Why Do Mother Gerbils Eat Their Babies?

Why Do Mother Gerbils Eat Their Babies

Just imagine:

You wake up one morning, excited to check on your adorable gerbil babies, only to find a cruel and horrifying sight. Your heart sinks as you wonder, "why do mother gerbils eat their babies?"

Well, I've got the answers and solutions you need.

Let's dive in!

Reasons for Gerbils Eating Their Babies

Gerbils eat their babies for a bunch of reasons, and I'll break it down for you line by line:

  1. If gerbils don't get good care while they're pregnant, like not enough food or attention, their babies can end up weak and more likely to get eaten.
  2. When the mom gerbil gets sick and can't eat much during her pregnancy, she might take matters into her own paws and gobble up her young ones.
  3. If a gerbil mama already has a big litter or another one on the way, she might chow down on some of her babies to ensure the rest have a better chance at surviving.
  4. Sometimes there's a little pup that doesn't develop as fast as the others, called a runt, and the mom gerbil may choose to feast on it so the stronger babies have a better shot.
  5. Now, if the mom gerbil herself isn't feeling too well or can't find enough food to munch on, she might decide to snack on the weakest baby.
  6. Here's a weird one: after the mom gerbil kills her young ones, she might actually slurp them up to get some energy and keep the nest tidy. 😳

There are other things that can also lead to cannibalistic behavior in gerbils, like when there are too many of them crammed together or something sudden changes in their environment.

Reasons for Gerbils Eating Their Babies
You gotta keep mama gerbil fed right and ensure she's not overwhelmed with too many babies or one baby that ain't doing so great.

Oh, and if other gerbils pick on them too much or if their wild ancestors had those tendencies.

If you want to stop this unsettling behavior, here's what you gotta do:

  1. Make sure the breeding conditions for your gerbils are top-notch. Keep their tank clean and give them good food and water.
  2. Try to minimize any stressful situations and create a calm atmosphere to lower the chances of cannibalism.

It's not fair to call gerbils "bad moms" because there could be other reasons nudging them towards these actions.

Main points I'll expand upon further down this article:

  1. If a mother gerbil nibbles on, but doesn't fully consume, stillborn or deceased pups, they should be removed to prevent bacterial growth and nervousness.
  2. Minimize handling newborn gerbils for at least 14 days to avoid causing stress.
  3. Attempting to hand rear gerbil babies under two weeks old is extremely challenging.
  4. Male gerbils may attack and kill the babies, potentially to mate with the female again and have more offspring. If the male becomes aggressive, consider removing him.

But how can you ensure that your gerbils won't resort to eating their babies?

Well, I've got some helpful tips and tricks up my sleeve, so listen up...

By providing a calm and quiet environment, monitoring their health, and ensuring they have plenty of food and space, you can significantly reduce the chances of cannibalistic behavior.

So let's dive into the details and unravel the secrets to keeping those cute little gerbil pups safe and sound!

How to Prevent Gerbils Eating Their Babies

If you want to prevent gerbils from eating their babies, here are 12 simple steps you should take:

  1. Provide a calm and quiet environment.
  2. Minimize noise and disturbances.
  3. Monitor gerbils' size and weight.
  4. Identify any abnormal changes early on.
  5. Feed the pregnant gerbil well.
  6. Ensure she has a stash of food in her nest.
  7. Avoid loud noises and provide a calm location.
  8. Good airflow and minimal noise are essential.
  9. Handle the babies minimally.
  10. Avoid confusing the mother with human scent.
  11. Make sure there is enough food available.
  12. Use a larger cage with sufficient space.

Bonus tip...

Give extra snacks and food to the pregnant gerbil.

By following these steps, you can prevent gerbils from consuming their babies and promote successful breeding outcomes.

How to Prevent Gerbils Eating Their Babies
To ensure mother gerbils don't gobble their babies, give 'em peace and quiet. Keep gerbil gangs small so they ain't fussin' over supplies, and keep the grub rollin' day and night.

