Why Do Gerbils Have Tails? A Comprehensive Guide to Gerbil Behavior and Anatomy.

Gerbils have a small, but sturdy skeleton. Their bones are highly adapted to digging, jumping, and running. Gerbils have a long tail, which is an extension of the spine and is made up of small bones called vertebrae. The tail comprises about one-third of the gerbil’s total body length.

Respiratory System

Like other rodents, gerbils have efficient respiratory systems. Gerbils have a high respiratory rate, which is essential for their active lifestyle. They breathe through their nostrils and have well-developed lungs that allow them to extract oxygen efficiently.

Circulatory System

Gerbils have a four-chambered heart that pumps oxygen-rich blood to every part of their body. They have a high metabolic rate, which means that their heart has to work harder to meet the body’s oxygen demands.

Reproductive System

Gerbils are sexually dimorphic, which means that males and females have different physical characteristics. Males have prominent testes and a visible bulge around the anus. Females have a shorter anogenital distance and a pair of mammary glands.

Digestive System

Gerbils have a simple digestive system that is adapted to a herbivorous diet. They have a long intestine that allows them to extract nutrients efficiently from their food. Gerbils have a cecum, which is a specialized organ that helps them digest tough plant fibers.

Nervous System

Gerbils have a highly developed nervous system that allows them to perceive their environment and respond quickly to changes. They have excellent eyesight, hearing, and sense of smell that help them detect predators and find food.

Gerbil Behavior

Gerbils are social animals that live in groups in the wild. They exhibit a range of behaviors that are essential for their survival. Here are some of the most common gerbil behaviors:

Social Behavior

Gerbils are social animals that thrive in groups. They establish a hierarchy within the group, with dominant individuals taking charge of food, shelter, and mating. Gerbils communicate through a range of vocalizations, body language, and scent marking.

Mating Behavior

Gerbils are prolific breeders that can produce several litters in a year. Males court females by grooming them, presenting food, and chasing them around. Females give birth to litters of four to six pups, which are born blind and hairless.

Exploratory Behavior

Gerbils are active animals that love to explore their environment. They use their powerful sense of smell and hearing to detect new objects and places. Gerbils are excellent diggers, and they use their sharp claws and teeth to tunnel through sand and soil.

Feeding Behavior

Gerbils are herbivorous animals that feed on seeds, grains, and vegetables. They have a high metabolic rate, which means that they need to eat frequently to maintain their energy levels. Gerbils have a unique feeding behavior, where they gather food in their mouths and store it in their cheek pouches to eat later.

The Purpose of Gerbil Tails

Gerbils have long, thin tails that are covered in fur. Their tails serve several essential functions that are crucial for their survival. Here are some of the most common purposes of gerbil tails:

Balancing and Agility

Gerbils are agile animals that are adapted to living in a sandy environment. They use their tails to maintain balance and stability when running, jumping, and climbing. The tail also helps the gerbil to make sharp turns and sudden stops, which are essential to escape predators.


Gerbils use their tails to communicate with each other through body language. They can express a range of emotions, such as aggression, fear, or excitement, by wagging or flicking their tails. Gerbils also use scent marking to communicate with each other, and their tails play a role in spreading their scent.


Gerbils are adapted to living in a hot and dry environment. They use their tails to regulate their body temperature by dissipating heat through the skin. When the gerbil is too hot, blood vessels in the tail dilate to increase heat loss. When the gerbil is too cold, blood vessels constrict to reduce heat loss.

Gerbil Tails and Health

Gerbil tails are essential for their survival, but they are also prone to injuries and diseases. Here are some of the most common tail problems that gerbils can experience:

Tail Injuries

Gerbils can injure their tails by getting them caught in their cage, getting bitten by other gerbils, or getting them trapped in sharp objects. Tail injuries can cause pain, swelling, and infection, and should be treated promptly.

Tail Diseases

Gerbils can develop tail infections, such as ringworm or bacterial infections, which can cause hair loss, scabs, and itching. Tail infections can be treated with topical or oral medication, but they can also be prevented by keeping the gerbil’s environment clean and hygienic.

Gerbil Care Tips

Gerbils are easy to care for, but they require a few essential things to stay healthy and happy. Here are some tips for taking care of your gerbil:


Gerbils need a spacious and secure cage that is lined with soft bedding, such as paper or aspen shavings. The cage should have plenty of toys and hiding places, such as tunnels, exercise wheels, and chew toys.


Gerbils need a balanced diet that is high in fiber and low in fat and sugar. They should be fed a combination of commercial gerbil food, fresh vegetables, and occasional treats, such as fruit or nuts. Gerbils also need access to clean water at all times.


Gerbils are active animals that need plenty of exercise to stay healthy. They should be given a chance to run and play outside their cage for at least an hour every day. Gerbils also love to dig, so providing them with a sand bath or a digging box can keep them entertained.


Gerbils are clean animals that groom themselves regularly. However, they still need occasional baths and nail trimming to stay healthy. Gerbil cages should be cleaned at least once a week, and bedding should be changed regularly to prevent odor and infection.


In conclusion, gerbils are fascinating animals that have unique characteristics that make them stand out from other rodents. Their tails serve several essential functions, such as balancing, communication, and thermoregulation. By understanding the anatomy and behavior of gerbils, we can provide them with the care they need to thrive. If you are thinking of getting a gerbil as a pet, remember to give them plenty of love, attention, and healthy food to keep them happy and healthy.

ThePetFaq Team