Merck Manual

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Pet Owner Version

Special Considerations for Gerbils


Thomas M. Donnelly

, BVSc, DVP, DACLAM, DABVP(ECM), The Kenneth S Warren Institute;

Katherine E. Quesenberry

, DVM, MPH, DABVP (Avian)

Reviewed/Revised May 2020 | Modified Oct 2022

Never lift a gerbil up by its tail. Gerbils’ tails are delicate and can be easily injured. The best way to remove a gerbil from its cage is to use both hands and scoop it up under its belly. Do not squeeze the gerbil. Until the gerbil is accustomed to being handled, hold it close to the ground so that if it falls, it will not fall far and hurt itself. It is recommended that you hold the gerbil over its cage or over your lap, so if it wriggles out of your hands, it cannot run away.

Because of their small size, gerbils cannot withstand rough handling and are not recommended as pets for very young children.

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