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Gerbil Teeth Chattering: What Does It Mean?

Gerbils may seem like fairly quiet animals at first, but they’re actually quite social and vocalize with each other pretty frequently. 

At one point or another, you may have heard your gerbil chirping, squeaking, thumping their feet, or even chattering their teeth. 

You may have wondered whether these sounds indicate that your gerbil is happy or not.

In this article, we’ll talk a bit more about gerbils’ teeth chattering and what some of the other sounds gerbils make mean.

Why Are My Gerbil’s Teeth Chattering?

The good news is that if you hear a gerbil’s teeth chattering, it means that they are feeling happy and relaxed, with you or with their cagemate(s). A gerbil does this by vibrating its jaw and grinding its teeth which produces a purring sound and small body vibrations.

It’s not common for gerbils to make this noise, but if they do then rest assured all is good.

Gerbil Teeth Chattering Explained

As we’ve just mentioned, gerbils chatter their teeth when they feel happy. However, you may not even be aware at first that your gerbil is chattering their teeth, as this can produce a different noise from what you might expect.

When a gerbil chatters or grinds its teeth, it doesn’t make the relatively high-pitched clicking sound that your own teeth would make when chattering, rather, it makes a low rumbling noise, almost like a cat purring. 

It’s actually more common to refer to this sound as “purring” rather than chattering.

If your gerbil is making these chattering noises while you’re holding them, you’ll also be able to feel them vibrating.

It’s easy in this situation to think that your gerbil might be trembling because it is scared, but quite the opposite!

One important thing to mention again is that this is a pretty rare noise for gerbils to make, and you shouldn’t get discouraged if you don’t hear your gerbil chattering when handling them. 

Gerbils only make that noise when they’re especially happy and content with what’s going on, so not hearing that noise doesn’t mean they’re unhappy, it just means they’re not particularly ecstatic at that moment.

What Other Sounds Do Gerbils Make?

Gerbils are fairly good at communicating their emotional state through the noises they make. 

If you want to make sure that you’re taking care of your gerbil as best you can, it’s important that you’re familiar with the various other noises gerbils make and what they mean.

Chirping is the most common sound that gerbils make and can mean a variety of different things depending on the context. Younger gerbils are more likely to make these noises, although adults do occasionally chirp as well.

Generally, however, gerbils chirp when they want attention. Baby gerbils may chirp to get their mother’s attention, while older gerbils may chirp to get your attention. 

Gerbils only chirp around people or other gerbils that they trust, so hearing your gerbil chirp is a good sign.

Squeaking sounds similar to chirping, but is louder and has a more urgent tone to it. Gerbils squeak either when they’re excited or when they’re startled or scared by something. 

Pay attention to the context of the situation when your gerbil squeaks, and you’ll probably be able to tell whether they’re scared or not.

Foot thumping is another sound you might hear your gerbil make. In most cases, gerbils thump their feet as a show of dominance, to assert their strength over a smaller gerbil.

They may also do this as a defensive tactic with the goal of scaring away a perceived predator.

Male gerbils also engage in foot thumping when they’re ready to mate, as part of a mating ritual. In the wild, female gerbils are drawn to the gerbil with the loudest foot thump, as this indicates which gerbil is the strongest.


Gerbil teeth chattering may seem strange when you hear it, however, it is harmless and it is a positive vocalization from them.

A gerbil will chatter their teeth around other gerbils but they especially do it when you pet them which simply means they are happy with interacting with you and are at ease.

However, not all gerbils chatter their teeth to produce a purring sound as a sign of affection to their owners. Some will show their affection through different vocalizations.

Therefore if your gerbil does not do this, it is still ok. 

By understanding the different gerbil vocalizations and body language, you will be able to decode what they mean and what your gerbil is communicating. 


Understanding Your Gerbil’s Body Language