The first thing children want to know about a pet gerbil is if it’s a boy or a girl. And if you’re buying your own pet, you want to know if male or female gerbils are more friendly and sociable.
Males are bigger than females, and can be smellier. They’re friendlier to owners/other gerbils and enjoy affection more, although fights can happen. Females are more excitable and enjoy playing more. Males and females have similar life spans and health issues.
They all have unique personalities which are more crucial than the gender of your gerbil. So, some male gerbils bite a lot, and some females are calm and dislike playing. No two gerbils are the same.
Male vs. Female Gerbils As Pets
Both male and female gerbils are good pets. Both are cute, can be handled, and can have adorable personalities. The main determinant of whether a gerbil is a good pet is how you train it. But the sex of your gerbil also makes a difference.
|Size||Males are slightly bigger.|
|Frequency of Bites||Females are less trusting, so can bite more.|
|Enjoyment of Play||Females seem to be more active, while males are more relaxed.|
|Friendliness with Owner||Females aren’t as friendly with their owner as males. Males like affection more than females: petting, stroking, and cuddling.|
|Friendliness with Other Gerbils||Both male and female gerbils fight, but females can be fiercer.|
|Smell||Males have a bigger scent gland, but don’t smell that much more than females do. Both males and females go to the toilet an equal amount.|
|Lifespan||Both live for the same amount of time.|
|Health Issues||Both male and female gerbils have health issues more common to their sex. For example, males get scent gland tumors more frequently, while only females can get ovarian tumors.|
Males score ‘better’ in three categories: they’re more trusting, friendlier with owners, and friendlier with other gerbils. Females score ‘better’ in two categories: their scent gland is smaller (smell better) and they’re more playful.
In other areas, like lifespan and size, males and females are equal. These points come down to personal preference.
Something to bear in mind is that it’s easy to incorrectly sex a gerbil. That means you think it’s a male, when it’s a female (or vice versa).
Are Male Gerbils Bigger than Females?
Gerbils are four inches long, and their tails are the same size as their bodies. Healthy gerbils can weigh anything between 80 and 120 grams, although heavier and lighter specimens are common.
Male gerbils are slightly bigger than female gerbils. This is the case because males need to be strong to pass on their genes. Males compete with one another by fighting over females. The stronger gerbil will win and pass its genes on, while the loser will only get a chance later.
Gerbil males also need to be more powerful than females because it helps with mating. In the natural world, the male will often overpower the female in order to mate when the male wants and not when the female wants.
Natural selection selects larger, heavier male gerbils. You may think that a larger or smaller pet is cute. So being larger doesn’t necessarily make males ‘better’ if you prefer smaller gerbils.
Are Male or Female Gerbils Friendlier?
By far the most important thing when you want a good pet is how friendly it is. As a rule, males are more friendly than females. At least, that’s the opinion of most gerbil owners.
Males seem to be more responsive to affection, and will seek out affection more than females. So, male gerbils will enjoy:
- Spending time around you
- Petting and stroking
- Hugging and holding
They will also be calmer when you hold them, which is useful. You’ll need to pick up your gerbil frequently, whether to clean its enclosure or to spend time with it.
To be clear, every gerbil has its own character. It’s rare to find a gerbil that entirely dislikes affection, and only wants you to go away. But it’s reported that males are more open to friendliness.
Do Female Gerbils Bite More?
Biting is a defensive behavior that is underlined by a lack of trust. A gerbil that bites is worried for one reason or another: it may feel threatened, or not like you as much as you like it.
Because males are more friendly, they become used to you more quickly. It’s more likely that a female will bite than a male. This is the case soon after you buy your gerbil, or soon after it’s born.
Gerbil teeth are sharp and strong. They keep their teeth sharp by gnawing on solid objects like wooden toys or branches. However, both males and females have the same kind of teeth, so their bites hurt the same.
All gerbils can be taught to trust their owner and be affectionate. This will prevent biting. The only issue is that it’s more difficult to get female gerbils to like you. But it’s far from impossible to do so.
Do Female or Male Gerbils Like Playing?
Despite being less friendly, female gerbils are more active. Most owners report that their female gerbils are more likely to try to explore or even escape. They will hop op when you open the top of their cage and scurry about quickly, interested in their environment.
On the other hand, males will spend more time around you when you take them from their cage. They will be interested in exploring too, but will spend more time with you seeking affection rather than exploring and playing.
This applies inside the gerbilarium, too. Females are more likely to become ‘hyper’ and play with their toys for hours on end. It’s unclear why this discrepancy in behavior exists, and scientists haven’t studied it.
But owners will also state that every gerbil has its own personality. So, some males will be more active than average. You can’t guarantee you’ll get a playful pet if you buy a female.
Are Female Gerbils More Aggressive than Males?
Aggression doesn’t only occur between the gerbil and its owner. It also occurs within gerbil groups. Gerbils can fight, bite each other, ‘box’ and squeak loudly as a threat.
Aggression is common in any social setting where one animal wants something, and another wants it too. It can also occur where one animal wants something but the other won’t give it. If you have siblings, or have owned groups of pets before, you’ll understand this behavior.
