Like humans, gerbils are social creatures. This means that they have developed a wide range of vocalizations to communicate with one another. Since they tend to develop close bonds with their human owners, they may use those vocalizations to talk to you as well.
The sound a gerbil makes is usually an indicator of how they are feeling at that particular moment or a response to stimuli in their environment. Therefore, in addition to vocalizations, also observe their body language and actions to get a clearer picture of what your gerbil is trying to communicate. Moreover, the age and sex of a gerbil play a major role in the type of sounds these animals make.
Understanding the different sounds these gerbils make will allow you to have a better response and, thus, a closer bond with your pet. Here are several of the most common sounds gerbils make, as well as their meanings.
The 5 Gerbil Sounds & Their Meaning
Chirping is the most common sound that gerbils make. It is the sound that you are accustomed to your pet making. Chirping, at its rawest, is the sound they make when they want attention. As such, gerbils start chirping from an early age to get their mom’s attention. It is typically high-pitched but can vary in volume, ranging from loud to quiet. They may also make this sound only once or successively.
While chirping is typically associated with young gerbils, they also tend to do it in adulthood, though not as frequently. The nature of the chirping sound can vary depending on the context. For example, playful chirping will sound different from that made when fighting. Similarly, a young gerbil calling out for its mother will not sound the same as an adult that needs attention.
The Meaning of Gerbil Chirps
As mentioned, these little animals typically chirp when they want attention. Therefore, it means that a gerbil must not only trust you but also be fond of you for them to make chirping noises at you. When looking for your attention, a gerbil might be interested in one of the following things:
Regardless of the reason, you can almost always be certain that a gerbil is in a positive mood whenever they chirp.
Squeaking is another common sound that gerbils make. Squeaking is a high-pitched sound that can frighten you if it catches you off guard. As is the case with chirping, gerbils make either one squeak or a series of them, depending on why they are doing so.
The Meaning of Gerbil Squeaks
A squeak can mean many things, with most of them not being positive. You can try to deduce the severity of the situation using the following pointers:
As mentioned, context is extremely important when it comes to gerbil communication. If you have more than one gerbil, make sure that you understand their relationship. If they get along, squeaking probably means they are playing. If they do not like each other too much, they are most likely fighting.
The following is a breakdown of the scenarios that are most likely happening when gerbils squeak:
If you are keeping two males in the same cage, a fight is bound to happen sooner or later. There is a strict hierarchy in a gerbil community. This means that there always has to be an undisputed leader, and males will often challenge each other for that position.
However, there are steps involved before they engage in a full-out battle. They typically test each other through play fighting. While it can be difficult to differentiate between actual fighting and play fighting, the main thing to look out for is biting.
If they are boxing and wrestling without biting, they are most likely play fighting. Nevertheless, you will need to keep a close eye on the situation so that you can stop them from taking it to the next level.
Gerbil squeaks also tend to be much louder and more frequent when they are fighting.
Animals make high-pitched sounds when they are hurt. A sharp squeak from a gerbil, therefore, most likely means that the rodent is hurt. If your pet makes that sound when you pick it up, it means that you have probably held them too tight.
However, there is a chance that you might not be holding them too tight; rather, they are either ill or injured.
The point to take home when it comes to squeaks is urgency. If it is urgent, it means that your gerbil is in a lot of pain and needs help.
Talk Between Gerbils
Like humans, gerbils also do not need to have a reason for them to talk to each other, sometimes through squeaks. It could be for the simple reason that they are enjoying their food together while squeaking away at each other. This is one of those cases where you will never know what they are talking about, only that they seem to be okay with each other.
Gerbils also talk to each other when adults are addressing the younger ones. As mentioned, gerbils are social creatures, meaning they have to communicate a lot with one another. That communication begins while they are infants.
The sounds made between babies and their parents are typically too high-pitched for us to perceive. However, you might hear some squeaks occasionally, and they usually take a back and forth format between the adults and the litter. For example, the cubs could simply be asking if their parents are around, and then the adults respond.
Such communication is crucial among gerbils in the wild, as it allows them to keep track of each other.
Gerbils squeak when excited. It could be both positive and negative. For example, if your pet sees you after a couple of hours, they may squeak out of joy and start jumping up in an attempt to reach you. This is one of the most heartwarming moments for gerbil owners.
However, if the squeak is loud and urgent, it likely means that they are in a frightful situation. For example, an unknown person or pet might have just entered the room.
Purring is a sound that gerbils make when they are happy. Therefore, if you hear your pet making this sound, you can rest easy knowing that they are in a good mood.
The purr of a gerbil is a low rumble, which at times gets so low that it can go unnoticed. Additionally, a gerbil’s purr is quite different from that of a cat. Unlike cats, gerbils do not use their voice box to make this sound; they instead tap and grind their teeth to make the sound. This is why you will notice movement around the jaw area of a gerbil whenever it purrs. As a result, some people describe this sound as teeth chattering.
