Gerbil Care Handbook
If you have bought your gerbil from a good breeder the job of taming them should be well on the way. Remember that you should wait till a pup is around six week before bringing them home. This will give them time to learn from their parents and sibling to be social, and not to fear humans.
First, give them a few hours to settle into their new home. Then, introduce your hand into their tank and let them sniff. It is not unusual to get a gentle nip as they explore and examine your hand. They're trying to "taste" you, and find out if you're edible. Don't jerk your hand away, move it back slowly. Give them a quick puff of air in the face. (like your blowing out a candle)
This type of mouthing should not be painful and rarely cuts through the skin. It's also a habit they usually outgrow. Young gerbils are particularly prone to this as it's part of their "put everything in your mouth" stage.
If despite gentle handling your gerbil nips painfully and then runs away or draws blood it could be a sign of poor temperament or lack of early socialization. You may want to return or exchange such gerbils for ones that are of a gentle and reliable nature, especially if children will be handling these pets.
Hand training can be easy if you move patiently and slowly. Each morning when you feed them remove all the sunflower seeds from their food. Put these aside in a little cup near their tank. Then through out the day put a few sunflower seeds in the palm of your hand. Do not try to catch them or pick them up. Before long they will be use to your hand and see you as a glorified seeds dispenser. After a week slowly raise your hand a few inches each time one of them sit on it. Then slowly lower it back down again.
Once they feel comfortable with your hand moving up and down gently give them a little nose rub. Some gerbils love to have their noses and foreheads rubbed. You can create a cave with two hands held against your body, some of them will go to sleep, and others have a silent purr like kittens.
Within two weeks they should be very friendly, and loved to be held. Even though with responsible, gentle children it is recommended they do not handle the gerbils, until you are confident that the gerbils are tame. This avoids a bad early experience, and it is easier and faster to tame gerbils when only one person is working with them. Once they are use to human contact, the children can gradually begin to play with them.
NOTE: If you have more than one tank of gerbils always wash you hands well before handling the gerbils from another tank. You don't want to smell like an intruder.
The Gerbil Care Handbook may not be copied, in whole or part, without prior written permission from the American Gerbil Society.
Note: The Gerbil Care Handbook is provided for informational purposes only. Diagnosis and treatment of specific conditions should always be in consultation with one's own veterinarian. The AGS disclaims all warranties and liability related to the information contained on these pages.