are gerbils noisy?
Gerbil Behavior

How to Keep Gerbils Quiet at Night

Gerbils are highly active animals. During their waking hours, they are full of energy and can make a lot of noise. If your gerbil’s loud at night, you might find that it stops you from sleeping. 

You can’t force gerbils to sleep. But if you exercise them before bed, they may be less energetic during the night. At bedtime, give your gerbils some plain paper towels to shred, and hide food in their cage. That way, they’ll be occupied with quiet activities. You can also cover the gerbilarium with a towel to block out some of the noise.

We’ll look at how much noise gerbils make, and whether they’re normally active at night. We’ll then explore how to keep your gerbils quiet at night, and how to make the gerbilarium less noisy.

Are Gerbils Noisy?

Gerbils aren’t as noisy as animals that bark, screech, or yowl. However, they’re far from silent. New gerbil owners are often shocked at how loud they can be.

Because gerbils are active creatures, they are always on-the-go when they’re not sleeping. A gerbil will rarely sit still and relax. Noises that you might hear your gerbils making include:

  • Squeaking. Gerbils can be vocal, especially when living in pairs or groups. According to the Acoustical Society of America, gerbils make a range of vocalizations when playing or fighting.
  • Drumming. Gerbils bang their feet on the ground when they are alarmed.
  • Chewing. Gerbils have to chew to keep their teeth in good condition. This can make a lot of noise, especially if they chew the bars of their cage.
  • Exercising. According to Animal Behavior, gerbils can run up to 5 miles per day in their exercise wheel. Unfortunately, most wheels squeak and rattle.
  • Chasing. As a form of play, and to establish dominance, gerbils like to chase each other around. This can be loud, especially if they accidentally crash into the cage walls.
  • Throwing things. Gerbils love to rearrange the ‘furniture’ in their enclosures, and they don’t do it delicately. If they’re bored, they might toss the food dish around, for example.

Unfortunately, gerbils don’t just make noise during the day. Most gerbils are active throughout the night, too. This might make it difficult for you to sleep, if their cage is in your bedroom.

Why Is My Gerbil Noisy at Night?

Many people think that gerbils are diurnal animals — active during the day, and sleeping at night. This is true for some gerbil species, but not for Mongolian gerbils (the type that we keep as pets).

A study in Physiology and Behavior found that Mongolian gerbils are metaturnal. They sleep for around 12 hours each day, but they don’t sleep all in one go. They take a series of short naps throughout the day and night. So, if it seems like your gerbils up all night, that’s why.

You may be wondering how to get gerbils to sleep at night. But unfortunately, there’s little you can do to influence your gerbil’s sleep cycle. Gerbils sleep when they want to sleep.

Some gerbils have been known to adjust to their owner’s sleep cycle naturally. If your gerbil gets plenty of exercise and attention during the day, they may choose to sleep at night.

However, it’s mostly down to luck. All gerbils are different, and some naturally sleep more at certain times of the day.

gerbils loud at night

What to Do If Your Gerbil’s Loud at Night

Not all gerbils are noisy at night. But if yours are, you may quickly find yourself at your wit’s end. It’s not fun to lose out on sleep because of an energetic critter keeping you up all night.

You can’t force your gerbil to sleep when you do. However, there are some things you can do to help keep your gerbil quiet at night.

Exercise Your Gerbil Before Bed

The best way to calm your gerbil down at night is to tire them out before you go to bed. That way, they’re more likely to take a nap while you’re getting to sleep.

And even if your gerbils are active at night, they won’t have as much pent-up energy. They’ll be more likely to pursue quieter activities, such as chewing toys, rather than running in their wheel.

An hour before your bedtime, take your gerbils out of their cage and allow them to run around. To encourage them to explore, you provide them with tunnels or even a gerbil maze.

You could let them run around in the (empty) bath, or on your bed. Some gerbils also enjoy running up and downstairs (though make sure they don’t fall).

Supervise your gerbils at all times while they’re out of the cage. Then, return them to their home when it’s time to get to sleep.

Play Relaxing Music for Gerbils

Not all gerbils respond to music. However, many gerbil owners find that certain types of music can help their gerbils become relaxed and sleepy.

