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Why Is My Gerbil Walking Weird? (Explained)

When you observe your gerbil walking weird, the immediate thought can be that they are injured or sick.  

In this case, what should you do when your gerbil starts walking strangely? And why are they really walking weird?

In this article, we will talk about what could cause your gerbil to be walking weird, how the problem starts, and what can be done about it. 

Here’s Why Your Gerbil Is Walking Weird

There are several reasons for your gerbil to be walking weird. The typical reason is that it has a health problem such as head tilt, broken limbs, stroke, or overgrown nails.

Reasons Why A Gerbil May Walk Weird

Broken Limbs

Gerbil’s limbs can be very fragile and a fall could lead to breaks in the limbs. A broken limb should be visible.

Other symptoms can include not wanting to move around or making unusual sounds because it is uncomfortable or experiencing pain. 

Your gerbil will need to be taken to the vet.

Overgrown Nails

Gerbils who are kept in cages do not have a lot of opportunities to wear down their nails. This means that they can become overgrown and, if left unchecked, could result in your gerbil having trouble walking.

Overgrown nails can hurt gerbils. Nails that are not trimmed grow out, curve, and injure the soles of their feet making walking difficult and painful. 

Injured soles can also become infected which leads to further complications.

If the nails start curving back towards their feet, you need to give them a trim. You can cut their nails or take them to the vet for this to be done. 

If you want to do it yourself, use the Katee pro nail trimmer which is the best nail clipper for cutting the nails. This clipper will give you more control and is best for small pets.

The video below will show you how to trim your gerbil’s nails. The pet used is a hamster as a demonstration.

Make sure you cut the nails properly to avoid injuring your gerbil. If you are uncomfortable with the process, take them to the veterinarian to have it done.

In addition to this, you can keep your gerbil’s nails short by providing them with:

  • Sticks and barks ( from the Willow, Apple, Birch, and Aspen trees are safe. These can be bought from your local pet store or you can get them from the trees in your backyard if you have some of these trees) 
  • Wooden toys

While your gerbil grabs and plays with the above, their nails will naturally be trimmed due to the friction with the material. 

There are numerous queries from gerbil owners whether you should use sandpaper for gerbils to help your gerbil trim their nails by touching the sandpaper. 

The answer to this is to avoid giving your gerbil sandpaper. Sandpaper is very abrasive and can injure the soles of your gerbil’s paws.

Always periodically check your gerbil’s nail length to ensure they are not growing out too long and also confirm this length by talking to your veterinarian.


When a gerbil has a stroke, it will typically develop paralysis, or weakness, down one side of its body. Older gerbils that are more than 2 years old are more prone to having strokes. However, gerbils of all ages can also have strokes due to underlying health problems.

Symptoms of stroke include falling over, paralysis that occurs on one side of the body which affects this side of the body’s movement from the use of the paws and eyes. 

A wobbly gerbil is one of the outcomes of this due to the loss of the ability to walk properly. You may also see a gerbil dragging their back legs because of having difficulty in walking.

Try to make the animal comfortable and bring it to the vet’s office as soon as possible.


Stroke in gerbils has no treatment however gerbils do fully recover by themselves. Some will only have a small side effect such as walking weird due to the paralysis caused by the stroke but generally, they are still ok.

Gerbil stroke recovery

During gerbil stroke recovery, there are things you can do for them to help them recover. 

This includes keeping them comfortable, feeding them well, creating a stress-free environment, and providing enough bedding to keep them warm as well as having a conducive room environment around 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

The good news is that gerbils fully recover from strokes.

Recovery from a stroke is possible but a gerbil may also develop other issues such as head tilt. 

Head Tilt

Head tilt is a gerbil health condition where a gerbil’s head becomes twisted and inclined at an unusual angle. This position interferes with a gerbil’s ability to walk properly by walking in circles and also affects their ability to eat and drink.

If your gerbil is experiencing head tilt, it could be a sign of an ear problem. Head tilt could be caused by:

  • Ear cysts, ear infections, or a brain tumor.
  • Injuries to the head and neck.
  • Neurological disorders.

Symptoms include a tilted head, a loss of balance, a lack of coordination, and the inability to walk in a straight line.

Effects of Head Tilt

Your gerbil may have trouble walking and may struggle to eat or drink if it has a head tilt. Your gerbil is likely to have the head tilt for life but the underlying causes can be treated and it can improve.

Treating the problem will hopefully reduce the amount of pain and discomfort your gerbil is feeling.

If your gerbil is not eating or drinking, it may have the following reactions:

  • Quickly lose weight
  • Stop having bathroom functions
  • Greasy fur could develop
  • Be sleepy
  • Show aggression


The treatment for head tilt is with antibiotics to clear the infection. You’ll have to administer the medication at home as instructed by the vetenarian.

However, if it is caused by brain inflammation, the vet will give an anti-inflammatory injection to help reduce any swelling.

Final Thoughts

Fortunately, most conditions that can cause your gerbil to walk weird are very noticeable and can allow you to act quickly.

Health issues can be resolved and your gerbil can have a healthy life and most gerbils can continue to lead happy and contented lives.


Common gerbil illnesses