Does your gerbil poop on you when you are handling them? This can be very frustrating and unsettling.
In this article, we will cover the reasons your gerbil poops on you, the potential dangers of gerbil poop, and how to ensure that it does not happen often.
Why Does My Gerbil Poop on Me?
Your gerbil poops on you for a variety of reasons which includes stress, fear, excitement, diarrhea, and the immediate need to excrete at the time you are handling them. Young gerbils are more likely to poop or pee on you because they have not yet learned how to control their bowel movements.
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Reasons Your Gerbil Poops You
Gerbils experience stress under different circumstances including being new in a new home, loud noises from members of the family, pets, boredom, illness, and when they do not have a cage mate.
Stress causes them to have behavioral changes such as a change in their toilet habits, making them poop or pee due to anxiety.
So, do gerbils poop when scared? Yes, gerbils poop when scared. Fear causes them to poop which is a natural response.
A gerbil can be scared of you because naturally they perceive you as a threat or be frightened by something in their environment like loud noise, cats, dogs, or other pets.
On the other spectrum, a gerbil can also poop because of excitement. This is absolutely normal.
Gerbils tend to get excited when they are playing or when they see you, which triggers the release of feces which they may not have control over in holding it.
Gerbil diarrhea occurs when a gerbil gets an infection, is stressed or feeds on a diet with a high quantity of fruits and vegetables. They may poop on you because of this while you are handling them.
Tyzzer’s disease is a common contagious gerbil bacterial infection that causes watery diarrhea and rapid dehydration. The disease mostly affects stressed gerbils and young ones.
Stress is also a factor that triggers diarrhea in a gerbil.
Fruits and vegetables are great for a gerbil as snacks and dietary nutrition however, if you provide your gerbil with a lot of these foods it leads to diarrhea.
So, what does gerbil poop look like? Normal gerbil stool or feces is hard, small, and dry pellets so if the consistency changes to soft, watery stool, this is an indication that there is something wrong and they have diarrhea.
Gerbil diarrhea is fatal because of rapid dehydration and a gerbil can die within a day if immediate attention is not provided.
The natural need to excrete
A gerbil might just poop on you from the simple fact that they needed to relieve themselves at the exact same time that you were holding them.
This is totally ok because technically there is no way they can communicate directly to express this so the next best thing was to poop where they happen to be which happens to be on you.
Do gerbils poop everywhere?
No, gerbils do not poop everywhere. Actually, they are one of the cleanest small pets because they do not make a mess in their habitat.
They generally poop and pee in one section of their enclosure or tank. They keep this separate from their sleeping area and play area which remains clean.
They also use some of their pee and poop to scent mark their territory which is a gerbil dominance practice to inform members outside their group of the claimed area.
Both male and female gerbils mark their territory by ventral rubbing or stretching out on their abdomen and spreading a pheromone-filled secretion from their scent gland around their environment.
However male gerbils are notorious for using pee and poop for scent-marking everywhere in addition to the use of their scent gland secretions.
Is gerbil poop dangerous?
Generally, gerbil poop is not dangerous; however, it can be potentially dangerous to humans when a gerbil is infected by either intestinal parasites or bacteria that can spread to humans and cause illness. This includes their urine and the infections might spread to humans even if a gerbil does not show signs of disease.
The bacterial infections and intestinal parasites can transmit from a gerbil to humans through their stool and/or pee which contain the bacteria or eggs of the parasites.
A person can get infected through ingestion of food or water contaminated with the disease agents from the lack or inadequate washing of hands after handling an infected gerbil, their cage, bedding, or toys.
Pet gerbils rarely get some of these infections however they may contract them from insects or wild rodents that may pass on the infections to them either from contact or contamination of their food or water.
The infections that can pass onto humans include:
- E.coli (Escherichia coli)
- Campylobacteriosis (by Campylobacter bacteria)
- Tapeworm Dwarf tapeworm
- Lymphocytic choriomeningitis
- Hantavirus infection
Can you train a gerbil to not poop on you?: What to do
You cannot train a gerbil not to poop on you however you can implement some safeguards to minimize or prevent it from occurring. This includes:
Limiting your gerbil handling time
We do not have control over when a gerbil will poop or pee because they will do it whenever they need to, which might be on you.
They are also not like us and cannot hold their bowel movements for a long time. So if you hold your gerbil for a long time, they might poop or pee on you.
The solution to this is to limit the time that you hold them to prevent them from excreting on you. 10 to 15 minutes is a good period of handling time.
Learn the signs indicating a gerbil is about to poop
By learning how to understand gerbil behavior, you can be able to know when they need to be let go when holding them so that they do not excrete on you.
Learning gerbil behavior will take time especially when you are a new owner however it is possible to understand their behavioral cues and the message they communicate.
The signs to look out for that show your gerbil is uneasy and about to poop include:
- Sudden recklessness
Learn to identify these behaviors especially when you are holding them so that you return them to their cage to relieve themselves.
Regular medical checkups
Regular medical checkups for your gerbil helps to catch disease or infections early. This allows for early treatment which also ensures that your gerbil continues to be healthy.
Prevention of disease is the best in minimizing diseases that cause diarrhea which can cause a gerbil to poop on you randomly.
It also prevents the spread of infection to their cage mates and infections that may affect you.
Create a peaceful environment
Stress and anxiety trigger a gerbil to poop or pee frequently as a normal reaction to the stressful environment.
Create a peaceful environment for your gerbil so that they can calm down and also decrease the likelihood of excreting on you.
You can do this by placing their cage in a quiet room away from the noise in your home, that is, away from pets, machines, and the television.
If children are around, advise them not to make loud noises around the gerbil and to gently handle them.
To manage boredom, provide your gerbil with toys and wooden frames to keep them active and stimulated. Also, pair a lonely gerbil with another gerbil to curb loneliness as well as boredom.
A new gerbil also needs time to adjust to their new environment therefore be patient and give them time to settle down. Take your time in interacting with them and do not rush in holding them just yet.
Practice proper hygiene
Always wash your hands with soap and water after handling your gerbil. This prevents you from getting infected by bacteria or intestinal parasites that may be in their stool or urine.
Remember a gerbil may be infected but might not show any signs of illness and can still pass the infection to you and their cagemates.
When signs of illness appear, always separate a sick gerbil from the rest of the group to prevent the spread of the infection.
Remove soiled bedding and droppings frequently. Clean and sanitize the cage and change their bedding every week to prevent the breeding of bacteria.
Provide a limited amount of vegetables and fruits
Feeding your gerbil a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables causes diarrhea. The best way to prevent this is to provide them in small quantities as a snack.
The rule of thumb is to provide your gerbil fruits and vegetables once a week. When some leftovers remain after a meal, remove the food bowl from their tank so that they do not overeat it later on.
This will reduce the incidences of diarrhea and the sudden release of feces on your hand when you hold them.
A gerbil peeing or excreting on you does not mean that they hate you or that they do it on purpose. There are just surrounding circumstances that may trigger them to do so.
Your gerbil does not poop on you to punish you, so don’t punish them for excreting on you.
As a gerbil owner, it is important to know what their behavior implies so that you can understand the reason behind them to be able to better care for them.
I hope this article helped you learn why your gerbil may poop on you, the potential dangers, and what to do about it.