Scientific Name



Gerbils are naturally found in the sandy plains of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. They were originally known as a desert rat until they were commercially introduced to North America and bred as pets. They generally live for 3 to 5 years and are most active during the evening and at night.

The gerbil is a small rodent, similar in many ways to the mouse and the hamster. The gerbil has a long tail which it can shed should it get trapped. This self defence mechanism allows the gerbil to escape predators.

Gerbils have sharp claws which they use to burrow their way into the sandy grounds of the desert. Wild gerbils are well known for building extensive networks of tunnels that they are able to hide and breed in. They only really come to the surface of the ground when they need to find food and water.

Gerbils use a range of methods to communicate. As well as sensitive hearing, gerbils also have an excellent sense of smell. They scent-mark their territory using a gland on their abdomen. Females also scent mark their pups which is thought to help them recognise their offspring.


Gerbils are omnviores and in the wild their diet consists of grasses and seeds with small amounts of insects.

Size Fact

Gerbils are 7 – 15cms in length.

Food Fact

Gerbils store large quantities of plant food in their burrows, sometimes as much as 60 kg.

Fun Fact

Male gerbils use their hind legs to perform a foot-thump after mating!

IUCN Red list

The domestic gerbil is not evaluated on the IUCN Red List.

Where do I live?

Gerbils live in dry desert habitats. They can be found in central Asia, the Middle East and Africa

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