Gerbils and rabbits are both sociable and friendly animals. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they will get along well together. They’re different species, and would never naturally interact in the wild.
Some gerbils and rabbits get along fine, and enjoy playing together. However, others don’t. If your gerbil is frightened of your rabbit, or vice versa, they may attack and injure each other. Gerbils and rabbits should never live together. If you let your gerbil and rabbit meet, supervise them closely. Separate them at any sign of stress.
We’ll discuss how similar rabbits and gerbils are as pets, and how likely they are to get along. You’ll find out if rabbits and gerbils can ever play together or live together safely.
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Keeping Rabbits and Gerbils as Pets
Rabbits and gerbils both make excellent family pets. They are friendly, intelligent small animals that get on well with humans.
If you like keeping gerbils, you’ll probably enjoy the company of rabbits, too. Gerbils and rabbits are similar in certain ways. For example:
- They are social creatures that enjoy interacting and playing with their owners
- Both rabbits and gerbils love to dig, and are descended from wild animals that live in burrows underground
- They can both be trained to use a litterbox, and perform basic tricks, such as jumping on cue
But despite their similarities, rabbits and gerbils are different species, and have unique care requirements.
For example, rabbits are much larger than gerbils, and need a lot more space. Hutches aren’t big enough for most rabbits – they need a large playpen or small room to exercise in. Gerbils, on the other hand, are small enough to live in tanks or gerbilariums.
And while most gerbils and rabbits love to be petted, most rabbits hate being picked up and held. This is because they feel unsafe if their feet aren’t on the ground.
Are Rabbits Rodents Or Lagomorphs?
Rodents, such as gerbils and mice, belong to the taxonomical family Rodentia. Rabbits, on the other hand, are lagomorphs (belonging to the family Lagomorpha). They share this family with hares and pikas.
Although rabbits aren’t rodents, they do share several characteristics with them. For example, rabbits and rodents both have continually-growing teeth. Rabbits like to burrow, as do many rodents (including gerbils).
They also have a herbivorous diet, similar to many rodents such as chinchillas and guinea pigs. Gerbils, on the other hand, are omnivores.
So, how are rabbits different from rodents? According to Berkeley University of California, rabbits and rodents have different skeletal features.
For example, rodents have one pair of incisors (cutting teeth), whereas rabbits have two. These extra teeth help rabbits cut through the tough dried grass that makes up most of their diet.
Can Rabbits and Gerbils Get Along?
Rabbits and gerbils never interact in the wild. This is because they come from entirely different areas of the world.
Pet gerbils are also called Mongolian gerbils. As their name suggests, they are found mostly in Mongolia, but also some parts of China and Russia.
Domestic rabbits, on the other hand, are descended from wild European rabbits. They live only in Western Europe (and Australia, where they have been introduced).
Because of this disparity, it’s hard to anticipate whether a pet gerbil will get along with a rabbit. Depending on each animal’s personality, they may ignore each other, play together, or fight.
Both gerbils and rabbits are prey animals. Their natural instinct is to perceive any unfamiliar creature as a potential threat. Rabbits are much larger than gerbils, so your rabbit may come across as intimidating.
If either your gerbil or rabbit feels frightened, it may lash out. Both species can be fierce when defending themselves.
That being said, there’s no guarantee that they will fight. Rabbits and gerbils are sociable animals, and rabbits are known for forming friendships with other species.
You can experiment by allowing your rabbit to approach the gerbilarium, while your gerbil is inside. They can’t hurt each other through the glass or cage bars. This will allow them to get used to the sight and smell of each other, in a safe environment.
Do Rabbits Eat Gerbils?
According to Laboratory Animal Science, rabbits are herbivores. This means that they only eat plant materials. A rabbit’s digestive system can’t process animal flesh as it would make it sick. A rabbit’s diet typically consists of:
- Grass, hay, and hay pellets
- Fresh leafy greens, such as spinach and herbs
- Small amounts of fresh fruits and non-leafy vegetables (e.g. carrots)
Because they only eat plants, a rabbit would never try to eat a gerbil. But that doesn’t mean your rabbit won’t hurt your gerbil.
