Are Gerbils Nocturnal? Gerbil Sleeping Habits Guide

Are Gerbils Nocturnal

There are two main types of gerbil that we keep as pets, monogolian and fat-tailed, they both have different sleeping habits, but are gerbils nocturnal?

Gerbils are mostly nocturnal as they are less active during the day. You will see them taking a series of naps during the day while they stay mostly awake at night. 

Are Gerbils Crepuscular?

Gerbils are more active at night than they are during the day. We can classify them as nocturnal animals, but they are not entirely nocturnal as they are not always active at night. But we can classify them as crepuscular animals as they are active during twilight periods.

Crepuscular animals are animals that distinguish diurnal and nocturnal animal behaviors. Diurnal animals are active during the day, while nocturnal animals are active during the night. Like gerbils, some crepuscular animals can also be active at night, during an overcast day, and moonlight.

When Do Gerbils Sleep?

Gerbils do not have a particular sleep routine; they can sleep now and be up in the next hour. Most times, they sleep for an hour or two, after which they get up for the next hour or two. They do these repeatedly in the day and at night, making them an easygoing, peaceful rodent.

Gerbils tend to adapt to situations and change their everyday behaviors due to change in habitat or condition. One of the behaviors that can change in gerbils is their sleeping routine. Gerbil’s sleeping pattern in the wild is quite different from those kept as pets due to their high adaptability feature.

Gerbils raised in captivity can adapt to humans’ sleeping schedule as you will notice them being active in the day and sleeping at night, which is quite different from those in the wild. Gerbils have a way of switching their sleeping time to what suits them and the environment around them.

How Long Do Gerbils Sleep?

Gerbils do not sleep for long; they only take frequent short naps. They can sleep for an hour or two while they are awake for the next hour. At times, they might sleep for about 3 to 4 hours, but this does not happen very often.

Their cycle of sleep runs through the day and night. You will also notice that they become more active when they wake up; their activeness reduces from the time they get up from their sleep. Sleep is essential to gerbils, so you should allow them to take their nap as much as they need.

How Do Gerbils Sleep?

When gerbils sleep, they like to satisfy their tunneling and nesting instincts, like in the wild. You have to provide the environment they need to satisfy their sleeping requirements. When gerbils sleep, they like to have inches of beddings on their cage floor, allowing them to perform their tunneling activities.

In captivity, you have to provide enough bedding in their cage to give them enough space for their nesting and tunneling activities. Don’t get surprised if you see your gerbil pushing the beddings away from its house, as it is trying to recreate them in a way that suits it and makes it feel secure. Gerbils do not particularly have how they sleep; they sleep when they get tired and get a comfortable place to sleep.

They also like to curl up around each other when they sleep, especially when you have more than one in the cage.

Are Gerbils Active at Night?

A gerbil’s activeness at night depends on what species the gerbil is and what environment it stays in. Some species are active in the day, while some are not. Some gerbils frequently sleep during the day, while some take most of their naps at night.

Some gerbils are nocturnal, diurnal, and crepuscular. Some are more active at night, some in the day, and some at twilight. However, most gerbils will sleep during the day while they do their daily activities at night.

Can Gerbils Easily Adjust Their Sleep Pattern?

Gerbils are highly adaptable as they will change their sleeping patterns to suit every of their environment. The sleeping pattern of gerbils in the wild is different from those in captivity. It is because gerbils in captivity get influenced by human activities, making them active in the day like humans and less active at night.

Typical Behaviours of Gerbils

Gerbilsare social pets and will not give their owners much stress and trouble. There are some behaviors gerbils exhibit that you have to understand if you want to keep them successfully. Gerbils may fight each other playfully and violently; you have to distinguish the difference between the two.

When gerbils box or wrestle playfully, they chase each other around while showing affection with their blows and strikes. But when they fight violently, it is mostly a disaster. Fighting does not always wend with reconciliation as gerbils are good at holding a grudge against another.

You will notice them squeaking and making high-pitched noises when engaged in a violent fight. You will also see both parties’ aggression, showing they are not playing but ready to draw a line. You have to separate them from each other as they will keep on fighting till they get separated.

Here are other typical behaviours’ of gerbils;

  • Thumping : Thumping is one of the typical behaviors of gerbils. They do this when they get stressed, excited, or pass out a warning to other gerbils. They thump by pounding their hind legs against the floor.
  • Burrowing : Like every other rodent, gerbils like to burrow, and they will do if they get the chance. In the wild and captivity, gerbils like to burrow, so you should create a burrowing space for them when keeping them in a cage. Creating the space will allow the gerbil to be able to exhibit its natural burrowing abilities.
  • Grooming : One of their interactive social behaviour is grooming. Aside from social interactions, they also groom themselves to clean their furs. They can also groom themselves by performing a sand bath, rolling, and playing in the sand to clean their coat.
  • Scent Marking : Like every other big animal, gerbils also mark their territories using their scent glands. They have the scent gland on their abdomen; they rub their belly against objects and structures to mark their territory. Scent marking is typical behaviour of gerbils, both in the wild and in captivity.
  • Gnawing and Chewing : Chewing is a normal behaviour of rodents, and gerbils are not an exemption. Gerbils will chew their way through anything they can get their teeth into in the wild and captivity. It is their natural behaviour, so you have to provide a chewing structure to get their teeth into for their natural activities.
  • Squeaking : Squeaking is more like a way of speaking for gerbils. You will notice young gerbils squeak a lot because they tend to pass several messages to their mothers or adults around them. Adults do not make much sound as youngsters do except they are playing, stressed, hungry, or excited.
  • Nose Greeting : As people, we greet each other by shaking hands, but gerbils greet themselves by rubbing their noses. They will also display this friendly gesture towards their owners. They might also rub their belly against your hands as though they are marking their territories.

When a gerbil starts thumping, other gerbils around him will also begin tapping. The thumping’s sound and speed depict the urgency and importance of the situation the gerbil is passing through. Thumping is also a mating behaviour as you will see the males thumping to impress the female.

Young gerbils do a lot of thumping than adults making it seem more of learning behaviour. The thumping is also an infectious behaviour as you will notice other gerbils thumping when one starts. They will even begin tapping when they hear a sound with the same thumping sound and rhythm.

Where is Gerbil Natural Habitat?

Gerbils live in different habitats ranging from grasslands to deserts, semi-deserts, sandy deserts, clay, scrubs, etc. They also live in arid steppes, mountain valleys, etc. They prefer to live in green grassy areas, but a little dry as they love to burrow in sands and soft soils.

Try to imitate their natural habitat when keeping them in captivity. Provide structures that will make their cage look like their habitat and provide them the feeling of home.


There are several species of gerbils; some are nocturnal, diurnal, while others are crepuscular. Gerbils in captivity tend to be diurnal as they adapt to human conditioning. The ones in the wild tend to be nocturnal and crepuscular.

Most gerbils are active during the day while few are active at night. You only have to understand your gerbil’s behavior to understand to provide it a better home.