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Why Does My Gerbil Lick Me? ( Is It A Good Thing?)

Gerbils can be mysterious creatures, especially if they’re a new pet for you. They can have weird behaviors that can be confusing for any owner. 

Licking is a gerbil habit and you may notice this as they groom themselves. But what if they lick you? Is it normal? and what does it mean? 

Let’s dive in and learn why your gerbil licks you.

Why Does My Gerbil Lick Me?

A gerbil licking you is a sign of affection, an act of grooming, also due to the smell of food on your hands, the salty taste of the skin due to sweat which tastes good, and sometimes a show of discomfort during handling which is followed up by nibbles or bite. 

The behavior is quite normal and harmless. It is a good thing indicating that they are comfortable with you and have formed a bond with you.

Reasons Why Your Gerbil Licks You

Sign of affection

Gerbils show affection towards their human owners in different ways. Licking you is a sign of affection meaning that they are very much comfortable with you.

They trust and accept you meaning they have formed a loving bond with you. 

The smell of food on hands

Your gerbil has a keen sense of smell and they can smell food off your fingers or hand even with clean hands when you handle them.

The smell attracts them and this can make them lick you just to have a taste. Licking is just an attempt to taste the flavor that is still on your hand.

You taste good to them

Naturally, human skin is salty because of the sweat that comes out of it. Your gerbil licking you and doing so continuously shows that they are tasting the salty taste of your hand and they like it. 

Grooming you

Gerbils love to clean themselves by grooming each other. Grooming is a social affair that bonds their unit together, which is one of the activities that they perform together.

They will also groom you by licking you especially if they feel connected to you. This is still an expression of affection because a gerbil will not do this to a person that they do not like.

Feeling of discomfort

A gerbil lick can proceed to a nibble then a bite if they are feeling pain or discomfort when being handled. 

Gerbils do not usually bite but do so in self-defense. When they feel that you are handling them improperly or feeling uncomfortable when you hold them, they will lick you then nibble or bite.

It’s a way to communicate to you to let them go or to stop handling them. 

How Do You Know If Your Gerbil Likes You?

Gerbils often show affection to humans by letting themselves be held, stroked, and even be cuddled in some cases. 

Generally, when a gerbil likes you, they will be calm when you hold, pet, or otherwise interact with them instead of trying to get away from you.

They will also communicate to you through the sounds that they produce. Positive sounds of affection include:

Purring. A gerbil will purr when you hold and stroke them. Purring indicates that your gerbil loves to be held by you. This is a sign of affection showing that they are happy to be with you. 

The purring sounds like the purring from a cat. A gerbil will also vibrate during this time as you hold them.

Yipping. A gerbil that likes you will let out a yipping sound when they see you. This shows their excitement to see you and be able to play with you.

Jumping. Jumping up and down while letting out a yipping sound is also an expression of their joy when they see you.

When is Licking A Problem?

Licking can be a problem when it is excessive. Excessive licking can be irritating or unsettling which can discourage you from frequently handling them. 

Gerbils also lick surfaces when they are thirsty therefore check whether their water supply is adequate when you experience excessive licking.

If water is not the problem, take them to the veterinarian to examine them to determine or rule out any underlying ailment. If an illness is ruled out as an underlying factor, turn to behavioral solutions.

Can You Stop A Gerbil From Licking?

A gerbil licking you is a natural act of affection for you. However, despite this lovely gesture, you may not be fond of it, which is ok.  

It can be difficult to stop it from occurring because it comes naturally to your pet and breaking it might also break the bond they have created with you.

This does not mean you cannot do anything about it. There are some methods you can implement, not to entirely stop it, but to decrease it from happening. This includes:

  • Give them a chew toy instead to lick or bite
  • Handle them less often
  • Thoroughly wash your hands before holding them
  • Move your hand when they start to lick you

These actions redirect the behavior without negative reinforcement or making your gerbil hate you by discouraging them not to interact with you. This maintains your bond with them.


A gerbil licking you is quite normal and an expression of love and affection for you. The act signifies the bond that has formed between you and what they feel about you.

It is completely harmless and does not cause any infection. Be rest assured that your gerbil loves you and they are showing it.