If it feels threatened, a rabbit may attack a gerbil in self-defense. Rabbits can also be territorial, and pick fights if they feel their space has been invaded.
Rabbits are much stronger than gerbils, and they have powerful back feet. An accidental kick could be fatal to a gerbil. That’s why it’s vital to never let a gerbil and rabbit alone together.
Can Rabbits Play with Gerbils?
Rabbits and gerbils can sometimes play together successfully. But as with any two animals, it depends upon their character. You can’t tell whether they’ll like each other until they meet.
To be on the safe side, it’s best not to allow your gerbil to play together. If they fight, they could sustain injuries. Even if you’re supervising them, you may not be able to separate them in time.
That being said, they may get on well, provided their personalities match. If both your gerbil and rabbit are friendly and laid-back, they could become friends.
Before you allow your rabbit and gerbil to meet, get them used to seeing each other through the cage. If they’re familiar with each other before they meet face-to-face, there’s less risk that they’ll fight.
There will always be a risk when letting two animals of different species interact. You should supervise them closely whenever they’re together.
How to Introduce a Rabbit and Gerbil Together
If you decide to allow your gerbil and rabbit to play together, here’s how to do it safely:
- Introduce your gerbil and rabbit in a neutral environment. Choose a room where neither pet usually goes. Gerbil-proof and rabbit-proof the room beforehand.
- Provide each animal with somewhere private to retreat to. For example, bring a travel gerbil cage into the room and set it in a corner. That way, the gerbil has somewhere to hide from the rabbit if it wants to be alone.
- Place plenty of toys and treats around the room. This will give both animals something to focus on and help them feel safe. The food should be safe for both gerbils and rabbits (such as pieces of broccoli).
- Supervise your pets constantly. When you have to leave the room, put your gerbil back into its cage. If a fight breaks out and you aren’t there to intervene, either animal could get injured.
- Separate them if they show signs of stress. If playful curiosity turns to fear/aggression, separate them before they have a chance to fight.
You could also consider putting your gerbil in an exercise ball when the rabbit is around. That way, the animals can interact, but can’t touch each other.
However, be careful that your rabbit does not mistake the ball for a toy. If it tosses the ball around, your gerbil could get hurt.
If your gerbil and rabbit seem to get on well, you can let them play together occasionally. But never leave them unsupervised, even if they seem the best of friends.
Can Gerbils and Rabbits Live Together?
Both rabbits and gerbils are social animals, and they don’t like living alone. According to the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, rabbits kept alone often show signs of stress. Similarly, gerbils housed individually are prone to depression.
But can rabbits live with gerbils? Unfortunately, gerbils and rabbits need the company of other members of their own species. If your gerbil lived with your rabbit, neither species would benefit from it.
There are several practical reasons why gerbils and rabbits shouldn’t live in the same enclosure.
- Rabbit hutches are not suitable for gerbils. They’re made of wood, which gerbils will chew. Hutches and runs also contain gaps large enough for gerbils to escape through. Gerbilariums are far too small for rabbits.
- Gerbils build intricate tunnels in their substrate. Rabbits, however, like to toss their bedding around. This would destroy the gerbil’s tunnels, causing your gerbil to become stressed.
- Rabbits and gerbils have different dietary requirements. If they had access to each other’s food, they could get sick.
- Rabbits are heavier and stronger than gerbils. If your rabbit accidentally kicked, stood or sat on your gerbil, it could cause a fatal injury.
- Neither rabbits nor gerbils are used to sharing their home with a different species. They would almost certainly fight over territory, space, or communication problems.
For the above reasons, a gerbil should never live with a rabbit. But you can place the gerbilarium and rabbit hutch in the same room, so they can see each other.