The best kind of music to use is calm music with a slow tempo. Classical, easy-listening, and instrumental piano music are all great genres to choose from. Don’t pick anything high-pitched or fast-paced, as this could excite or annoy your gerbils.

After your gerbils have had their nighttime exercise, return your gerbils to their cage and turn the music on. Keep the volume relatively low. It should help your gerbils feel calm and tranquil, ready for the night time.

Feed Your Gerbils Before Bed

Most gerbil owners feed their gerbils in the mornings, before going to work or school. But if you switch feeding time to the evening, your gerbils might stay quieter at night. This is for two reasons:

  • Your gerbils will keep themselves busy snacking while you’re asleep. This is a quiet activity that won’t wake you up.
  • After your gerbils have eaten, they’re likely to be full and want to rest. Just as we sometimes feel sleepy after a large lunch, so might your gerbils.

To make your gerbils’ dinner time last longer, don’t serve their food in a dish. Instead, you should scatter feed. This means sprinkling the food around the gerbilarium for your gerbils to find.

For example, hide some food in your gerbil’s hide or nest. Mix some of it into their bedding, so they have to dig for it. If the gerbilarium has multiple levels, spread it as far and wide as you can.

This will simulate your gerbils’ natural foraging behavior. It will take your gerbils much longer to eat their food than if you served it all in one place. As an extra incentive, hide some of your gerbil’s favorite treats too, like sunflower seeds or mealworms. You can even cut them up into tiny pieces and hide them. The smaller the pieces, the longer it will take to find them.

Give Your Gerbils Paper Towels to Shred

No gerbil can resist paper towels. They have great fun shredding them up into tiny pieces, and mixing them into their bedding. Shredded paper towels make a great lining for nests, and they also help to form sturdy tunnel walls.

Right before bed each night, place a large wad of paper towels into the gerbilarium. You don’t need to cut them up — your gerbils will take care of that. Ensure the towels are new, clean, and entirely made of paper (no fabric or plastic added).

While your gerbils are shredding their paper towels, they’ll make soft ripping noises. But these noises shouldn’t be loud enough to keep you awake.

They may take a nap in their new nest when they’re done, or get started on a new tunnel. Either way, they will be occupied with quiet activities.

Use the Right Substrate

The kind of substrate (bedding) in your gerbil’s enclosure can have a big impact on nighttime noise.

One of the loudest noises that gerbils make at night is when they dig at the sides or floor of their cage. They do this if they don’t have the right kind of substrate, or enough to build tunnels with.

Give your gerbils a mixture of aspen shavings, hay, cardboard, and paper towels for the best results. Your gerbils will chew everything up into a mixture which they’ll use to build their burrows.

Ideally, you should provide at least 7 to 8 inches of substrate. This will be deep enough for them to build complex tunnels, as they would in the wild.

Tunnel digging is a relatively quiet activity, and it should not disturb your sleep. If your gerbil still digs at the side of the cage, it could be bored.

Introduce Wooden Chew Toys

Another particularly loud noise that gerbils make comes from chewing on cage bars. Cage bars are made of metal and can make a shrill ‘pinging’ sound when they’re being bitten.

All gerbils need to chew every day. It helps them to keep their teeth filed down. If your gerbils don’t have any suitable chew toys in their cage, they’ll chew the cage itself.

Not only is this loud, but it’s also bad for their teeth to chew metal. So, always ensure your gerbils have a supply of healthy wooden chew toys. Safe woods for gerbils to chew include:

  • Aspen
  • Bamboo
  • Elm
  • Hazel
  • Willow
  • Oak

Gerbils chewing on wood toys is not silent, but it’s much quieter than metal. If your gerbils don’t seem to be interested in their toys, try offering a different material.

gerbils up all night

How to Make a Gerbilarium Quieter

Now that you’ve learned how to calm your gerbils, and given them quiet activities, they should be less noisy at night.

However, your gerbils will inevitably make some noise during the night. They will need to exercise and keep themselves occupied. Sometimes, the gerbilarium itself can contribute to your gerbils’ nighttime noise.

