Degus are interesting, playful, and easy to care for. However, you should understand the commitment and responsibility involved before getting one as a pet. Get to know them further. Read on to learn about their habits and behaviours as well as how to care for degus as pets.
What are degus?
Degus come with many names, including common degu, Octodon degus, and brush-tailed rat. They are considered to be members of the family of rodents called Octodontidae. Additionally, they belong in the suborder caviomorph, meaning they are related to chinchillas and guinea pigs. Despite that, a recent study shows they might actually be more related to rabbits. Here is some other additional information about them:
- A full-grown degu is around fifteen centimetres long with a tail just as long, which has a tuft at the tip.
- Degus have a medium to dark brown coat with a light cream-coloured belly. In addition, they have white feet.
- They are diurnal, meaning they are most active during the day.
Where do they come from?
Degus are native to Chile where they can be spotted anywhere, from coastal plains to the mountains of Andes. In complex burrows where they nest and store food, they live in groups, usually up to a hundred.
How long can they live?
Degus can live up around five to nine years in captivity, whilst some can live up to ten years.
They are social animals that love human interaction. They also find enjoyment in living in active homes. If handled from an early age, they can be incredibly tame and docile. They are best kept in groups of three or four or more since they have a highly social nature. They are curious and playful; however, if not given the chance to socialise, they can become aggressive.
The large cage is a must when owning degus. Multilevel cages like those made for chinchillas or ferrets are the ideal cages. Here are other degu housing rules you need to consider:
- Degus are chewers; they will chew through plastic and/or wood. Therefore, their cage should be made of wire.
- The minimum size of the cage provided for them must be 24 by 18 inches.
- For the bedding, pine or cedar bedding must be avoided for they can pose potential harm to the degus.
- Beddings that are paper-based are much safer.
- Providing a nest box will give degus a sense of security whilst inside their cage.
- Since degus are likely to chew on the nesting box, be prepared to replace this when necessary.
- A solid-surfaced wheel that is about eleven inches should be provided. This will be one of their sources for exercise.
- Thick cotton ropes and branches for them to climb on can be added as well.
- Ceramic dish for their food is a good option for this cannot be chewed.
- Make sure your degu has access to clean water all the time. A sipper tube water bottle with a chew guard is recommended.
- Lastly, since they are very determined chewers, it is best to supply them wood block and/or chew toys.
- Mineral or salt block can be attached to the cage as well.
Degus need to be given regular dust baths, just like chinchillas, to help them keep their coat and skin in wonderful condition. A shallow bowl for a dust bath should be provided a couple of times per week. You can leave the bowl inside the cage for half an hour at least, or enough to give them time to roll around.
As mentioned above, they are social creatures that have the tendency to become aggressive when not given the opportunity to socialise. Besides that, keeping one degu alone can get them very stressed. In addition, male groups should be kept far from the female group as they might fight.
They are designed to a diet that is low on carbs and high on roughage. A good basis for the perfect degu diet should be a mix of high-quality guinea pig or chinchilla pellets along with rodent blocks. Grass hay should be within their reach at all times. Lastly, fresh vegetables can be offered for variety and nutrition. This includes:
- Green leafy vegetables
(Cabbage family veggies should be offered in very small amounts or not at all)
- Brussels sprouts
- Green beans
- Peeled and uncooked sweet potato
- Pesticide-free dandelion greens (offered in small amounts since this may cause diarrhoea )
As treats, degus appreciate peanuts, whole nuts, and seeds. However, these have high-fat contents, so it should only be given occasionally. Avoid fruits, especially dried fruits, as treats because they are high in sugar. In addition, do not let or tolerate your degu to become overweight as they are highly prone to diabetes.
Additional Degu Information!
Despite enjoying human interaction, degus are not fond of a lot of handling. Therefore, they are not ideal pets for families with young children.
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