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Why Are My Male Gerbils Trying to Mate? (Explained)

It is a peculiar sight to see two male gerbils on top of each other. This is a gerbil behavior that raises many questions as to why this happens.

In this article, you will learn the reasons behind why your male gerbils are trying to mate and what it means.

Why Are My Male Gerbils Trying to Mate?

Male gerbils trying to mate is an expression of dominance of one gerbil over another. The mounting is not intended for mating in any way, it’s only an exertion of dominance by the male that is on top of the mounted male. 

Gerbil dominance is a common gerbil behavior whereby the dominant members of the group force subordinate members into submission and show their superiority.

The behavior is also observed in male gerbils that are related.

Gerbil Dominance

Gerbils live in a hierarchical order where there is a ranking system within the group. This means gerbil groups are characterized by specific social structures where there are positions in the group’s order, that is, there is a dominant animal and subordinate members.

This social structure helps to enforce each gerbil’s rank within the group. Every gerbil family needs to know which of the animals are dominant and which are subordinate for the cohesive functioning of the group

The dominant member of the group ideally has preferential access to the resources of the group and takes a leadership position over the group, influencing or controlling other group members’ actions.

The dominant member’s preferences and behaviors from their feeding habits, mating behaviors are not influenced or inhibited by other members of the group.

The other members of the group take a subordinate role, are submissive and their actions are inhibited or influenced by other group members.

Gerbils’ social structures are backed up and strengthened by very clear-cut behaviors. This way, every gerbil in the group knows its proper place within the family.

In most cases, the dominance hierarchy is usually stable where there is no competition over positions.

However, temporary shifts occur where subordinate members challenge the leader of the pack or the leader shows the rest that he is still the head of the pack.

The exertion of dominance normally occurs at different periods when:

  • A dominant gerbil within a group wants to remind the rest of the group members that they are the leader of the group.
  • When a gerbil reaches puberty they may try to challenge the dominant gerbil by expressing dominant behaviors to try to overpower them.
  • Then again in adulthood, you will notice that a young adult will also try to exert their dominance and challenge the dominant member of the group.
  • A newcomer is introduced into a gerbil group. When this happens the alpha gerbil will exert their dominance over the new gerbil to show them that they are the leaders. 

In most cases, this leads to fights and rejection of the newcomer as a member of the group.

  • If the dominant gerbil is sick, old, or dying, the young gerbils will start challenging them to take over the leader position. 

They take advantage of the weakened state of the dominant gerbil knowing that they are not strong enough to fight. 

This is an effort to overpower them to try to take over the leadership of the group.

Gerbil Mounting Dominance

Mounting in gerbils is when one gerbil gets on top of another which is usually done when males and females want to mate.

Mounting behavior is also observed when gerbils want to express their dominance over other gerbils. 

You will typically see gerbils mount or lie on top of another gerbil while forcing the mounted gerbil into submission by holding them down. 

The mounted gerbil will either fight back in resistance or roll over and stay down in submission.

This is commonly observed in both male and female gerbil pairs or groups. 

Within female gerbil groups, this is observed between mothers and daughters when the young adults age and try to overpower the older females.

Male Gerbil Mounting: Why Do Male Gerbils Hump?

Male gerbils hump as an exertion of dominance over other male gerbils in a group. The humping or mounting on top of each other is not sexual, but only an expression of dominance.

A male gerbil (this is the alpha male of a gerbil clan) does this to remind subordinate males of its pack that they are the leaders.

The gerbil that lies on top of the other gerbil will also scent mark the other gerbil just to show that they are superior and ‘own’ to them. 

Scent marking is a behavior of a dominant male in marking his scent on other males in the family group. Once again, this is to remind the gang who is boss of that gerbil pack.

Since scent glands are located on a gerbil’s stomach, the mounting position is the easiest way for the alpha-gerbil to rub his scent all over the subordinate gerbil. 

The mounting gerbil can also bite the subordinate to force them into submission. A gerbil rolling over with legs up in the air with no resistance shows surrender and submission.

How Can I Tell Which Gerbil Is Dominant?

Gerbil dominance behavior is seen in both male and female pairs or groups.

In a family group, the breeding pair will be the dominant pair (known as the alpha male and female) of the rest of the family.

You can tell a dominant gerbil in the group by their behavior when they exert their control over the other group or cage mates. 

The signs of dominant behavior that shows a gerbil exerting their dominance over other gerbils include:


Mounting is when one gerbil climbs on top of another gerbil and pins the other one down. 

Mounting is normally seen when a male and female gerbil mate, however, it is also observed when one gerbil wants to exert dominance over another member of the group. 

Therefore mounting is a sign of gerbil dominance and you can know the dominant one is the one that overpowers the subordinate gerbil who stays down or rolls over in submission.

