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Why Is My Gerbil Not Eating? Possible Causes and Solutions

It can be very distressing to see your gerbil not eating. There are reasons why your gerbil is not eating. 

It is important to determine the reason behind this to devise the appropriate approach to get them eating again.

Let’s delve into this to know the reasons why your gerbil is not eating and what solutions can be implemented.

Why is my gerbil not eating?

A gerbil not eating can be a result of various reasons including illness, stress, boredom with their diet, natural behavior of hiding or hoarding food, overgrown teeth, and a gerbil’s old age when dying. Knowing the reason behind a gerbil not eating will help in implementing the appropriate action to help them.

Reasons a gerbil stops eating


A sick gerbil will not be able to eat in most cases because of a lack of an appetite. They will not have the desire to eat and this will cause them to also lose weight. 

Lack of an appetite is a sign of an underlying disease or illness. 

You can immediately know your gerbil is ill when they have this behavior change as well as other symptoms including weakness, high temperature, hiding away, running nose, and feeling of pain when held and squeaking at you.

Bored of their diet

Just like you and me, a gerbil can be bored of the diet if they are constantly being provided the same kind of food.

A gerbil’s diet should consist of a mixture of pellets, seeds, raw vegetables, and fruits

However if you continuously provide them with only one kind of food for a long time, they will get bored of it and will not be eating it as much.

Food hoarding behavior

Gerbils naturally hide or hoard their food. This is a natural instinct and adaptation from living in the desert to preserve food resources. 

Gerbils do this by burying their food to save it for later.

Females are the most prominent hoarders of food compared to males

Research studies have demonstrated that castrated males’ hoarding behavior increases which shows the role of androgen hormones in influencing this behavior.

Gerbils in captivity also continue to have this hoarding tendency even if you are providing them with enough food. 

You will notice this, especially in spring or summer as they prepare for winter. This is a natural behavior in ensuring their survival even if there are pets in your home.

Read More: Why is my gerbil eating its bedding?


If something is stressing out your gerbil, they will tend to not eat. Stress can come from their environment which includes loud noises from other people, pets, or machines in the home. 

A new gerbil will also be stressed because they are yet to adjust to their new home. It can take a few days for them to calm down and start eating regularly.

Old age

A gerbil that is on the verge of death will not also eat as regularly as normal. This is normal and common in older gerbils.

It is in their nature for dying gerbils to leave food reserves for their group’s survival by limiting their eating, therefore they will not eat or drink water as much.

Read more: Why do gerbils eat their dead?

Overgrown teeth

A gerbil with a tooth problem will eat less. Gerbils’ front teeth, that is the incisors and cheek teeth at the back of the mouth continuously grow, and without trimming they overgrow.

This can cause difficulty when eating therefore a gerbil will avoid the discomfort during meal times.

A gerbil may also have an existing tooth problem that needs to be addressed to eat well.

How much should a gerbil eat?

The amount of food a gerbil eats varies however, a gerbil generally eats around 5 to 8g per 100g body weight of food per day. This equates to around one tablespoon of quality gerbil food every day.

Gerbil food consists of pellets and a teaspoon of seed mixture and 1 teaspoon of fresh vegetables and fruits per week.

How often should a gerbil eat?

A gerbil should eat 3 to 4 times a day. Feed them enough food that they can finish in 24-hours and remove leftover food. 

Avoid providing a lot of food so that they don’t eat too much or hoard a lot of it in their cage. Eating too much can lead to obesity and they may eat spoiled fresh food which can lead to other medical problems.

How long can gerbils go without food? 

Gerbils can go without food for 3 to 4 days. They are desert animals that are used to minimal food and water reserves so they can stay a little while without food.

 However, avoid keeping them from having food as much as possible.

New gerbil not eating 

A new gerbil not eating can be due to a stressed gerbil in a new home or a new gerbil that has been introduced to other cage mates and rejected by the group. 

Gerbils require a bit of time to get used to their new owners and home before being their normal selves in the new environment

Therefore give them time from a few hours to a couple of days to adjust and they will start eating once relaxed and comfortable.

If you introduce a new gerbil to a group they may also have been rejected by the group. 

This will be evident based on the group’s behavior which includes fighting with the new gerbil, refusal by the group for them to eat or drink water, and not sleeping together with the group.

