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gerbil

Do Gerbils Have Tails?

Do Gerbils Have Tails? Yes, depending on the species, these lovely rodents have either a long-furred tail or a long bald tail. The number of gerbil species out there is about 90, but the one you are likely to find in a pet store is the Mongolian gerbil because its long, furry tail makes it pleasing.

Most gerbil lovers are squeamish towards the bald tailed species, but you can also find some fat-tailed gerbils in pet shops apart from the Mongolian species. However, fat-tailed gerbils are not very well-known.

What do gerbils use their tails for?

Gerbils use their tails in different ways compared to other rodent species. On the one hand, there are a gerbil species that uses its tails to send out signals of an approaching predator so its companions can take off for hideouts, and on the other hand, there are the species that uses its tails to store fat.

Gerbils are social animals. In fact, studies say that a gerbil that stays in the company of its kind lives longer and healthier lives. And their tail comes in handy when hunting in groups, especially where predators such as birds and snakes abound.

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As soon as a keen-eyed member of the group spots danger, it beats its tail on the ground, and the vibrations act as warmings to the rest of the family.

For the fat-tailed gerbils, the tail is just an appendage for storing fats. These family of gerbils usually has bald tails that increase in size when food is abundant to store fat for when times get tough.

As you can see gerbils are small, beautiful pets. They are also low-maintenance, and that’s why we love them as our kids’ first pets. They do not need to be walked daily like puppies. But that doesn’t mean you neglect your gerbil.

They also need a suitable cage which should be the biggest one you can possibly make or buy. See our recommendations here.

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Gerbils do have tails but can lose them from poor handling

Can gerbils lose their tails?

One common health problem in gerbils is the loss of tails or the tips of their tails; this is referred to as ‘tail slip,‘ and it refers to the condition where damages lead to infections that eat through the pet’s tissues.

Tail slip usually starts with hair loss then the skin peels off to reveal the infection eating through the tail tissue. Now, most gerbils will start chewing off their tails because of the pain from the infection, and this leads to “tail slip.”

Tail loss in gerbils is not fatal, just painful, and distressing to the pet. Usually, the stump heals without any complication, and the tail won’t regrow; but what is fatal is if the infection from the damaged tail tissue makes its way to the pet’s bloodstream.

This could kill your gerbil within days if left untreated. Taking good care of the gerbil to avoid loss of tails and spread of infection is, therefore, a wise thing to do.

There’s only a straightforward way to prevent loss tail: handle your pet with care and always avoid picking them up by their tails.

How to avoid loss of tails in gerbils

One common cause of tail slip is poor treatment. Most gerbil pet enthusiasts just rush to get their pet home without asking the basics of how to take care of it properly.

Rodents do not like to be picked up by their tails, and while rats and mice can be held by their tails briefly when picking them up, gerbils can’t.

Gerbil tails, as mentioned before, are used as fat-storage appendages and thus have relatively fragile skin that’s easily damaged even with the slightest roughness.

Tail trauma can be diagnosed starting with hair loss, skin sloughing off because underlying tissue is damaged, and finally tail slips of if not treated.

To avoid “tail slip,” handle your gerbil pet with care. When you pick up your gerbil, don’t pick it by its tail. If you are a parent and you notice your child dangling gerbil by their tail, tell them to correct this behavior.

Often gerbils are handled too much especially when your gerbil is hibernating and should be left alone.

image for an article: do gerbils smell
Gerbils are know for biting off each other tails

Separate gerbils that don’t interact well

The other cause of infection is tail-biting, i.e., when gerbils fight and bite each other’s tails, they can cause injuries that get infected, leading to tail loss.

Gerbils are social animals, but in case of negative interaction in the group, separate gerbils that cause others harm. Avoid structures that may cause accidents

Avoid structures that may cause accidents

Tail getting stuck is also another cause of “tail slip” in most small animals. The gerbil’s tail may get stuck in its running wheel, the gate of its enclosure, etc. and as the pet struggles to pull away, it leads to injuries, or in the worst case, the tail tip may come off. Avoid constructions that may tug onto their tail, trapping the pet.

  • Seek the help of a vet to help clear infection

If you notice your gerbil is going bald and the skin starts sloughing off, get the help of a vet immediately to help clear up any infection. The onset of baldness in a gerbil’s tail signifies various issues such as trauma, the lack of vitamins, etc.

Your vet will prescribe medication to deal with the infection. Usually, antibiotics are used. However, the only treatment for tail slip is amputation.

Your local vet can perform gerbil tail amputation, and the journal of Laboratory Animals says this won’t affect the rodent’s future behavior.

Just take care of the wound, keep it clean, and let your pet heal without aggravating the area.

a pair of brown gerbils

Wrapping up: Do gerbils have tails?

Gerbils have tails that they use for various survival tactics such as alerting others on the presence of danger, storing food, etc. You are going to love gerbils with long, furry tails.

They are visually pleasing, small, and low-maintenance. But just because the animal is small and you can pick it up by its tail doesn’t permit you to do so.

Gerbils tails are sensitive and, if subjected to trauma, can get damaged easily, leading to infection and tail slip. And once a gerbil loses its tail, it won’t grow a new one, just like in all mammals, once a body part is lost, it’s gone baby gone.

So take care not to be the cause of tail loss in your lovely pet because the tail is important to the gerbil.

Hutch and Cage.com does not provide veterinary advice. Our aim is to provide the reader with information to enable them to make a good decision when making a purchase or caring for their pet. All content is therefore for informational purposes only. If you're concerned about the health of your pet you should seek medical advice from a vet.