Can Gerbils Get Wet? {What Are The Risks?}

Do you wish to bathe your gerbil in water? Will this cause stress or discomfort for your gerbil? In this article, we’ll find out if gerbils can or should get wet.

Can Gerbils Get Wet? Gerbils shouldn’t get wet. Spot-cleaning and emergency bathing has been used less often as sand baths which complete the cleaning job without any water. Gerbils are sensitive to water and could get cold or hypothermic quite easily. 

What Happens If A Gerbil Gets Wet?

Over generations of existence, gerbils have adapted to dry desert climates where water is not abundant. A gerbil is sensitive to water and may get cold easily.

Their small stature leads to the susceptibility of catching hypothermia. Avoid giving gerbils a water bath and choose a sand bath instead.

Do Gerbils Like To Get Wet?

Gerbils do not like getting wet. This is not a fun activity they are accustomed to. Swimming is an emergency response that gerbils are capable of doing.

You do not commonly find bodies of water near gerbil habitats in the wild. Asking a gerbil to swim would be cruel in most cases. Making a gerbil wet could lead to:

  • stress
  • shivering
  • heavy breathing
  • loss of appetite
  • hypothermia

Can You Bathe Gerbils In Water?

Bathing a gerbil in water should be saved for emergencies or out of absolute necessity. If your gerbil accidentally covered itself in mud or there is an issue with mites, you may have to carefully apply water gently.

A weekly sand bath is your alternative for:

  • dirt
  • debris
  • excess oil
  • preventing bacterial infections
  • keeping fur clean

A water bath should be avoided. A spot-cleaning without dousing your gerbil in a sink full of water is better.

Can Gerbils Swim?

Yes. Most rodents and mammals in the animal kingdom can swim if need be. Swimming is a natural response when a gerbil is placed in water.

The act of swimming will resemble a doggie paddle motion. Intense stress may ensue as a fight or flight response to save itself from the water. Gerbils have small paws, making swimming difficult for them.

Swimming is not recommended. Gerbils are not strong swimmers and will tire out or could possibly become hypothermic as a result.

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Are Gerbils Smelly?

Gerbils are fairly odorless. They will groom themselves with their tongue, but you can step in to help them. Provide a shallow bowl of sand to remove excess dirt, dust and debris. Gerbils do not need to get wet or take a bath to remove any odors.

If there are cases of gerbils getting stinky, there must have been an accident with your gerbil stepping or falling into their own waste or anything else that may have caused the odor.

Wiping with a towel, spot-cleaning with very little water or a sand bath are your best options before considering applying more water to deodorize your gerbil.

Do Gerbils Swim in The Wild?

Dry and arid lands where most gerbils are situated in the wild, do not contain water. Think of Mongolian grasslands without trees or running water.

The natural habitat doesn’t allow for gerbils to consider swimming. This rodent has learned to dig, build tunnels and burrow for protection.

Mongolia gets frigid which would lead to any bodies of water becoming too cold for swimming. Gerbils in North Africa would also be left without the option to swim as this is one of the driest areas on Earth.

What Happens To A Gerbil In Water?

Most gerbils will immediately try to find a way out of the water. This is not an enjoyable experience. Stress results and possible cases of hypothermia occurs because of their sensitivity to water.

The fear from being stuck in water may cause rapid heart beating, heavy breathing, depression or sudden illness. Many gerbil owners have addressed that their gerbils are fine with some water under calm and controlled conditions.

Each gerbil should be unique in their characteristics to some degree, but overall studies show that induced swimming is not encouraged and negative reactions may occur.

When Should I Use Water On My Gerbil?

If your gerbil is inflicted with mites or fleas, you may have to apply an shampoo oriented towards its eradication.

Anti-parasite shampoos will require you to use some water to remove it once you have applied it on your gerbil. Spot-cleaning and gentle rinsing without dunking your gerbil in water must be done patiently.

If your gerbil keeps most of its body above water with only its paws getting wet, you will be able to complete this procedure without much stress or fear.

How Do Gerbils Bathe?

Gerbils bathe in sand. They play and roll around in it. The sand is able to remove oil and grease to keep your gerbil’s fur clean. Sand has also proven to be effective in trapping fleas or mites.

Try this technique before resorting to flea or mite shampoos. A small pit of sand in a shallow bowl will suffice as a bath.

Gerbils are very comfortable in sand and will do their best to shake it off when they are finished. Repeat this once a week or as often as you see fit to keep your gerbil clean.

Do Gerbils Groom Themselves?

Yes. Gerbils use their tongues to groom themselves. Two or more gerbils may help groom each other as well. Gerbils build their social skills this way.

They trust each other to get this close and establish a bond. Some gerbils have different grooming styles and it’s fun to see them at work. A happy and healthy gerbil will groom itself or its neighbor.


Although you may see videos of gerbils getting wet in sinks, bowls or bathtubs, the act of bathing them in water is not recommended. The natural behaviors for gerbils to clean themselves through grooming or sand baths are enough to keep them clean.

Water is used out of absolute necessity if your gerbil is very muddy, stinky or has a problem with mites and fleas. At this stage, the water you apply should be done minimally or with spot-cleaning instead of asking them to jump in a bowl or sink full of water.


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