How Long Does It Take for a Gerbil to Die?

Gerbil’s life spans vary from one species of gerbil to the next. The kind of care you provide for the […]

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Gerbil’s life spans vary from one species of gerbil to the next. The kind of care you provide for the gerbils will also count a lot in determining how long the animal will live. Poor care will most likely lead to an early death, while proper care will see the gerbil live for a long time.

Other factors such as accidents and diseases will also count for how long the pet lives. The approximate time is between one and eight years, depending on the care and species of the gerbil you have.



To better understand how long gerbils live, we will have to look at different gerbil species and other factors that may curtail their lifespan.

Let’s take a look!

Different Species of Gerbil and their Life Expectancy

There are several different species of gerbils, with most of them being native to the dry sandy regions of Africa. Each gerbil species comes with a few differences from the rest, including their lifespan.

Here are some of the gerbil species and their lifespan.

The Cape Short Eared Gerbil

© Poleta33

The Cape Short Haired Gerbil is a native of Africa, mainly from Angola, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. The mammals I mainly found in the moderate deserts and hot desert areas.

The species belongs to the family Muridae and has an average lifespan of at least six years.

The Cape Gerbil

© Klaus Rudloff, Berlin

The cape gerbil is a mammal mainly found in natural habitats, which are tropical or subtropical. The mammal is also specific to South Africa and can be found nowhere else naturally existing.

If you decide to get this gerbil as a pet, you can expect it to last at least five and a half years if well taken care of.

The Dwarf Gerbil

© Petco

Also known as the Baluchistan Gerbil or the Pygmy Gerbil, the dwarf gerbil is a native of Morocco and other parts of the Middle East and Western Asia, and the African continent, including the Arabian Peninsula.

This is one of the more common types of gerbil, with the least threat of endangerment in terms of extinction.



The Dwarf Gerbil has at least four and a half years lifespan, if well attended to.



The dwarf gerbil comes from the Muridae family designated the scientific name; Gerbillus nanus.

Fat-Tailed Gerbil

© P.H.J. (Peter) Maas

The fat-tailed gerbil is also referred to as the Dupras gerbil or doop, a rodent that belongs to the subfamily Gerbillinae; and is the only member of the pachyuromys genus.

The fat-tailed gerbil is one of the most docile species on this list.



They come with soft fluffy fur, a medium-sized body, and a fat tail. The hair at the back of their head is yellow and is mainly referred to as a pocket pet, as you can just put them in the pocket and take a walk.

If you decide to get a fat-tailed gerbil, you can expect the lifespan to be between four and four and a half years.

Great Gerbil

© Yuriy75

This is the largest gerbil on the list and comes with a yellowish-orange coat that helps them camouflage in the sandy desert-like environment that is their natural habitat. During winters, the gerbil will spend their time under the snowpack, with their thick, soft fur keeping them warm.

The Great Gerbil is well distributed and can be found in several countries, including Central Asia, Western South Asia, China, and Mongolia. They can also be found in Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan.



The Great Gerbil comes with a lifespan of around two to four years.

Greater Egyptian Gerbil

The Greater Egyptian Gerbil is a rodent from the family Muridae, native to the Northern parts of Africa,  in semi-arid areas, sandy deserts, and oases. You can find it in certain countries, including; Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, Sudan, Egypt, and the Sinai Peninsula.

The gerbil is around 120mm in length with a mix of colors, from yellowish to light brown fur with a white underbelly and grey bases.

If you choose to go for this gerbil a pet, you can expect it to last as long as eight years.

Indian Gerbil

 © Alchetron

The Indian Gerbil is also referred to as the Antelope Rat and is a species from the family of rodents Muridae.  The gerbil is mainly found in Asia, Syria, and Bangladesh.

The gerbil is also another of the bigger species in the gerbil family, normally weighing between 100 and 227 grams.



These gerbils may live for a long time, with an average lifespan of at least seven years.

Lesser Egyptian Gerbil

© iNaturalist

This is one of the smaller species of rodents belonging to the Muridae family.  The rodent is native to North Africa and the Sinai Peninsula, in the sandy habitats.

