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Can Gerbils Get Jealous?

Jealousy is an emotion in humans which comes about when a person feels resentment or hostility towards another person because of something they have that they themselves don’t have.

It can also be towards a person or thing that threatens a relationship or connection with another person.

For human beings to experience jealousy, it requires the cognitive ability that humans naturally have to recognize the importance of a relationship or value of a thing to identify a threat to have it in order to feel this emotion.

But is this the same as for animals and also for gerbils? Can gerbils get jealous?

In this article, we’ll be going over whether gerbils get jealous and what you can do to make sure that your gerbils are living happy and content lives.

Can Gerbils Get Jealous? 

As you may know, gerbils are fairly social animals and do best when they have a buddy to live with. Getting your gerbil a companion of the same gender will help them feel more content and less lonely. 

Even if you make sure to play with your gerbil a lot, they’ll still be unhappy if they don’t have another member of their species to play with regularly.

However, despite the fact that they do better if they have a friend, gerbils tend to get jealous of each other, especially if they feel that their friend is receiving more attention than them. Often, providing your gerbils with more resources to use can stop them from squabbling.

Jealousy in Animals

Research studies have been conducted on animal behavior and their emotional capacity to investigate whether they also feel emotions. 

Animal psychology has determined that animals do have feelings of fear, panic, joy, and surprise. However, research continues to investigate whether they do experience other complex emotions that we have such as jealousy.

A research study conducted by the University of California, San Diego, investigated whether dogs also feel jealous. The study revealed that dogs do feel a level of jealousy based on their behavior when their relationship with their owner is threatened with another object or animal.

University of California Research

Their behavior becomes erratic where they display jealousy-like mannerisms such as barking, going in between the owner and the object that is receiving more attention, or whining a lot more.

Another similar study also proved that primates, that is, monkeys also experience this when their mates interact with other strange animals which are perceived as a threat that will interfere with their current connection with their mates. 

Non-primates such as cats, horses, and birds have also been studied and documented as having jealousy tendencies.

The jealousy-like behaviors in animals may come in different forms such as aggression, pushy behavior, actions to get the attention of their owners, or fighting with other pets. 

Scientists in animal behavior are still continuing similar studies to unravel if this deeper emotional capacity is also exhibited by other animals. 

This is in an effort to make a distinction if pets have complex emotions and experience has the same level and intensity as us such as jealousy or if it is just a competitive reaction of animals where an animal wants resources that another animal.

Why Do Gerbils Get Jealous?

The thing about gerbils is that they’re very resource-oriented, and thus it’s a big deal for them to have enough food, water, and space to satisfy their needs. If they feel like their friend has access to more of these resources than them or that their friend is encroaching on their territory, they can get pretty testy.

Gerbils will also be more prone to this type of behavior if they’re stressed or bored. This can happen if you don’t have enough toys for your gerbils to use, or if you’re keeping them in an enclosure that is too small for them. 

If you’re trying to determine whether your gerbil is just jealous of the attention that their friend is getting or if there’s another explanation behind their behavior, you should take note of whether this behavior happens only when you’re around or not.

To that end, you might want to set up a motion-activated camera and film your gerbils for a while. If you see them going at each other when you’re not around, it’s more likely that they simply don’t have enough space or that they’re just an incompatible pair. 

How Can I Make My Gerbils Happy?

So, how can you ensure that your gerbils are content with each other’s company and aren’t pestering each other over a case of perceived unfairness? There are a few things you can do in this regard.

Bigger is always better when it comes to gerbil enclosures, and if you’re keeping two gerbils then you will need at the absolute minimum a 20-gallon tank. 

This will give them enough space to enjoy and it will also minimize the squabbles between them.

Gerbils also love to burrow, so make sure there’s a nice thick level of bedding at the bottom of the tank; 6 inches of bedding is the minimum you should use. Again, the more bedding you have, the better. 

You can prevent your gerbils from fighting over resources by giving them enough so that they don’t feel like they need to compete.

Consider installing a second water bottle if you currently only have one, and also consider increasing the size of their food dish or even adding another similarly-sized one.


Animal Behaviorists are still conducting continuous studies to determine the emotional capacity of animals.

The current studies have shown that some animals do exhibit similar emotions as humans and ongoing studies are investigating this in other animals.

Jealousy in gerbils translates to an act of aggression towards their cagemate when attention and resources are perceived as not equally provided.

To avoid disputes between your gerbils over this, ensure you provide enough resources for them so that they do not have to have conflict because of this.