Gerbil fights

The rank for dominance in a gerbil group is usually fought over because of the benefits of the position which includes access to valuable resources such as food and mating partners. 

The tussle over this by other members of the group results in aggressive behavior between them and the dominant gerbil which leads to fighting.

The winning gerbil in fights is regarded as the superior one of the group. Fighting will include:

Wrestling and boxing. Wrestling and boxing are where the fighting gerbils will literally be punching each other by use of their claws and legs.

They hit each other, injuring each other. One gerbil often gives in and loses while the winning one takes the role of a dominant gerbil. 

Biting. Biting also occurs to force the other gerbils into submission. Gerbils will bite each other on the face, throat, rear end, and other body parts. 

Biting of the tail is very common and you will notice bleeding of the tail.

Ball fight. A gerbil ball fight occurs when two gerbils hold each other closely and roll in a ball while fighting each other using their sharp claws and teeth. 

Ball fights are very vicious and can lead to serious injury of gerbils as well as death.

Scent marking and territory

Gerbils mark their territories to claim ownership over their spaces.

They have a scent gland at the bottom of their belly whose secretions are spread on everything in their environment to mark items with their scent.

Scent marking by the dominant gerbil is also done on other subordinate group members as a reminder that the dominant gerbil is the leader, superior and they own them, literally.

Scent marking also co-mingles the scents of a gerbil family to help reduce fighting by keeping every member’s special scent known to the group.

The group’s dominant male will scent mark much more than any of the subordinate males. Male gerbils also scent mark more than females.

Male gerbils also use their urine and feces to mark their territory in addition to the use of secretions for the scent gland. 

High pitched squeaking

Gerbils produce different kinds of noises to communicate with each other as well as with us. 

Squeaking is a vocalization used by gerbils. When there is a disagreement between gerbils, you will hear high-pitched squeaking between them.

This means that they are frustrated with each other and threatening to start a fight. They stare each other down as they make the loud squeaking noise.

Bigger body appearance

A gerbil that is trying to exert dominance will also make its body look bigger by puffing its fur up and arching its back to show that they’re bigger and stronger than the subordinate gerbil. 

If the dominant job succeeds, the subordinate gerbil rolls over as an indication of submission to the dominant gerbil. 


Declanning is the splitting of a gerbils group. This occurs when some members of the group are rejected from being part of the group.

The dominant gerbil leads the group in the alienation of the group member(s) where do not share their food, as well as sleep or groom and play together. 

Continuous fighting is also experienced to chase the member (s) away, which can also result in death.


Chasing is also observed when gerbils try to exert their dominance. The dominant gerbil chases gerbils that they do not want in their presence.

However, because captive gerbils do not have an outlet to get away from the cage enclosure, unlike in the wild, they will continuously run within the cage. 

Excessive grooming

Gerbils groom each other all the time to clean themselves. In the expression of dominance of one gerbil over another, grooming becomes excessive.

A dominant gerbil excessively removes the hair of a subordinate gerbil during a grooming session. This causes loss of hair and bald patches of hair on the other gerbil. 

Can Two Male Gerbils Live Together?

Yes, two male gerbils can live together, however, only males who were raised together are compatible or ones that have been paired at a young age, less than 10 weeks old, with an adult. As adults, they tend to defend their territory ferociously. 

Gerbils are best kept in pairs or trios of the same gender and 2 to 4 males can live well together. They are happier in a large group. 

Pairing properly is important to minimize fights. Always try to pair single gerbils by introducing a young one less than 10 weeks old to an adult male.

If you introduce a male gerbil to an already established group, this will lead to fights and even death of the newcomer as the group rejects them and defends their territory.

Another way of having two or more males is to purchase male siblings which means they will get along with each other.

How To Tell If Gerbils Are Bonded

Bonded family units or pairs are usually affectionate with each other. You will tell if gerbils are bonded by their behavior which shows that they are getting along with each other. This means you will observe that they will share food, sleep together, play together and groom each other.

There is less fighting within the group or little friction between them. The cage environment is also really quiet with no blood fights and they carry out their activities peacefully.

This means the group accepts each other and they get along well.

What To Do If Your Male Gerbils Mount Each Other

Male gerbil mounting is a common occurrence as an exertion of dominance. You will continuously observe this among your gerbils. 

In most cases, the mounted gerbil submits but they can also resist which leads to fights. Vicious fights between gerbils lead to severe bleeding and even death.

It is only when fights become vicious that you need to act and separate the gerbils.

Not all fights will lead to death but if they are consistent and lead to excessive bleeding, it is best to separate the gerbils.

Also, learn to distinguish between playing and fighting. When you notice bleeding from your gerbils, this indicates they were in a fight and not playing.

Declanning can also occur where a member is rejected by the group or alpha male. A rejected gerbil will be stressed and will not thrive within the group.

It is best to separate them from the group when this happens.


Gerbil Fighting

Gerbils living together