When your gerbil gets loose, you’re bound to panic. But you should try to stay calm and work through a series of steps. That way, you have the best possible chance of catching an escaped gerbil.
Gerbils hide behind furniture, inside walls, in piles of clothing, and anywhere else that offers them cover. Try to lure your gerbil out with food, water, and toys. Sadly, if your gerbil escaped outside, you’re unlikely to get it back.
Catching escaped gerbils isn’t easy because they’ve evolved to be good at avoiding detection. Gerbils can conceal themselves in unexpected places because they’re small and agile prey animals.
How Do Gerbils Escape?
Gerbils can escape in several ways. The most common is for them to make a break for it while you’re handling them. Your gerbil will hop from your hands and head for somewhere to hide.
This doesn’t necessarily mean your pet doesn’t like you. It may have wanted to explore as it doesn’t understand the difference between ‘missing’ and ‘safe.’ Your gerbil doesn’t know it’s a pet.
A gerbil can also escape by breaking its way out of its cage. If the cage is plastic, this is insufficient. A gerbil’s teeth are stronger and bigger than those of a hamster, so it can gnaw its way out. Also, any ingested plastic from chewing is toxic to gerbils if ingested.
Why Is My Gerbil Trying to Escape?
The main reason why a gerbil would try to escape is that its needs aren’t met. An animal in an enclosure is at your mercy. If you forget to feed it, it has no choice but to try and escape.
Gerbils need to be fed every day or every other day. They like to graze frequently and need around a tablespoon of food each per day. You can feed them every other day, in which case your gerbils will need two tablespoons each time you feed them.
Any less than this and your gerbils will experience ill health. The same applies to water. Cannibalism is not unheard of if the gerbils aren’t getting enough food.
Your gerbil may also be nervous and not like its home. Gerbils need places they can hide, like a burrow or a narrow tube. Without anywhere to hide, a gerbil will feel an innate fear. That’s because, in the wild, it would be vulnerable to predators.
According to the journal Alternatives to Laboratory Animals, lab gerbils display digging and gnawing behaviors when they are stressed. So, eliminate their stress, and your gerbil will stop trying to dig or gnaw its way out of its enclosure.
This applies when gerbils are kept as pets, too. According to the Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, gerbils reared in unnatural environments have bigger adrenal glands. This indicates that they experience more stress.
However, your gerbil may not be trying to escape. It may have been exploring and got lost. If all of its needs are met, then this is a distinct possibility.
How Likely Is It You’ll Find a Missing Gerbil?
It depends on how long your gerbil has been missing. If you lost it just now, you can close all the doors in the room. This will prevent the gerbil from escaping to somewhere like the outside, where you might never find it.
If you continue searching in this context, then it’s highly likely you’ll find your pet. It can’t have gone far. However, if your gerbil has been missing for a long time, then it becomes less likely you’ll find it.
If your gerbil was lost outside, then it is even more unlikely you will find it. It could have gone anywhere. It may have found a burrow to hide in, for example. Or, it could have been attacked by another animal.
If one gerbil escapes, your others may too. If it escaped from its cage, then the other gerbils will likely try to get out as well. Ensure that this can’t happen before moving on to find your missing pet.
Where Do Gerbils Hide when They Escape?
The best way to identify potential gerbil hiding places is to think of why they escaped. If your gerbil ran away because its needs weren’t met, then what needs was it missing out on?
Food is one potential answer. If your gerbil wasn’t getting enough food, it will have gone somewhere that there’s more food, such as the kitchen.
There are many places that gerbils might hide when they get free. But each of these places shares these common characteristics:
- Gerbils like enclosed spaces as a ‘base’. They may move away from this base occasionally e.g. to search for food. But they will spend most of their time here, in one place.
- Gerbils prefer staying alongside a wall. You won’t find your gerbil in the middle of the floor. All rodents naturally gravitate to vertical walls because they offer safety.
- If possible, the gerbil will want bedding. In the wild, gerbils burrow for safety, warmth, and comfort. They will naturally gravitate to a place where this is possible.
Your gerbil may have hidden either inside the home or outside it. This leaves you with no shortage of places to search for it. But the main thing it’ll look for is somewhere to burrow. According to Microbial Ecology, gerbils burrow so much in the wild that they change the soil’s microbiome.
