Posted in Care on 22/04/2019
In the past, it has been thought that it is impossible to introduce Gerbils to each other unless they have been together from birth. This isn’t technically true, as by using a proper, safe method called “Split Caging”, this is in fact relatively easy to achieve.
Taking two unrelated or unknown Gerbils and throwing them in a tank together is just asking for trouble. As a species they are very territorial, forming strong family bonds and can and will kill another Gerbil that they see as an intruder. Great care must be taken to ensure the introduction process is done properly and causes the least amount of stress to all involved. This will keep your little furries safe from harm.
If you feel you would like to try and introduction, the following guide should be helpful for you to refer to in order to have the best chance of success. Good Luck!
First things first. You MUST quarantine any new gerbils that you bring into your home.
This should be a minimum of two weeks. This will ensure any underlying disease or problems they may have will have time to come to the surface. Often the stress of moving home/travelling will make such things apparent. It also gives the new gerbil time to settle in and accustom itself to the new surroundings, sights and smells.
Once the quarantine period is up – you should find a tank/cage that neither of the gerbils have been in before so it is totally neutral and make a split down the middle using wood and wire mesh. It's best to start off with a double layer a little apart. Close enough for the gerbils to sniff each other through – but not too close that they will be able to get to each other if they decide to fight. Place a gerbil in either side of the split and make sure there is no way they can get through to the other side. Scatter food in both sections and only easily destroyed toys like toilet roll tubes, tissue paper, thin card and paper should be put in. Food bowls and other toys can easily be scent marked which could make it harder for the introduction to work.
Here are some examples of a simple split. You can design it to your own preference but be sure there are no little gaps where gerbils can escape! Also ensure there are no bits of stray mesh protruding which may potentially cause injury.
Once both gerbils are in – don't be alarmed if at first, they seem to try and attack each other through the mesh. This can happen in the first stages and is fairly normal as gerbils are so highly territorial. Individual personality is a deciding factor in this too. Every few hours, the gerbils should be swapped over sides. This will eventually make their scents smell the same – so when the split is removed after a period of time they will recognise the other gerbil as just part of their territory and hopefully accept them.
There are some signs you should look out for which will tell you that the gerbils are beginning to accept each other. These include – Mutual grooming through the mesh, lying beside each other at the mesh, sleeping in each other's beds and a general interest in the gerbil at the other side. I would say if you are new to the introduction of gerbils, to wait at least a week before you even think about removing the split – even if they are showing good signs of liking each other. It would be more detrimental to rush it and end up with fighting and have to begin again. Please TAKE YOUR TIME. It will be worth it in the end
If you have reached this stage and the gerbils are displaying the behaviour described above then you are ready to remove the split. Contrary to what you may have heard – DO NOT put them in neutral territory as all this does is destroy all the hard work you have been doing and may confuse them. When the time is right just remove the split. It is often best to swap sides in the morning of the split removal and leave them for a couple of hourse as they would have been in the one side for a good many hours overnight. This may make them more likely to show territorial signs. When you take the split away, mix up all the bedding from the two sides and often it’s helpful to put both Gerbils into one side, as the smaller space means they have a smaller size of territory to try and claim, should that problem arise.
It is normal for there to be a little chasing and/or mounting as a hierarchy does need to be established between the Gerbils. This is fine - However, if real fighting occurs – i.e. where the Gerbils are actually biting and in a “ball” they should be separated immediately and the split resumed for a couple of days to let them cool off before trying again. It's best to remove the split at the start of a day so you have the full day to keep an eye on them for any signs of fighting. Once they are grooming and cuddling up together it's fairly certain that they have bonded successfully. If you are at all unsure it would be better to put in a temporary split just for when you aren't able to supervise until you are one hundred percent certain the gerbils are living happily together.