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Why Does My Gerbil Not Like Being Held? (Explained For Beginners)

Even though you may want to hold your gerbil as an act of love and connection with them, there are times a gerbil may not want to be held.

They either hide when you are around or squirm in your hands to get away from you when you hold them.

What could be the problem?

Let’s dive in to know the reasons why and how to get your gerbil to let you hold them.

Here’s Why Your Gerbil Does Not Like Being Held

A Gerbil may not like being held because of several reasons including:

  • Being new in a new unfamiliar environment causes stress and fear
  • They do not trust you yet 
  • Mishandling and mistreatment from a previous owner built fear in them 
  • They see you as a predator because of size differences between you and them 

Do Gerbils Like To Be Held?

Most gerbils like to be held however this depends on an individual gerbil because some do not enjoy being held or even being close to the owner. If a gerbil does not trust you they will not want to be held or play with you. They first have to adjust to being around you and be comfortable with you. 

There are methods to implement to build trust with their gerbil and also to get them to like being held. 

However, if after implementing these interventions your gerbil still does not want to be held, it is best to interact with them how they want by giving them space and not forcing them.

Forcing them will just make them aggressive, hide when they see you and not interact with you.

If a gerbil does not trust you, they will not like being held therefore you need to build trust with them.

How Do You Get A Gerbil To Let You Hold It?

Slowly introduce yourself

When you bring a new gerbil home, it is natural that they will be fearful of you because of a lack of trust and familiarity. A gerbil needs to get used to you and be comfortable around you.

Therefore it is important to slowly introduce yourself to them as someone they can trust and bond with. Do not rush the process by holding them when they do not want to be held.

Start by being close to them by sitting next to them while they are still in their cage. This will allow your gerbil to familiarize with you slowly and get used to you.

You can talk to them softly while controlling your voice so that it is not loud to frighten them. 

When your gerbil does not hide away in their cage when you are with them, this means they have started getting used to your presence.

This is the time to introduce your hand into the cage for them to explore you by letting them sniff you. Do not carry them yet, allow them to know your scent by sniffing you, and sometimes they might lick you. 

Remember to wash your hands first before inserting your hands into their cage. 

Practice proper handling

Holding a gerbil requires care so that you avoid injuring them. If your gerbil dislikes the way you hold them, they will not like being held. They will instead either hide when you approach them, scratch, or bite when you hold them.

The best way to pick them up is with a cupped palm of your hand and not squeezing them. 

Also never pick your gerbil by the tail which is painful to them.

If they experienced mishandling from their previous owner, they may still be frightened so it will take time for them to adjust to you and accept you.

Take time in nurturing them and when they do feel comfortable around you, handle them with care for them to fully trust you.

Try not to cause fear

Gerbils are also smaller than humans and from their perspective, every large animal is a threat and they run away to protect themselves. This is normal because, in their natural habitat in the wild, that is how they coexist with other animals. 

The best way to overcome this and not be seen as a threat is to show them that you are not dangerous by how you treat them and conduct yourself around them.

This can be done by handling them properly, not approaching the cage from above, and limiting loud noises when around them from your movement, family members, or pets. 

Don’t do anything that will frighten or scare them, which also causes stress.

Limit handling time

Although gerbils like to be held, they also don’t like being held for a prolonged period. They may start being restless and uneasy.

Hold your gerbil for a limited period of time. For a start, 10 to 15 minutes is an appropriate time. 

You can read here on why a gerbil may pee your hand which explains the consequences of prolonged handling of a gerbil.

Do not have a stressful environment 

A very anxious and stressed-out gerbil will not want to be held. Stress can be triggered by loud noises from their environment, from you, your pets, or machines.

Create a stress-free environment for your gerbil for them to be calm and be able to comfortably interact with you.

Pair your gerbil

A single gerbil is likely to be more stressed out and may take a long time to get used to you as well as allow you to hold it. They will often hide and run away from you. 

Gerbils are social animals and when they are together, they become less stressed compared to single gerbils.

Pet gerbils that are less stressed respond well to your attempts to bond with them by holding them. If you have one gerbil, pair them with a partner of the opposite gender to have them happy and thriving.

Bond to create trust

You can bond with your gerbil with simple actions to allow them to trust you more and let you hold them.

This can be done by letting them familiarise themselves with your scent by leaving a piece of your cloth next to their cage. Do not place the piece of cloth inside the cage.

Your gerbil will smell your scent from the cloth and familiarize you with it. They will recognize your scent when you are with them and over time be comfortable being around you.

Sit next to their enclosure and talk to them so that they get used to your voice. They will get too used to your presence and be less frightened of you. 

Also, let them see you frequently by being in the room where their enclosure is. Do this without holding them so that they get used to you.

Be patient

Patience is important in this process to be able to get to the point where your gerbil is comfortable with you and allows you to hold them.

New gerbils particularly need time to trust you and get used to their new home. Give your new gerbil some time to get used to you and your new home by limiting interaction.

Be patient as they take their time to adjust to their new surroundings. During this time continue feeding and taking care of them.

How Long Does It Take For a Gerbil to Get Used to You?

It takes young gerbils about 2 weeks to get used to you while older gerbils take a bit longer about 2 months for them to get used to you.

Do gerbils get attached to their owners?

Yes, gerbils do get attached to their owners after getting used to them which means they trust their owners, accept them, and are comfortable being around them.

Trust builds over time and a gerbil finally enjoys interacting with its owners.


Generally, gerbils like to be held however, when experiencing displeasure of being held from your gerbil, this could mean there is something amiss.

Several factors can cause a gerbil not to want to be held. By understanding these factors, you can use the right method to rectify this and have your gerbil interact with you more.

Now you know what can contribute to your gerbil not liking being held and what you can do to get them to let you hold them. 

By following the methods provided, you will be able to hold your gerbil and bond with them.