Today is the second day of the WEEK OF THE GERBIL!
Gerbil Body Language
Gerbils are no exception to this animal kingdom phenomenon called "body language.
- The Kiss: If you have two gerbils living together you've most likely noticed them "kissing"! You know, one gerbil will run up to the other and touch her mouth to hers. It's a kiss right?! No, not quite. Gerbils are able to recognize each other by the taste of their saliva. So, when your gerbils "kiss" they are just saying "Hello! It's me. What's going on?"
- Tense Meerkating: Meerkating isn't an actual term. You know when a gerbil (or hamster, rat, any small animal really) stands up on their back legs, holding his/her front paws together and looks around? I call that "Meerkating". If you see your gerbil stand up tall like this he or she is on alert! A noise, movement, smell, or something has caused concern and they are looking out for danger. Their little body will be tense and ready to run and hide under cover, as well as alert other gerbils.
- Curious Meerkating: Meerkatting is not always a sign of worry. If your gerbil stands up tall on it's hind legs with it's front paws hanging loosely in front of his/her chest, then they are simply being curious! Small animals are, by nature, very curious little creatures. A curious gerbil will stand up and look around, while a frightened gerbil will stand completely still. Curious meerkating just means your gerbil wants to know what's going on!
- Bath Time: Many small animals bathe themselves when they are nervous. This is not so much the case with a gerbil. When your gerbil stops to wash it's face, tail, sides, and stomach, he/she is most likely in a good mood! He/she is relaxed, content and feeling safe.
- Thumping: Your gerbils may thump his/her hind legs rhythmically. This means he/she is scared. Something has started him/her and he/she is letting other gerbils know there is danger. What could scare a gerbil into thumping? A sudden movement by a human, a loud noise, a shadow on the wall, another animal getting too close. There are many reasons, including desire to mate, though the rhythm to this thumping is different.
- See My Tummy?: When your gerbil rolls on it's back in front of the other one to expose his/her tummy, it is a submissive posture. In gerbil language it's kind of like saying "Hey I trust you, lead the way." It's also an odd way of asking the other gerbil to groom him/her. Grooming is also asked for by pushing the nose under the other gerbil's mouth.
- The Black Cat: On Halloween we've all seen pictures of black cats standing with their backs arched and their fur puffed up, but why is my gerbil doing it? And why are the two of them pushing their faces into one another's? This means your gerbils are very irritated and ready to fight. You may need to separate them if fighting does occur, so have another cage ready.
- Endless Digging: There's no doubt that you've seen your gerbils digging in the corner of the tank or cage. Captive gerbils often do this. They claw and scratch furiously at the corner of the tank due to a natural instinct. In the wild, if a gerbil who is burrowing hits a dead end they just keep digging! This is because their dead end may be a rock or hard dirt that may shift of soften. Many people worry that their furry little friend is trying to escape, but don't worry. If you look closely, your gerbil probably doesn't look unhappy or frustrated, so there is nothing to worry about!
- Purring: Some gerbils can purr! It's not your loud purring, like from a cat. You actually can't hear it. But if your gerbil is sitting in your hand and starts vibrating, then he/she is purring! For a gerbil to purr in your hands is a big deal. This means he/she trusts you and is very happy.
- Lick! Lick!: If your gerbil starts licking the glass wall of the tank or other smooth surfaces he/she is thirsty! Check their bottle for fresh water and clogs. Gerbils lick smooth surfaces to try and find moisture.
Well everyone! Now that you all think like a gerbil, I will catch you tomorrow with my next Gerbil Week post!