The gerbil has a lifespan of around 6 years.

North African Gerbil

© Micktherocktapper

The North African gerbil comes with soft fur and a long tail, and a cinnamon brown coating. The gerbil is mainly found in rocky and vegetative habitats.

It is common to Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Niger, Sudan and Tunisia.



The rodent is a terrestrial and nocturnal mammal and is mainly considered a pest in its natural habitat.

If you are looking to keep this gerbil as a pet, you can expect it to live up to seven and a half years if well taken care of.

The Pale Gerbil

 © XV8-Crisis 

The pale gerbil is native to Egypt in the northwestern parts of the country and also goes by the name of the pallid gerbil. It comes with pale orange fur and white on the underbelly.

They are usually favored as a pest due to their size and cuteness, making them irresistible to potential pet owners.

The pet can live up to four years if well taken care of but have a lifespan of two to four years.

Common Causes of Death for Gerbils

One of the best ways to ensure your pet keeps healthy is hygiene, including cleanliness, feeding, and temperament. If you keep the cage clean, feed the gerbil the right diet, and ensure it is preoccupied, entertained, and fit, then you are on the right track to ensuring your pet lives a full life. However, this does not mean accidents and other life-threatening problems will not occur.

Let’s go through some of the most common causes of death for your gerbil.

Old Age

Although it is sad when a pet passes away, if it does so due to old age, it’s more of a consolation

Gerbils will mostly die prematurely while in the wild, as the number of predators and potential causes of death is just too much to live to old age. While in captivity, the gerbil increases the chances of living a full life, especially if it is well taken care of.



As seen, gerbils can live between two and eight years, which means, depending o the species of gerbil you get, you can enjoy a beautiful relationship with your pet.

You will know how old your gerbils are, but if you get an older gerbil, you can tell it is quite old if it has reduced muscle mass, weight loss, lethargy, and poor eating habits.

Heart Failure

Whenever one of the arteries in the heart gets blocked, a heart attack occurs. This is due to the stoppage of oxygen from reaching the heart and can result in instant death. There are several reasons an artery can get clogged, including a blood clot, too much fat, or prolonged strain of pumping blood to the heart.

Gerbils are quite prone to heart attacks due to the level of activity these animals perform in a day, which leaves their hearts constantly at work. The gerbil’s heart works at least ten times more compared to a human heart which pumps blood between 60 and one hundred times a minute, while a gerbil’s heart will do six hundred pumps in the same minute.

There are several symptoms of a heart attack, including

  • Obesity
  • Swollen stomach
  • Labored breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Strokes

Gerbils are one of the most stroke-prone mammals. Strokes are caused by brain damage resulting from blockages of air, blood, or fat, resulting in a stroke.

The gerbils are extremely susceptible to strokes due to the way their heads are structured. Mammals have something in the heads referred to as the circle of Willis, where there are several arteries circular in shape that help deliver blood to the brain.

Most mammals have a complete circle of Willis, while in gerbils, the circle s incomplete, which increases the risk for embolisms, resulting in strokes.

A pet may recover from a stroke with permanent or semi-permanent damage, with symptoms being paralysis, lethargy, and sometimes closed eyes.


Another one of the more common ways your gerbil can end up dying is due to neglect and the number one reason why most gerbils in captivity die. They are quite hardy and are a favorite as a first pet for most children, but they also need to be taken care of.

There are several ways you may be intentionally mistreating the gerbil, including:

  • The kind of housing you provide for your gerbil may be insufficient to its needs. Gerbils require a two-tier cage with a burrowing area and a living area.  Getting a gerbil in a plastic cage may not be the best thing to do.
  • What you feed your gerbil on also counts for a lot. Gerbils will require various food, as it’s omnivorous plus supplements depending on the vet’s advice.
  • The temperature within the cage is also an important factor in the survival of the gerbil. The wrong temperature may lead to the flourishing of bacteria and pose a health risk to your gerbil.
  • A dirty cage, considering that the gerbil will hoard food, may; lead to an unhealthy environment in the cage with the pet living with rotten things, which will, in turn, attract pests and put the gerbil at risk.
  • Providing tools to keep your pet happy and occupied will also go a  long way in ensuring they live a long, happy life.