In addition to making a rumbly sound, gerbils also vibrate while purring, thanks to their teeth tapping together. In fact, it is these vibrations that make the entire sound to be described as purring since it sounds like that of a cat.
The Meaning of Purring in Gerbils
As mentioned, gerbils purr when they are happy and content. While they will sometimes purr when in the company of their siblings or mates, they mostly do it when you hold them. Show a content gerbil some affection, and they will purr like there is no tomorrow.
However, it is rather unfortunate that gerbils rarely purr. It only occurs when the animal is exceptionally comfortable, happy, and content. This means that there must be a strong bond between you and your pet.
- Related Read: How Much Does It Cost to Own a Gerbil?
Also known as foot thumping, gerbils pound their hind feet against the floor to create a rhythmic sound, which can be either slow or fast. You will also be amazed at how loud the thumps can get considering how tiny gerbils are. They can do this individually or as a pack.
The Meaning of Foot Thumps
The most common reason for foot thumps is to display dominance. As such, a larger gerbil might try to intimidate a smaller one into submission simply by making loud thumps.
Gerbils also thump their feet when looking to mate. Again, it is a display of dominance and virility, as dominant males have louder thumps.
Gerbils may also use thumping as a defense mechanism, as it is the most aggressive sound they can make.
Unlike other vocalizations on this list, clicking does not indicate a gerbil’s mood. Instead, it is a sign that your pet is sick. Gerbils click when they have a respiratory infection. This happens as the animal breathes in and out.
In addition to clicking, look out for related signs such as wheezing breath, runny nose, watery eyes, coughing and sneezing, and a lack of appetite. If you notice these signs, take them to the vet.
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As mentioned, the meaning of gerbil vocalizations depends on the context. As such, understanding their mannerisms will allow you to discern the meaning of their vocalizations more effectively. Some of the behaviors to look out for when your gerbil is being vocal include:
You might have noticed that your gerbil tends to rub their belly on objects in their enclosure. Belly rubbing is one of the things gerbils do to mark their territory. Therefore, if you notice this behavior, pay close attention to what happens next, as one of your gerbils might be letting you know who the boss is.
- Related Read: Where Do Gerbils Like to Be Petted?
Unlike belly rubbing, nose rubbing is not a hostile behavior. Gerbils nose rub members of their clan as a greeting or as a way of showing affection. They do this with their humans too. Therefore, if you notice your gerbil reaching out for your nose, engage them since they want to bond with you.
Like cats, gerbils also wink as a way of showing affection, or recognition in the very least. Winking, therefore, is a good sign. Show your appreciation by winking back.
Since they are rodents, gerbils must gnaw or constantly chew to keep their teeth healthy. This is why you are advised to provide your pet gerbil with chew toys, as they tend to be content when gnawing on stuff.
Gerbils tend to lick stuff when they are thirsty. Therefore, make sure that they always have a bowl of clean water at all times to prevent this behavior.
How to Make Your Gerbil Happy
The objective behind discerning the various gerbil vocalizations is to allow you to understand your pet so you can make them happier. In addition to understanding gerbil talk, doing the following will ensure that your pet is always happy.
A Nice Cage
The majority of your gerbil’s lifetime will be spent in their enclosure. As such, you may as well make it the best enclosure there is. Since it is best to keep gerbils in groups, ensure that the cage has more than 10 gallons of space to avoid congestion.
However, you will need to do more. Ensure that they are not around ultrasound sources, such as computers and TVs, as they are extremely sensitive. Most importantly, make sure that their enclosure is not in a room where your dogs or cats have access, as gerbils suffer tremendous stress when natural-born predators are around them.
Gerbils are social animals. Think about it. How would you feel if you were alone all the time? Terrible, right? The same goes for gerbils. In the wild, these critters live in clans. As such, there is no such thing as a happy single-living gerbil. Therefore, ensure that you keep gerbils in groups of at least two individuals.
Food & Water
While this might seem obvious, it is worth repeating. Keep your gerbil happy by feeding them dry food at least twice a day while ensuring that they have access to fresh water at all times.
In the wild, gerbils make burrows so they can have safe places to hide from predators. Since burrowing is an instinct that is deeply ingrained in gerbils, allow them an avenue to exercise those instincts. The best way of going about it is by providing them with dense bedding so they can create tunnels in it.
Learning the different gerbil vocalizations allows you to understand your pet better. However, always consider context, as gerbils can make all of the above sounds when they are happy or agitated. But in whatever circumstance, clicking is a sign that your pet is not breathing properly due to a respiratory infection.
Featured Image Credit: Etouale, Pixabay