What do I do if my gerbil is not eating?

Add variety into their diet

Feed your gerbil a variety of food to overcome being bored of their current diet. This will help them enjoy their meals and eat well. 

You can do this by supplementing their food with fresh foods such as vegetables and fruits at least once a week and also by mixing their pre-made blends. 

Do this gradually and not suddenly to prevent them from rejecting the food and also stomach upsets.

Food pellets come packed with wholesome nutrients that your gerbil needs for healthy growth and function. 

Always feed your gerbil the food pellets first and separately from seeds, vegetables, and fruits to provide the required nutrition first. 

Do not overfeed your gerbil with fresh foods because they contain too much moisture and can cause stomach upset for your gerbil. 

Feed them treats in a separate bowl or you can feed them by hand.

When you feel your job will be guided by the quantity portions on the food package label which provides the appropriate quantity. 

Also, it is best to establish a feeding routine where you feed your gerbil at the same time every day.

Remove environmental stressors

Stress can cause a gerbil to refuse to eat their food because of anxiety. Therefore remove any environmental stressors around your gerbil so that they can be relaxed and be able to eat.

Environmental stressors which include loud noise from either you, children, your pets or machines around the home should be minimized.

Also as a new pet in a new home try to give your gerbil time to get used to the new environment.

They will soon be able to eat when they adjust to their new home. During this time continue offering food and try to have a calm and stress-free environment for them.

Seek medical attention

A sick gerbil requires medical attention so that the underlying illness can be treated. Take your gerbil to the veterinarian so that they can be examined. 

The veterinarian will examine and diagnose the ailment or tooth problem that may be having that is the cause for loss of appetite and prevention from eating well.

They will provide the appropriate treatment so that your gerbil can recover and start eating properly.

Let nature prevail

Hoarding food is a natural instinct of gerbils that cannot be erased. Let your gerbil hoard their food but monitor their weight over and overall health. 

Also, keep an eye out for hidden fresh foods like vegetables and fruits which can become spoiled and cause health problems when your gerbil eats them. 

Check and remove hidden fresh foods from their cage after 24 hours to prevent this.

Pair new gerbils properly

Fighting between gerbils can also cause a gerbil not to eat because of the conflict between them and their cage mate.

Do not introduce a new gerbil to an already formed group because there will be a fierce conflict by the group to get rid of the new gerbil through refusal for them to interact, fighting, or eat with the group.

Pair single gerbils.

If you have a new gerbil and they are not eating, introduce it to their cage mate by slowly introducing them so that they will not face rejection. 

Do this by placing the new gerbil in a separate cage from the other gerbil and place their cage next to the other gerbil’s cage. 

This enables the gerbils to adjust to each other through scent and sight without contact.

Swap the gerbils by moving them from their individual cages to the other cage to further enable them to get used to each other’s scents within their cages. 

Do this for 7 days. When they start sleeping next to each other while in separate cages, this shows that they have started getting used to each other. 

After some time, introduce the new gerbil to the other gerbil’s cage and observe their behavior. There should be acceptance, less fighting, and sharing of the meals.

However, if fighting still occurs, repeat the process of having them in separate cages and having them back together. 

If you observe that after 3-4 times of doing this there is still fighting, the gerbils will likely not be able to live together.

The best pairing of gerbils is pairing a new gerbil that is less than 10 weeks old with an adult gerbil of the same gender.

Make the transition to death comfortable 

If old age is the reason why your gerbil is refusing to eat because of being at the end of their life, make them comfortable during this process. 

You can do this by ensuring that they have a comfortable sleeping space in a quiet room. Also ensure that the room is at the right temperature, not too hot or cold

Keep them away from loud noises to avoid stress by advising children to limit noise around them, pets, or any other sources of noise.

Continue providing them food and water.


A gerbil not eating can be alarming. It is also a sign that something is wrong especially if the lack of eating is accompanied by other symptoms and changes of behavior. 

If you notice this, do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian.

Depending on the underlying cause behind the refusal to eat, you can implement different methods to help your gerbil eat

I hope this article helped you learn more about why your gerbil is not eating, how much and often they should eat and what you can do about it.


Exotic and laboratory animals: Gerbils