she dug a hole in the hamster bedding and she always hides in there now. I love her so much and it just made me sad to see her so sad too so I looked this up in my free time and you said that the cage could be in the wrong place. SO, I took her back into my room and now she's happier than ever. I guess she's used to my room and I will do anything for her as long as she is happy. Even if that means listening to her bitting her hamster wheel. Thank you so much!

    • marlies vaz nunes profile image

      Marlies Vaz Nunes 

      4 years ago from Amsterdam, the Netherlands

      Nice hub, enjoyed it!


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