Females can be more aggressive with other gerbils than males. In any gerbil group, there is a dominant pair of a male and female. This pair assert their dominance in many ways. This is known as being ‘territorial.’
While the males can box and fight, the females can be even worse. A dominant female can completely ostracize another female until it has no choice but to leave. It will then go and start another burrow somewhere else.
In captivity, this may not be possible, so fighting can get out of hand. Gerbils take fighting seriously, and can even kill one another. Male gerbils fighting can kill one another, as can females. To prevent fighting from getting out of hand, separate the gerbils into different gerbilariums.
Are Male or Female Gerbil Pairs Better?
As gerbils are social creatures, they need to live in pairs. It’s possible to keep pairs of males, pairs of females, or mixed-sex pairs of gerbils. Most owners think that male pairs get along better than female pairs.
Females are known to ‘de-clan’ more frequently than males. Declanning is where the social group is fractured because one gerbil tries to kick another out. This happens much more frequently with females than it does with males.
What you may notice is that females don’t declan as much if they’re related. Declanning is especially common in groups of more than two. If there are three or more female gerbils in a group, then the odds of declanning go up drastically.
Keeping male and female gerbils together is a good idea, because they usually get on. However, doing so will result in the pair breeding. They will almost certainly eventually have pups. So, only keep a mixed-sex pair if you want your gerbils to have babies.
Are Female or Male Gerbils Cleaner?
Male and female gerbils are equally messy. Look at the messes each creates and you’ll see. Both male and female gerbils go to the toilet anywhere they like. Both like to burrow, so can get bedding everywhere if the cage doesn’t contain it well.
Do Male or Female Gerbils Smell More?
Male gerbils seem to smell a little more than females, because they have a larger scent gland. The scent glands in a gerbil are located on the stomach. It’s a small, oval bald patch that’s slightly darker than the rest of the gerbil’s skin.
Males need to use them to spread their scent and pheromones to attract a female before they mate for life. According to the journal Behavior Research Methods and Instrumentation, gerbils use this belly scent gland to mark grass in the wild.
This is the case for other rodents, too, and owners commonly report that males smell stronger. Males will especially spread their scent when they want to mate, which is frequent in rodents. According to Behavioral Neuroscience, they spread scent much more frequently than females.
Fortunately, you can’t detect these pheromones unless you never clean your gerbil’s enclosure.
Do Male or Female Gerbils Wee More?
Gerbils, both males and females, wee a lot less than other rodents. This means that they don’t smell as much as you might expect, although their scent is still strong. This is because they evolved in an area with hardly any water, so they conserve it.
You can prevent this scent from building up by cleaning your pet’s gerbilarium. Change out their bedding regularly, wipe clean your gerbil’s toys, and spray the glass with antibacterial spray.
Male vs. Female Gerbil Lifespan
In many animals, lifespan is different between males and females. People are a good example: women around the world live a few years longer than men, in some countries up to a decade.
Gerbils, though, don’t have a significant difference in lifespan between males and females. That’s because their lifespan is so short that you won’t see any difference between males and females here. If there is one, it may only be an extra week or so.
However, there is one issue. According to the journal Laboratory Animals, more females survive to weaning age than males. To be precise, 4% more females survive this period than males.
That’s only a small number, so it is unlikely to affect you unless you run a breeding program. And either way, you don’t buy gerbils at this age anyway. You can only buy gerbils that have already weaned and become independent, so this is a moot point.
Male vs. Female Gerbil Health Issues
Both male and female gerbils have specific health issues which affect them. That’s because of the different morphology of males and females.
Males and females can get scent gland tumors, but they’re more common in males. That’s because the scent gland is bigger and used more frequently in males than in females. These tumors can kill if left untreated, and often appear in old age.
Female gerbils can get them too, albeit less frequently. But females have their own unique conditions. Cysts can develop on a female’s ovaries, like in other animals. Again, this can kill if left untreated and appears towards the end of life.
Are Male or Female Gerbils Better for Beginners?
Neither males nor females are necessarily better for beginners. Males are sometimes friendlier and less aggressive than females. But a gerbil will rarely be aggressive and unfriendly to an owner that takes care of it properly.
What’s more important for a beginner is to learn how to take care of gerbils properly. Guides on handling, feeding, changing bedding and cleaning the gerbil’s enclosure are all critical. Study these before buying your pet rather than focusing on the gerbil’s sex.
If you follow all of this advice, then it’s highly likely that your gerbil will be friendly and affectionate. So, if that’s what you want, it’s up to you to be a good owner.
Should I Buy a Male or Female Gerbil?
Some people prefer males, while some prefer females. Some females entirely buck the trend: females can be calm and affectionate. Some males can be aggressive and nippy. Every gerbil has its own personality, and because much of your gerbil’s temperament depends on how it was raised by you.
Rather than thinking about the sex of the gerbil, focus on its behavior. So, for example:
- Did the gerbil seem frightened or nervous when you approached its enclosure?
- Did you get to pick the gerbil up? If so, was it comfortable? If not, has it already been trained for handling or not?
- Was the gerbil living with other gerbils in the pet store? If so, how did they get along?
These indicators that a gerbil is friendly are far more reliable than only looking at sex. So, pick either a male or female if you like. Take care of it properly and it will be a rewarding pet.