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Why Is My Gerbil Making A Clicking Noise?

Gerbils are usually playful and active in their daily life. A change in their physical or behavioral demeanor can mean something is wrong. 

A gerbil making a clicking sound noise is unusual and yes this does mean that something is not right with your gerbil.

In this article, we will delve into the reasons why a gerbil makes a clicking noise and what you should do about it.

Why is my gerbil making a clicking noise? 

A gerbil making a clicking noise is a sign of illness from a respiratory infection. The clicking noise is the most prominent symptom of a respiratory infection which can also be accompanied by wheezing and crackling sounds when breathing. The clicking noise occurs when a gerbil’s airways clear momentarily with each breath.

Respiratory infections in gerbils are fatal and require immediate medical attention. They are more common in young gerbil pups 3 to 4 weeks old around the weaning period but also occur in gerbils of all ages. 

What causes respiratory problems in gerbils?

Respiratory problems in gerbils are caused by the following:

Bacterial and viral infection

Bacteria and viruses can cause respiratory infections in gerbils. Gerbils can acquire these infections from other infected cage mates in their group or even from humans. 

Humans can pass on these infections to the gerbils therefore if you have a cold minimize your interaction with your gerbil.

Read more: Why does my gerbil look greasy?

The use of inappropriate bedding

Pine and cedar wood shavings that are used as gerbil bedding are known to cause allergic reactions in gerbils which can result in an infection. 

The materials are aromatic and break down into small pieces and when a gerbil inhales this, it causes respiratory tract irritation and allergic reaction.

Their mucous membranes become damp due to the allergic reaction which makes a gerbil more susceptible to bacterial infection from in their environment.

Cedar and pine wood shavings are bedding materials that should be avoided to prevent the occurrence of respiratory problems.

Contagious nature of infections

Respiratory illnesses are highly contagious and spread quickly from one gerbil to another especially if the gerbils are overcrowded in their cage. 

Some may not even show symptoms of sickness until it is severe. Therefore it is important to separate sick gerbils from the rest of the group. 

Provide the separated sick gerbils with bedding, food, and water as you seek medical attention and until the infection is treated.

Also clean and sanitize their cage to prevent the spread of infection.

High humid living environment

High humidity in a gerbil’s environment increases the risk of respiratory infection. 

The high humidity level can be from the room condition where their cage is in, their urine in the cage and damp bedding due to their leaking water bottle.

These factors increase the likelihood of infection because bacteria thrive and multiply in high humid areas. 

Fluid buildup

Diseases that cause an internal build-up of fluid in a gerbil also cause the development of respiratory infection. These ailments include heart disease and tumors.

What are the signs of respiratory infection in gerbils?

As a gerbil pet owner, you will not notice the presence of a respiratory infection until your gerbil is severely ill. Gerbils do not show any signs of sickness until this point.

You will only know they are ill from their physical and behavioral change during the advanced stage of the infection. 

Therefore it is important to always be aware of your gerbil’s condition so that you do not miss these signs and be able to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

In addition to making a clicking noise, the signs of respiratory infection in gerbils includes:

  • High body temperature
  • Loss of appetite
  • Coughing
  • Puffy fur
  • Reddened skin 
  • Sneezing
  • A running nose
  • Labored breathing
  • Inactivity and disinterest

A gerbil with a respiratory infection will also display a change in the sleeping position. 

This occurs when the respiratory infection is very advanced and a gerbil will start breathing through their mouth which indicates they are at a life-threatening stage.

They will sleep with their heads propped up to allow easier breathing or sleep bending down or hunched over instead of lying down.

Also noticeable is rapid breathing and a lot of heaving. 

Recommended reading: Why is my gerbil curled up in a ball?

What do I do if my gerbil has a respiratory infection?

The presence of clicking noise from your gerbil is an indication that they have a respiratory infection. 

The next immediate step to do is to separate them from their cage mates if you have a group of them and palace them in a separate cage.

