Gerbils are known for eating their babies, but why do they do it?
The gerbil mum will eat her babies because she does not care for her off spring as much as other animals do, She is most likely to eat the runt of the litter if she is ill or very tired from pregnancy.
It is in their nature to attack and eat their off spring, You just cant stop it. Other factors also come in to play which I will cover below.
The mother typically will not eat all of her off spring, usually just the small and weak babies.
Its the mothers job to make sure that she and the litter can survive, if she thinks that killing one of her babies will help (Due to lack of food) then she will do it.
Its unusual for a mother to kill her babies for no reason.
Do you know what baby gerbils look like? Take a look at the video below.
Reasons for Gerbils Eating Their Babies
The main reasons for gerbils Eating their young include
If a baby is born early it will most likely be undeveloped. If this is the case they will have a smaller chance of growing up to be a healthy gerbil. Mum will realise this and will not want them to suffer in the long term.
If one of the babies is sick the mum might eat them to protect the other babies in their littler. Shes does not want the sickness to spread and the babies to suffer from this illness.
Weak / Unhealthy Mother
If the mother is to weak she will not be able to look after her babies. The litter will depend on mum for nutrition to develop. If mum is weak or unhealthy she might eat one of her young to reduce the resources she needs to produce.
Mum Not Producing Enough Milk
If mum is unable to produce enough milk to her litter there is an easy fix, reduce the number of the litter. Whilst this is mean on the one who needs to go, the others will thrive because of this.
If the litter is large mum and dad might have issues to provide for the whole litter. Simply reducing the numbers makes it easier for them to care for the litter.
How To Prevent Gerbils Eating Their Babies
If you know that your gerbil is expecting there are a few things that you can do to reduce the risk that the babies will be eaten after they are born.
There are no signs to look out for if the mum is going to eat her babies. You could wake up one day to find that one has disappeared.
To prevent gerbils eating their babies the following will help.
Trusted and Helping Father
If the mother has a good bond with the father and the father helps with looking after the babies this will reduce the stress and work load from the mum.
Stress Free Environment
It is important that your gerbils are as stress free as possible. A gerbil with less stress is very important when around their babies. To reduce the stress you can check the following
- Make sure the cage they are kept in has enough room for the family to move around in.
- Feed the gerbils frequently and make sure they have enough food to eat at all times.
- Do not change the environment in anyway when the babies have been born, or for a few weeks after they are born.
- Quite room is important. Gerbils do not like loud sounds as it scares them.
- Good amount of natural day light
Extra Water Bottle
Place an extra water bottle in the cage. Sometimes water bottles get blocked, if this happens your gerbils will not get enough water and will become very stressed.
It is important that there is enough bedding in the cage for the mum to build a nest. If mum feels she can not build a nest good enough for her off spring she will become stressed.
Do Male Gerbils Eat Their Babies?
Generally male gerbils are unlikely to eat any of their babies, they are good fathers and like to help out with raising the babies. Gerbils are less likely to eat their babies compared to other rodents like hamsters.
It is rare for a male gerbil to kill its babies, there needs to be a very good reason for it such as
- It sees one of the babies as a threat to its social standing
- The baby smells funny / different
- The baby has a serious health issue (This prevents them from growing up and suffering)
It is recommended to separate the male gerbil from the litter until they have grown their coats and have opened there eyes. At this stage they are not at threat any more from being eaten from mum and dad.
Things You Need To Know About Large Gerbil Litters
A female gerbil will typically give birth to around 2 – 6 babies. If mum thinks that the litter is to large she will most likely eat some of her babies to get the number down.
This is purely a survival instinct because less babies require less resources to survive. Mums number one priority is to make sure that the healthiest babies survive.
If mum and dad decide that there is not enough food, or not enough time to look after all of the litter then 1 or 2 babies will be eaten.
Whilst it does sound extreme to eat your own off spring, they do have the best of intentions for doing it.
Do Gerbils Eat Each Other?
Gerbils will not kill and eat each other. Even if another gerbil has died of natural causes they will not get eaten. In very rare cases a gerbil will eat another if there is nothing else available to eat.
It is also rare that a gerbil is very aggressive towards another. If your gerbil is constantly aggressive towards others you will need to separate them.
Do Gerbils Eat Their Dead?
In the wild gerbils will eat other dead gerbils because a dead animal will smell and will attract predators. So to protect themselves they will eat the dead and make sure the nest is clean.
Gerbils in captivity will not eat the dead unless they do not have any access to food.
What Do You Do With Gerbil Babies?
If your gerbil has just had babies below are a few things that you will need to do.
- Don’t make any changes to the environment for the first week
- Maintain the environment, Make sure they have enough food and water
- Do not remove the male gerbil from the cage, The male will help out in raising the babies
- Don’t handle the babies until they are at least two weeks old (I know it can be tempting)
- If you notice any of the babies are unwell you will need to take them to the vet as soon as possible
- Watch the babies to make sure they are all getting enough milk from mum
- The babies will move to solid food after week 3 or 4
- If mum has a second litter of babies it is recommended to remove the first litter from the cage
- You can remove the babies from mum at around 6 weeks of age
Do Gerbils Eat Their Own Poop?
It is not unusual for your gerbil to eat their own poop. You do not need to worry as this is normal behaviour and will not harm your gerbil in any way.