Tyzzers Disease

This s a bacterial disease common among pets that may be fatal if left unchecked.  Compared to other kinds of bacterial diseases, Tyzzers is way worse as once it enters the pet’s body, it will spread through the digestive system and affects its gut. This will, in turn, encourage diarrhea which will, in turn, lead to more serious completions.

If you notice your pet has a diarrhea problem, is unhappy, has a ruffled coat, and is emaciated, it may have Tyzzers disease.

The bacteria can also attack the pet’s liver covering it in lesions. The bacteria causing Tyzzers disease are resistant to deterrents, survive in the bedding for up to a year, and resist antibiotics and antiseptics.

If you notice your pet’s constantly dying and you suspect Tyzzers disease, you may have to get a new cage altogether and separate the sick pets from the healthy ones to help eradicate the bacteria.

Tyzzers disease is one of the hardest diseases to get rid of on this list and is why cleanliness is encouraged.

Scent Gland Tumor

To help mark their territory, all gerbils have sweat glands on their stomachs. Whereas most mammals will use urine to mark territory, gerbils will use a sticky substance from these sweat glands on their stomachs.

Due to the constants rubbing of the sweat gland on things, the gerbil may develop an inflammation that may open and result in a wound.

As long as the gerbil stops, the wound will heal and reappear only when the sweat glands are overused, especially the dominant gerbil in the group.

Over time, the skin may get damaged and develop tumors. If you notice dryness and extra baldness on the pet’s skin, redness, and swelling, consult with a physician and ensure it is treated.

Gerbils Killing Each Other

© MattX27

Gerbils can be quite vicious if they want to. While humans consider gerbils as docile and friendly, among themselves, gerbils can choose to ‘Declan and the pair fighting till one leaves the social group. While in the wild, the gerbil will leave and create its burrowing hoe; in the cage, matters are different, as it cannot leave.

At first, they will fight in a manner that is not fatal, but as time goes, and each gerbil is still in the cage, the fighting can become vicious, and the gerbils will start using their sharp teeth as weapons, which may result in damages and fatalities.

If you notice a territorial problem inside the cage, you should separate the gerbils as soon as possible. Ensure you provide companions for each gerbil after separation, as they may become unhappy alone.

Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections are excessive olds due to bacteria that affect the nose, mouth, and throat and spread to the lungs. This results in the production of excess mucus labored breathing, sneezing, and runny eyes.

If the bacteria affect the lungs, it may lead to death due to respiratory infections.

The problem can also spread to other gerbils living together with the sick one, which may result in the spread and worsening of the situation, and in extreme conditions, increase the fatalities.

Consult your physician if you notice a cold on the gerbil to get it treated asap.

Gerbil Seizures

For first-timers keeping gerbils, you may be worried when you notice your pet lying to the side as if dead or frighteningly twitching their feet and legs. This is gerbil seizures and is a common thing among furry pets. They can start from as young two months and later stop, while in other gerbils, they never stop.

The seizures can last up t a minute and may cause a first-time gerbil owner some shock.

You will be relieved that the seizures are quite harmless and will not result in long-term side effects.

In later life, a seizure may occur with fatal effects and will not be as naturally occurring as when they are young; rather, it will be a symptom of a much bigger problem and may cause the death of the gerbil

What To Do After A Gerbil Dies

© MattX27

What if the inevitable happens and your gerbil suddenly dies? What to do next? Well, you should dispose of the gerbil, if possible, in a less heartless way like chucking it in the bin. Most people choose to bury their pet as it is an important part of their life.

Whatever you decide to do, please remove it from the other gerbils as the more it stays, the more likely it is to attract dangerous pests that may be a hazard to the rest of the gerbils.

After removing the dead gerbil, clean the cage, remove the beddings, and replace them with clean, fresh ones.

Take note of what may have caused the gerbil’s death and try and control that in the living ones left behind.


Before purchasing a pet gerbil, get to learn how long it will live t ensure you prepare yourself to take care of the pet for that duration of time. If you think you might get tired of taking care of the pet, get one with a shorter lifespan.

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