However, the first place you should look is in the gerbil’s cage. There’s a good chance that your pet isn’t missing but hidden. Search your pet’s enclosure before starting to worry. This doesn’t apply if you saw the gerbil run away.
Gerbils Hide Near Food
Gerbils are grazers, which means they eat lots of food over the course of the day. In the wild, a gerbil will establish a burrow near a food source so that it has something to eat.
This offers one potential answer for where your gerbil is hiding: in the kitchen. Gerbils can eat lots of different kinds of human food, even if it isn’t healthy for them. Examples include:
- Any bread, but especially bread with seeds
- Fruit and vegetables, like carrots, cucumber, cauliflower, and more
- Nuts and seeds
Often, there are crumbs or spilled food in the kitchen that can attract pests. They can also act as a food source for a gerbil, albeit not enough food to sustain them in the long term.
Gaps Behind Furniture
Gerbils like enclosed spaces because they’re natural burrowing animals. If a gerbil can’t find a burrow or make one, it will seek another kind of enclosed space. There are many of these around your average house.
The best examples are behind furniture. Cupboards and wardrobes aren’t usually entirely flush to the wall. There is often a gap that a gerbil could hide behind. And if it has a gap underneath, the gerbil could be hiding there too.
Piles of Clothes
The only place in your home that a gerbil can burrow is in clothing. If you leave piles of clothes on the floor, the gerbil may hide inside them. If you have an open drawer somewhere filled with clothes, then your gerbil may hide here too.
How to Know where Gerbils are Hiding
Your gerbil may not be in any of the places listed above. It could be hiding almost anywhere. As such, you should look for the signs of rodent infestation. These will appear near where the gerbil has escaped to. These signs include:
- Hoarded food. Gerbils, like many other rodents, store food for later. You may find it stashed in corners or under things near where the gerbil is hiding.
- Gerbil droppings. Gerbils go to the toilet where they want. This means that droppings will cluster near where the gerbil is living.
- Gnawed wood and plastic pipes. Gerbils have to keep their teeth ground down, or they grow continually. They gnaw on wood and similar materials to achieve this.
- Holes in the wall or floor. Gerbils and other rodents chew through things that are in their way. Your pet may have gnawed a hole that it can pass through.
- Nesting material arranged into a bed. Gerbils like to burrow, and like somewhere comfortable to sit. It may make a nest from shredded paper or wood.
All rodents, including gerbils, can leave behind these clues. Bear in mind that they may be signs of an old rodent infestation rather than your missing gerbil.
How to Catch an Escaped Gerbil
Catching escaped gerbils isn’t easy because there are so many places to hide. Your gerbil will also be on edge because it’s in an unfamiliar place and may think you’re a predator. Because it’s awkward to catch a gerbil that got loose, here are some top tips on capturing one.
Gerbil Has Just Escaped
There are several things you should do immediately if your gerbil gets loose. These things will make it more likely that you’ll find your pet. They will also ensure that your pet is safe.
Shut every door in the room that you lost your gerbil. This will stop it from moving from one room to another. Once your gerbil gets to other rooms, it will be difficult to find. It could even get outside.
You should also put away any other pets you have in your home. If you have any more gerbils, put them away securely. If you have a cat or a dog, put them in a dog or cat crate, or lock them in a separate room.
How to Search for a Missing Gerbil
Begin by searching in each of the spots mentioned above. Use a light to search in dark corners and underneath things. While you search, look for the signs of a rodent infestation. These will appear in areas that your gerbil has hidden, so search these areas well.
Be careful when moving furniture to look behind or underneath it. If your gerbil is there, there’s a chance you could crush it. Move from one room to the next, ticking each room off as you go. The best way to search is like this, methodically.
If your gerbil was lost upstairs, it’s going to be upstairs. That’s because gerbils can hop up stairs but are too scared to hop down them.
But once you’ve found your gerbil, you still have to catch it. If you’ve ever had to do this before, you’ll know how difficult it is. The gerbil won’t want to be caught.
How to Attract Your Missing Gerbil
Finding a gerbil is difficult. They’re small and are good at hiding in tiny hiding places. What’s easier is to lure it out. There are several things you can use to lure out your gerbil:
- Food. Gerbils need to eat, and will find it difficult to scavenge enough food. Leaving out a full bowl of your hamster’s favorite food may lure it out.