Move Your Gerbils to a Glass Tank

If your gerbils live in a cage with metal bars, this may be contributing to their noisiness at night. You will find that moving your gerbils to a solid glass tank helps to reduce their nighttime noise. This is for two main reasons:

  • Gerbils like to chew on metal cage bars. This is not only bad for their teeth, but can be extremely noisy. A tank with smooth glass sides will give your gerbils nothing to chew on.
  • Glass tanks with well-fitted lids are better at keeping the sound in. Whatever your gerbils do inside the tank will be muffled by the glass walls.

Glass tanks come in a variety of sizes. They’re ideal for gerbils, as they can hold a deep layer of substrate. They’re also less messy, as gerbils are unable to kick their bedding out onto the floor.

You will still find that your gerbils might dig at the sides or floor of the tank. However, it won’t be as noisy as if they were digging at metal bars.

Get a Silent Exercise Wheel

Running wheels are one of the only ways for a gerbil to get exercise in the cage. However, most gerbil exercise wheels are squeaky and loud. They’re one of the main reasons why gerbils are noisy at night. Fortunately, there are two ways you can make gerbil exercise wheels quieter.

  • Buy a silent exercise wheel. These are designed to be noiseless. They’re more expensive than standard exercise wheels, but they’re worth the price. A popular brand is the Silent Runner, available on Amazon.
  • Oil the exercise wheel from time to time. Use a non-toxic, food-safe oil, such as canola oil or sunflower oil. Never use motor oil or any inedible oil.

You may be tempted to remove the wheel from the gerbilarium at night. However, this is not a good idea. Gerbils are high-energy animals, and become distressed and anxious when there’s no way for them to exercise.

Remove Plastic Tubing and Toys

Plastic is one of the noisiest materials to have in the gerbilarium, second only to metal.

Gerbils love to chew everything, regardless of what material it’s made from. So if your gerbil’s cage contains any plastic accessories, consider removing them.

As well as being noisy, plastic toys and decorations can also be dangerous. This is because gerbils will sometimes swallow small pieces of plastic while chewing.

Gerbils can’t digest plastic, so the particles sometimes get stuck in the gut and cause obstructions. Intestinal obstructions can be fatal, so it’s best to remove the risk altogether.

Instead of giving your gerbil plastic toys and tunnels, use wooden ones. Wooden toys are safe for gerbils to chew, and are also much quieter.

Move the Gerbilarium

Most gerbil owners keep the gerbilarium in their bedroom. However, if your gerbils are particularly noisy, it means you might struggle to sleep.

If you find your gerbils noisy at night, consider moving the gerbilarium to a different room. Examples include a spare bedroom, living room, dining room, or home office.

This could be a permanent move, or a temporary one. You could move the cage at night, and bring it back to your room during the day.

You should not keep your gerbilarium in the bathroom. This is for two reasons:

  • Gerbils don’t like running water. Running water emits ultrasonic frequencies, which we can’t hear, but gerbils can. The noise is annoying and distressing to them.
  • The humidity in most bathrooms is too high for gerbils. Gerbils are used to living in desert countries and don’t appreciate damp air. High humidity can cause respiratory infections and fur problems.

If you must keep the gerbilarium in your bedroom at night, you could keep it in a closet. But ensure that there is adequate ventilation, so your gerbils can breathe.

Should You Cover a Gerbil Cage at Night?

Unlike covering a bird cage, covering a gerbil cage at night won’t help your gerbil sleep. Gerbils are active throughout the day and night, so darkness doesn’t act as a sleep cue.

However, covering the gerbilarium can help to muffle any noise coming from within. This may make it easier for you to sleep.

You can use a towel or a blanket as a cover for your gerbil’s cage. Leave a small gap, so that there’s some ventilation. Placing the gerbilarium on a carpet or rug, rather than a hard surface, can also help.

If your gerbils are still too noisy after following all of our advice, there’s not much left to do. After all, gerbils are naturally active at night, and you can’t change that.

Consider sleeping with earplugs in. Good quality foam or wax earplugs are effective at blocking out sounds. Alternatively, using a white noise machine or fan while you sleep can help drown out noisy gerbils.