Gerbils are known for being pretty energetic little animals; they love exploring, chewing on things, and just being active in general.
Some gerbil owners also often see their gerbils get the zoomies.
However, if it seems like one of your gerbils is perhaps a bit TOO energetic, you may be wondering if there’s another issue at play. Is it possible that your fuzzy little friend has some kind of gerbil ADHD?
In this article, we’ll be discussing whether gerbils get ADHD, why they might be so hyperactive and the steps you can take to try and calm them down.
Can Gerbils Get ADHD?
In short, no; while there hasn’t been any kind of studies done on this on gerbils, there’s nothing to suggest that gerbils can get ADHD as such. However, if your gerbil seems way more hyper than normal, there is a reason behind this, which is linked to stress.
Table of Contents
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a human behavioral condition. The condition presents as hyperactivity, impulsiveness, distractibility, an inability to stay still, and a short attention span. It is commonly diagnosed in childhood.
The big question is whether this behavioral condition is shared by humans and gerbils as well as other animals.
ADHD in Animals
There is research evidence that shows some animals exhibit ADHD traits. Some of these animals have been used to study the condition for a better understanding of it and treatment research.
The core traits of ADHD that are used for diagnosis in humans include hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, and short attention spans. Animals that are used in ADHD research or diagnosis also have to qualify for these behavioral traits.
For an animal to also be used as a model for ADHD research they have to qualify as a valid animal model for ADHD primarily by mimicking the primary behavioral characteristics of ADHD as well as having the neurological and genetic predisposition of ADHD as found in humans.
SHR have been an excellent model for ADHD research and a variety of human conditions. This is because spontaneously hyperactive rats have the same chemical markers similar to human ADHD sufferers and exhibit some of the core behavioral traits of the condition and criteria for ADHD.
Although gerbils are in the same family as rats, that is, rodents, currently rats have met the criteria for being used as ADHD as models and there is no study yet that has linked this condition to gerbils.
Is there a way to be sure that your gerbil has ADHD or not?
Gerbils are naturally active animals that love to play and move around in their environment. This does not automatically or sufficiently categorize them as having ADHD.
Testing whether a gerbil has ADHD can be done medically by investigating whether they have the same characteristics as a human ADHD and response to treatment.
This would include the administration of a stimulant to reduce the symptoms of ADHD to see their response to the medication.
A positive response to this medication or calming down of the ADHD behavior would indicate a similar response that human sufferers have to the stimulant.
This is supported by research that has demonstrated this symptom and treatment association as a test for ADHD in some animals that have been tested such as dogs and rats.
So Why Is My Gerbil So Hyper?
If your gerbil seems to be running around non-stop, constantly chewing on things, making a lot of noise, and just generally acting antsy, this is most likely a sign that your gerbil is stressed about something.
There are a few reasons why your gerbil might be feeling this stress:
Lack of enough space
The first one to consider is whether your gerbil has enough space. The same can also occur if your gerbil simply doesn’t have enough space to move around in.
Gerbils also love to burrow, and not having enough bedding at the bottom of their tank to burrow in can have a negative effect on their behavior.
Isolated and lonely gerbil
If you just have one gerbil, the problem could also be that your gerbil is feeling lonely. Gerbils are fairly social animals, and they enjoy having a friend to play with.
When getting a gerbil, it’s always a better idea to get a pair of them at once.
Your gerbil might also be stressed because of the environment they’re in. Gerbils often don’t do well in the presence of larger animals like cats or dogs, so if you have other pets in your home you may want to make sure that they’re thoroughly separated from your gerbil.
This environment is unsettling for them because they perceive other pets as a threat to their safety which causes stress and hyperactivity.
Gerbils are also sensitive to ultrasonic (high-frequency) noises. Computers, TVs, vacuum cleaners, and even running water all generate ultrasonic noises, so make sure your gerbil isn’t being kept anywhere near these devices.
While gerbils aren’t exactly smart, they do get bored pretty easily, and if they get too bored it can affect their mental state.
Gerbils require activity to entertain themselves and this is in the form of toys in their enclosure to keep them occupied as well as a cage mate.
Without these elements, they become bored and stressed.
How Do I Calm Down My Gerbil?
If you suspect that your gerbil is stressed, here are some things you can do to try and help them:
First, make sure that your gerbil has enough space in their tank to run around in, as well as lots of opportunities for burrowing and hiding.
Your gerbil needs at the absolute minimum a 20-gallon tank, but bigger is always better if you have more than two gerbils.
You should also have a minimum of 6 inches of bedding to give them enough space to burrow in (although 8-10 inches is way better).
Introduce hideout houses and structures
Include some decorative logs and other such items in your tank to give your gerbil plenty of places to hide.
This allows your gerbil to have spaces within their cage that they can retreat to either sleep or play.
Peaceful home environment
To prevent gerbil hyperactivity due to stress, make the home environment peaceful and less disruptive for your gerbil.
This means placing their cage in a room that is away from noise whose sources can be from machines in the home such as the TV, computers, children, or pets.
Your gerbil will be more at ease and not hyperactive.
Accessories for enrichment
You should also provide your gerbil with plenty of accessories to help keep them occupied.
Adding a running wheel to their tank is always good, and providing them with tunnels to run through and toys to chew on will ensure that your gerbil gets enough stimulation during the day.
Pair Your Gerbil
Gerbils are social animals and thrive when they are with other gerbils. A single and lonely gerbil is more susceptible to stress than a gerbil that is paired up or in a group.
Get a partner for your gerbil, preferably one of the same gender. Make sure you introduce them properly to prevent fighting.
Scientists continue to uncover more information on ADHD particularly to learn more about the behavioral disorder to provide better treatment.
Studies on rats and dogs have shown these animals have ADHD characteristics. Research continues around this subject.
A hyperactive gerbil can be a result of other underlying causes such as stress. By understanding the underlying factors that stress and affect your gerbil’s behavior, you can implement solutions to help calm them down.
Also, it is best to always consult your veterinarian to examine your gerbil to rule out any underlying illnesses as well as obtain individual medical advice regarding your gerbil’s behavior.