- Water. Water will be even harder for your gerbil to find. So, a small bowl of water will work too.
- Something for your gerbil to gnaw on. If your gerbil is used to gnawing on something specific, leave it out and your gerbil may come to it.
- Toys from your gerbil’s enclosure. If there’s anything that your gerbil enjoyed playing with, like a wheel, it may be attracted to it if it’s left out.
If leaving food out, you could consider leaving it in a trail. This may lure your gerbil back towards a trap, towards you, or toward its enclosure.
You should also consider leaving out things from your gerbil’s enclosure. These things will smell like your gerbil, its partner, or its family. If it smells these scents, it may help if your gerbil is lost, and it can relocate its enclosure.
Watch over the things you’re using to lure your gerbil to see if it comes by. If it does, you can try to attract it. You can try attracting your gerbil by holding your hands out like you do when you handle it. But this may not work.
Use a Box or Net
If your gerbil doesn’t come to you, you’ll have to catch it some other way. Catching it with your hands usually doesn’t work, so use a box or net instead.
A net is a good choice because it has a big, long handle. This means you can bring it down over your gerbil from a long distance away. This will ensure that your missing pet doesn’t get scared or anxious due to you getting too close.
If you have one, a fishing net is a good choice. However, it’s likely you don’t have a net lying around. You can consider using a box to catch your gerbil instead.
A big cardboard box would be fine. Bring it down over your gerbil and cover it completely. Then, slide something underneath the box like a piece of card or a newspaper. You can then flip the box over and your gerbil can’t get out.
Use a Painless Mouse Trap
Better than searching for your gerbil is to use a passive means of capture. This means that you don’t have to expend lots of time and effort searching because you can trap your gerbil without having to do anything.
Not all rodent traps will kill the rodent they catch. Many are humane, which means they don’t hurt or kill. Instead, they physically trap the rodent, usually in a box of some kind. They have a gate at one end which falls when the rodent/gerbil walks inside. The gate is set in the up position and is brought down when the gerbil steps on a lever.
A mechanism like this leaves the gerbil completely unharmed. It’s perfect for catching your pet. To use it, follow these guidelines:
- Place the trap near where you think the gerbil might have escaped to. Ideally, buy more than one and put each trap in a different likely place.
- Put some food inside the trap. Pick your gerbil’s favorite food and you increase the chance that you’ll catch it.
Because a mechanism operates them, these traps can be used again and again. You can use them the next time a gerbil escapes. Or, you could use them to catch other rodents that may be infesting your house.
If you can’t afford humane traps, consider using cardboard tubes. Leave long tubes in each room of the home and check them periodically. Your gerbil may be tempted to hide in one of them.
Use a Homemade Box Trap
Bucket traps are excellent for catching rodents of all kinds. Start with a bucket placed upright near a wall. Line it with a small amount of bedding. The idea is that the gerbil will fall in, so you want to break its fall. Put some food in the bucket in case you don’t spot that the trap worked straight away.
Line up something your gerbil can walk up to reach the top of the bucket like a short piece of wood. You could also use books stacked like stairs. Ensure that your gerbil can climb up or the trap is useless.
Then, cover the top of the bucket with tissue or something similar. You want a material that the gerbil will think is a solid ‘floor’ but will collapse under its weight. In the middle of this tissue, put a small amount of your gerbil’s favorite food.
The idea is that your gerbil will smell the food, climb the ‘ladder,’ and fall in the bucket. So, check repeatedly to see if the trap worked.
If none of these traps work, and you can’t manually find your gerbil, then you probably won’t have much luck. Your only other option is to hire a pest controller, although they will likely use a similar humane trap to the ones mentioned above.
Pet rodents go missing all the time and can end up living wild. If this happens, you don’t have any option other than getting another.
What to Do After You Catch Your Gerbil
Once you’ve got your gerbil back, you must prevent it from escaping again. If the issue was with their enclosure, you’ll have to keep your gerbil in a temporary cage before buying a new one. Do so as soon as possible.
Pick one with solid glass sides or thick metal bars this time. Also, don’t pick an enclosure that doesn’t have a lid. Some cheaper ones don’t have one, and a clever gerbil could potentially escape from one.