Remember, a considerate and relaxed environment is key. 😊

And if you're wondering about why your female gerbils may be exhibiting mounting behavior, I have just the article for you.

Check out Do Female Gerbils Mount Each Other to uncover the answers you seek.

Importance of Removing Dead Baby Gerbils From the Cage

You must remove dead baby gerbils from the cage, and here's why:

  1. Precautions against infection: When mother gerbils only nibble on their dead pups without fully consuming them, removing the dead babies helps prevent bacterial growth and potential infections in the remaining healthy pups.
  2. Maintaining cleanliness: Mother gerbils may eat stillborn or shortly after birth pups to clean the nest and ward off pests and infections in the healthy ones. However, if the mother only nibbles on the dead babies, it is necessary to remove them from the cage so that bacterial growth can be avoided and to keep the mother from becoming nervous.
  3. Avoiding parental consumption: Removing the dead pups also prevents the risk of the parents trying to eat them. This can lead to bacterial problems and other complications. 😔

But it's not just removing the dead baby gerbils that is important, there are also other crucial steps to consider when handling newborn gerbils.

Importance of Removing Dead Baby Gerbils From the Cage
Take out the dead baby gerbils pronto. It keeps the mom calm and bacteria away. You don't want the folks chowing down on them or getting sick. Keep things neat and easy for good pups.

Let me guide you through the waiting period for delicate newborns and why you should minimize stress during this time...

The Optimal Time to Handle Newborn Gerbils

The delicate newborn gerbils require a waiting period to ensure minimal stress for both mother and infants.

Gerbil babies are born hairless with their eyes closed, making handling before the age of 14 days unadvisable. To prevent stress during and after pregnancy, it is best to limit the amount of interaction with baby gerbils.

For successful hand-rearing of gerbil babies under two weeks old, it is highly recommended to wait for a 14-day waiting period.

Attempting to handle them at such a young age is an incredibly challenging and nearly impossible endeavor.

Do Male Gerbils Eat Their Babies?

It's a harsh reality, but male gerbils may eat their babies.

I know, it sounds cruel. But here's the deal:

Gerbils have this seemingly strange behavior because of their natural instincts to ensure the survival of their genes.

You see, aggression is pretty common in those little guys when it comes to mating. And unfortunately, that can lead them to attack and even kill their own offspring.


Well, it's all about reproduction.

When a male gerbil senses an opportunity to mate with the female, he doesn't want any competition from his own babies.

Do Male Gerbils Eat Their Babies?
Gerbil mommas might devour their babies when they're under pressure, neglected, or feeling sick. So, to avoid that tragedy, make sure the place is peaceful and snug, give 'em enough bedding, and don't hesitate to talk to a vet if needed. Don't forget: you have power over their happiness.

By getting rid of the existing babies, he increases his chances of mating again and producing more offspring.

But it's not just the boys who are responsible for this heartbreaking behavior. The females also have the potential to eat their babies, although it's less common compared to their male counterparts.

If you find yourself in this situation, where your gerbils are engaging in infanticide, you should take action to prevent further harm.

Removing the aggressive male from the group might be necessary to protect the babies and give them a chance at survival.

Gerbils aren't intentionally trying to be mean or cruel.

It's just their natural instincts taking over.

And that's all for today, folks!

If you wanna read more of my useful articles, I recommend you check out some of these: Gerbils Grooming Each Other - The Reasons, Gerbils' Reasons for Sleeping in a Pile, Do Gerbils Grieve, What Is the Maximum Number of Gerbils That Can Reside in a Single Cage, and Is My Gerbil Fearful of Me

Until next time,

-Alex Amber

Alex Amber

Hi there! I'm Alex, and this is my blog, Gerbil 101. As you've probably guessed by now, this is the go-to blog for all things gerbil, covering topics from gerbil care to food, drink, health, behavior, and so much more. I truly hope you find my care guides useful, as I put a lot of time into writing them!