This will prevent the spread of infection to the rest of the group. 

After this, take them to your veterinarian who has experience treating small pets such as gerbils.

By the time you notice the symptoms of a respiratory infection, your gerbil is usually at a serious stage of the infection.

It is therefore important to immediately seek medical attention for your gerbil to be treated. The delay of treatment can make your gerbil’s health deteriorate very quickly. 

As soon as you notice the clicking sound or other symptoms indicating seek medical attention.

How to treat gerbil respiratory infection

The veterinarian will examine your gerbil and determine the treatment. The treatment of a gerbil respiratory infection is through the administration of antibiotics.

The veterinarian will prescribe and give your gerbil the right antibiotic they need to clear the infection. 

They will also instruct you on how to continue administering the antibiotics at home.

In addition to the medication, home care involves making your gerbil comfortable during recovery.

This is done by warming a corner of their cage by use of a heating blanket on a 40-watt incandescent bulb.

Providing them with enough food and water is essential. Monitoring of your gerbil for improvements should continue. 

Gerbil respiratory infection antibiotics

The veterinarian will prescribe the right kind of antibiotics for your gerbil to treat the respiratory infection. 

You will be provided instructions on how to orally administer the antibiotics at home by use of a syringe to ensure your gerbil completes treatment and recovers. 

Prevention of respiratory infection in gerbils

Avoid the wrong bedding

Do not use the wrong bedding for your gerbil. Using bad bedding increases the likelihood of your gerbil acquiring a respiratory infection. 

Avoid especially cedar and pine wood shavings which have been linked to inducing an allergic reaction in gerbils and making them more susceptible to acquiring respiratory infections.

Provide gerbil bedding that is safe and non-toxic to them.

Separate infected gerbils

Immediately you suspect that your gerbil might have a respiratory infection due to the production of clicking noise and other symptoms, always separate them from their group.

Respiratory infections are highly contagious and can infect the whole group quite quickly. 

Therefore it is important to separate sick gerbils from the rest. 

The exception to this is gerbil pups that are still nursing. Do not take them away from their mother. The mother and her pups will all have to be treated with antibiotics to clear the infection.

Regular cleaning of the gerbil cage

The gerbil cage needs to be regularly cleaned and disinfected to prevent bacterial and viral infections. 

A dirty cage provides an optimal environment for bacteria that multiply and cause infection in gerbils. 

Cleaning is also important when you separate a sick gerbil from their group to minimize the spread of infection. 

Clean the gerbil cage regularly to ensure that our gerbils are safe and less likely to catch an infection.

Create a conducive living environment

The living environment of a gerbil can make them more likely to acquire a respiratory infection. The humidity level of the room that their cage is in is a contributing factor to this. 

To prevent your gerbil from getting a respiratory infection, make sure that the room humidity is less than 50%. 

Ensure that your gerbil’s water bottle is not leaking or replace a leaking one to prevent the creation of a humid environment within their cage. 

Also regularly clean their cage to prevent accumulation of urine which also increases the humidity level within the cage as well as the risk of developing a respiratory infection.

Limit interaction when you are sick

Gerbils can contract respiratory infections from humans. This means that if you are sick with a cold or any respiratory infection you might also pass it on to your gerbil.

Therefore it is important to avoid interaction with your gerbil until you are well to prevent them from also getting sick.

Let a family member take care of them until you are well and able to interact with your gerbil.


Respiratory infections in gerbils are very serious and fatal. The unfortunate thing is that the symptoms are only noticeable when a gerbil is severely ill. 

As a gerbil owner, it is always important to be aware of your gerbil’s physical condition and behavior change so that you can catch any signs of illness early. 

Early diagnosis and treatment results in better outcomes for a gerbil.

A gerbil making a clicking noise indicates that you need to immediately take them to the veterinarian for treatment.

I hope this article helped you learn more about why a gerbil makes a clicking noise and what you can do about it. 


The American Gerbil Society: Respiratory infection