Gerbil Gerbil Care

Why Do Gerbils Eat Their Babies?

Why Do Gerbils Eat Their Babies

When humans become parents, they strive to love, cherish, and protect their babies. This is the case for most mammals as it is natural to want to protect your young. However, not all species of animals take the same approach to parenthood, with some animals leaving their young to fend for themselves most of the time or even abandoning them. There are even examples of animals that kill their own young and gerbils fall into this category. Here is all you need to know about gerbils eating their babies.

Do Gerbils Eat Their Babies?

Not all gerbils eat their babies. However, it is sadly the case that some gerbil moms do eat their young.

How True Is the Rumor That Gerbils Eat Their Own Babies?

It is a well-known rumor that gerbils eat their own babies, but this is not true of all gerbils. Therefore, the rumor is only partially true. In captivity, it is rare for gerbil moms to eat their babies. If they do this, there is usually a very good reason for their behavior and there are many possible causes.

What Are the Reasons for Gerbils Eating Their young?

There are many possible reasons why a gerbil mother to eat her babies. Some of these are as follows:

  • Undeveloped babies- Sometimes gerbils do not carry their litter to full term and this means their babies are underdeveloped. This cuts their chances of survival and the female sometimes decides to eat them.
  • A mother’s ill-health in pregnancy- Similarly, the ill health of a mother during pregnancy can lead to the birth of underdeveloped pups or a weak mother that is unable to look after her litter. This is one of the causes of gerbils eating their babies. While in their mother’s womb, the pups rely on their mother’s nutrition to develop. Similarly, how well a mother can lactate depends on the nutrients she is receiving. If there are problems at any stage that are related to the mother receiving nutrients, it can cause her to eat her babies.
  • A mother’s ill-health while lactating- Some female gerbils struggle to produce enough milk to feed their litter. Therefore, they eat some or all the babies to resolve this situation.
  • Lack of nutrition or water for the mother- To successful rear a litter of pups, a female gerbil needs plenty of water and nutrition.
  • Ill-health of a pup- Sometimes, a pup is ill from birth and can continue to deteriorate. As it becomes weaker and has little chance of survival, the female gerbil may decide it is better to eat the pup.
  • A large litter- If the mother has a large litter and cannot produce enough milk to feed all her babies, she will eat the runt to give the other gerbils a better chance of surviving.
  • A stressed mother- An extreme level of stress can cause some female gerbils to eat their babies, although this is unusual. There are many causes of this stress and these may seem trivial to you but not to your gerbil. For example, living in a noisy room, moving their habitat, or having a large litter to care for can all stress a gerbil.

Is There Anything You Can Do to Stop Gerbils Eating Their Babies?

Sometimes there are no signs that a gerbil mother will eat her baby and you may simply wake up one morning to discover that the babies have gone. In this scenario, there is sadly very little you can do. However, there are some steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of a mother resorting to eating her own offspring.

  • Pairing- A female gerbil is less likely to eat her babies if she is in a strong pairing with a supportive male gerbil that shows affection towards her.
  • Environment- The environment can make a big difference to how stressed a female gerbil become, so this is important. Make sure it is big enough to accommodate both the adult gerbils and their babies. Do not make any changes to the environment during gestation or in the early weeks after the litter is born. It is also best if the habitat is in a quieter room of the house to make sure the gerbils are not disturbed too much by noise.
  • Diet- Giving your gerbil a nutritious and balanced diet is essential. They should predominantly eat gerbil pellets or gerbil food mix with treats of fruits or vegetables once or twice a week. You should not introduce any new foods during the periods of gestation and lactation.
  • Extra water bottles- Occasionally, water bottles can get blocked. If this happens, your gerbils will not get enough water, and this can lead to many problems, including the mother gerbil eating her babies. As a precaution, add an extra water bottle to the habitat.
  • Bedding- A lack of comfort is a potential cause of stress to female gerbils. To avoid this stress and reduce the likelihood of them eating their babies, make sure they have plenty of good quality bedding for nesting.

Final Verdict

In captivity, it is rare for a female gerbil to eat her babies. However, this does occasionally happen and there are many potential causes. By feeding your gerbils a good diet and giving them a comfortable living environment, you can reduce the likelihood of this unfortunate incident taking place.

About the author


Liz Flynn is a mum of four with a background in education. An animal lover, she has owned everything from dogs to tarantulas and animals of all sizes in between and loves to write about them.

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