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Why Does My Gerbil Run Away From Me? (+What You Can Do)

Does your gerbil run away from you every time you approach them or when you try to hold them?

Gerbils have many weird behaviors that can be confusing to us. However, there is an explanation for these behaviors and why they happen.

Let’s take a look at why a gerbil will run away from you and what you can do about it.

Why Does My Gerbil Run Away From Me?

A gerbil will run away from you because of several reasons which include:

  • They naturally see you as a predictor because of your large size and do not trust you yet.
  • They are fearful because of recent changes to their environment which causes stress and requires adjustment to the new environment. 
  • You handle them too much which they don’t like.
  • Not holding them properly or mishandling them.
  • A trauma reaction from a negative experience with a previous owner.
  • Fear due to quick movements from you or other pets which frightens them.
  • Startled because of loud noise when you’re talking or from their environment which frightens them.

How Do You Know If Your Gerbil Doesn’t Like You?

If your gerbil is unhappy or scared of you, they will express this through their behavior, in addition to running away from you.

In most cases this does not mean they do not like you or hate you, it just means that they need time to get comfortable with their surroundings as well as with you.

You can know if your gerbil doesn’t like you by their behavior towards you. This includes:

They dislike being held

A gerbil not wanting to be held can be an indication they don’t like you which means they do not trust you and also due to the above-mentioned reasons why they may dislike being held.

Scratching or biting when you hold them

A gerbil that does not like you or is uncomfortable with you will scratch or bite you when you attempt to hold them. 

This is an indication they don’t want to be held or you could be handling them inappropriately making them feel uncomfortable or in pain and want to be let released.

Running away from you

They will not be excited to see you and will hide in their hideout house or burrow within their bedding.

Production of different sounds indicating displeasure 

A frightened gerbil will produce loud squeaks or many series of squeaks at a time meaning they are in a bad mood, in pain or they want to be left alone.

They will also make a thumping sound with their hind legs which means that they are alarmed or feeling threatened and see you as a predator. 

A gerbil will also not produce positive vocalizations that show that they are excited to see you or held by you such as purring, yipping, or jumping up and down when they see you.

These actions indicate that they do not trust you yet and you need to build the trust so that they may feel comfortable and safe around you so that they don’t run away.

This may take time but be patient with the process and they will warm up to you and their environment.

How To Get A Gerbil To trust You

Step 1

Start by spending time with them by frequently being close to them near their cage so that they can be aware of your presence and start familiarizing themselves with you.

This will also help your gerbil to be more comfortable with you and not see you as a threat. Interact with your gerbil while they’re still in the cage by gently talking to them but do not make any sudden movements.

Step 2

Slowly introduce your hand into your gerbil’s cage to allow them to sniff you. Put your hand’s palm side up and also ensure your hand is clean before doing this.

This allows your gerbil to familiarize with your scent which helps them identify you and also be more comfortable being held by you when they hop onto your hand.

Don’t worry if the first few tries your gerbil runs away from you. They will still come around and interact with you.

Step 3

You can also place a treat on your palm to encourage your gerbil to move towards your hand. When they do come towards you to eat the treat, do not touch them yet. 

Let them eat the treat off your hand and as they do this, they will also associate your presence as positive and slowly build trust.

They may also stay away from you which is still ok. Be patient with the process.

Step 4 

Give gentle strokes. When your gerbil starts to sniff and climb on your palm gently stroke them while talking to them with a gentle voice.

Step 5 

During the bonding process, do not make loud sudden noises that will scare them. 

Step 6 

Do not lift them yet. Take time with this process without lifting them from their cage. When you do this suddenly it might frighten them.

Step 7 

Once your gerbil gets used to you and trusts you by frequently coming towards your hand consistently for several days, you can start holding them and removing them from their cage.

Scoop them up with both hands and hold them gently. You can place seeds or treats on your palms to calm them down.

Do not pick them up with their tails because this is painful.

How Do You Know If Your Gerbil Likes You?

You will know your gerbil likes you from their body language and vocalizations they produce to communicate. This includes: 

Yiping sounds 

A yipping sound from a gerbil shows that they are excited to see you especially when you play with them. 

You will know a gerbil likes you when they respond to your presence with this sound.

Purring when you hold them

Gerbils sometimes produce a purring sound when they are held or being stroked. The purring sounds like that of a cat. 

This indicates that they are in a good mood and enjoy being touched. You may also feel them vibrating which means they are feeling good while being held.

Jumping up

A gerbil that likes you will also jump up with excitement in your presence, during playtime, or before you pick them up.

Hyperactive in their cage 

A gerbil that likes you will also be quite excited and thrilled to see you when you approach them. They will be hyperactive in the cage as you approach them.

This shows that they are excited to see you. 

Final Thoughts

Gerbils are great companions to have however, sometimes they may not want to interact with you and may run away from you when you approach them. 

This defeats the purpose of you getting them which was to spend time with them.

This behavior is a result of many influences but you can get them to trust you by understanding why they do so and changing your approach to build trust.

By doing this, you will strengthen your connection and instead of your gerbil running away from you, they will be running towards you in excitement.