A degu might be small, but it requires plenty of care to thrive and live a happy life. Looking after this exotic pet is a big responsibility.
To ensure that you are up to the challenge, here are some considerations that should be made before deciding to have a degu pet:
1. Degus Are Prohibited in Certain Places.
The animal degu is an exotic pet native to central and northern Chile. Different places have different regulations when it comes to keeping this rodent as a pet.
For instance, degus are banned in certain states such as California, Alaska, and Georgia. They are considered invasive species in these areas.
It is not specified if applying for a licence is also mandatory when keeping this rodent as a pet. It would be best to check with your local council first to ensure that you are not breaking any animal regulations.
2. Degus Are Early Risers.
Many pet rodents, such as hamsters and chinchillas, are night owls. They sleep during the mornings but are very active at night. Their human companions usually need to wait until the evening to spend time with them.
The common degu pets do not fall in this category. As diurnal animals, they are active during the day and sleep when nighttime comes. This pet rodent can easily match its waking and sleeping schedule with pet owners who are morning people.
During sleeping time, make sure to turn off the lights. Or place your degu’s cage in a dark area to avoid disturbing your degu pet’s sleeping patterns.
3. Degus Are Incessant Chewers.
One crucial thing to remember on how to look after a pet degu is to give this rodent a proper outlet for chewing.
Degus gnaw on things constantly to keep their ever-growing teeth short. This behaviour gives them mental stimulation and wards off boredom.
Untreated wood blocks for gnawing must always be present in the degu pet cage. Choose safe wood varieties for this animal species, such as apple, hazel, hawthorn, and kiln-dried pine.
Rabbit toys like willow balls and bird toys such as cotton toys are great for your degu pet too.
Its cage, including the base, must be made of metal to keep them from chewing a hole through it. For the same reason, the exercise wheel should be composed of metal too.
Degus tend to chew on their bedding. Thus, fill your pet’s nesting box with easily digestible materials. Some good options are tissues and shredded pet-safe paper.
Avoid using sawdust or wood pellets as they are health hazards. Inhaling sawdust can cause respiratory issues. Ingesting wood pellets can cause fatal stomach distension.
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4. Caution Is Needed When Handling Degus.
Do degus like to be held? Untamed degu pets do not enjoy being held. Being small animals, they are prey species in the wild. To them, your hand will seem like a predator who is ready to attack them.
Holding degus without taming them first may lead them to bite or nip you. Thus, letting your pet become accustomed to your presence at an early age is very important.
You will also need to associate your hand with good experiences. In this way, your degu will not be tense and stressed as you hold it on your palm.
Here is a guide on how you can teach a degu pet to tolerate being held:
- Open the cage door and lure it to come close by holding treats in the palm of your hand.
- Allow your pet to do things at its own pace. Wait for it to approach and climb on your hands.
- When your degu feels safe enough to be handled, one of your hands should support its bottom. Your other hand should gently support its back to keep it from suddenly jumping off.
- Make sure that you are sitting down whilst handling your degu pet. Avoid standing up, as it could try to leap off such a high elevation and hurt itself.
- A soft cushion should be placed underneath your hand. This will serve as a precautionary measure in case your degu accidentally falls during handling sessions.
It could take 2 weeks to 2 months before you could fully tame degus. Always be patient throughout the whole process.
Never try to handle these small pets with their long thin tails. As a defence mechanism, a degu’s tail sheds when grasped. Once the tail is lost, it will never grow back.
Tail-shedding is a painful experience that may increase their susceptibility to infections.
5. Degus Need Dust Baths.
Many people often ask: “Is a degu a chinchilla?” Degus and chinchillas are different from each other. Distinguishing the two is easy.
Chinchillas are bigger rodents, with a weight ranging from 20–30 ounces. On the other hand, the degu size is only around 12–16 ounces.
Whilst both of them are different species of animals, degus and chinchillas have some similarities, including their bathing requirements. Cleaning their thick fur does not require water but dust baths.
To do this, pour around 1–2 inches of chinchilla bath sand into a shallow, spacious bowl. Let them roll around for 20–30 minutes. Degus need regular dust baths, so aim to provide it 2 times a week.
6. Degus Require a Low Sugar Diet.
Degus notoriously develop diabetes because their body poorly metabolises sugar. In fact, before they became pets in the UK, these exotic animals were used as research subjects for the aforementioned disease.
Prevent your degu pet from becoming vulnerable to diabetes by offering suitable food:
- High-quality hay, such as timothy grass, should be offered to this small animal in unlimited amounts. It greatly helps them wear down their continuously growing teeth.The degu also acquires fibre from eating hay, which promotes good gut motility and prevents life-threatening GI stasis.
- A small portion of your pet’s diet should compose of degu-specific. Choose a product that does not contain sweeteners like molasses.
- Green vegetables can also be given to your degu in small amounts. Do not feed vegetables with high sugar content, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, and parsnips.
- Degus do not hydrate themselves frequently. However, fresh water should always be available to prevent dehydration.
- Fruits have no place in your pet degu’s diet. Whilst they are rich in nutrients, their natural sugars are too excessive to be healthy. Hence, keep fruits off your degu pet’s meals.
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7. Degus Are Prone to Certain Health Problems.
The degu lifespan ranges from 5–9 years. If well-cared for, this small animal may even live for more than a decade. However, only a few degus can exceed their life expectancy.
Many are unable to live long due to prevalent illnesses in the species, such as liver disease, diabetes, and pneumonia. Keeping up with regular vet check-ups will significantly help in detecting and treating these ailments early.
Pet owners should also be vigilant for symptoms of diseases in degus such as:
- Ocular and nasal discharge
- Cloudy eyes
- Weight loss
- Bleeding gums
Changes in behaviour are a sign of illness in a degu pet too. So look out for sudden altered temperament and shifts in eating, drinking, or toileting habits.
8. Degus Are Not a Suitable Pet for Certain People.
Are degus good pets? Degus are good pets when owned by the right people. These small animals need owners who know how to keep up with their complex needs. Hence, they are more suited for adults and older children.
These exotic animals are not recommended for toddlers. Young children do not fully understand the consistency and thoroughness needed for proper degu pet care.
When in the wrong hands, this pet rodent has a high chance of being neglected or sent to a rescue facility for adoption. Interested individuals should do extensive research first before finding a degu pet for sale.
Talk to vets and pet owners that are knowledgeable in caring for this exotic pet. Learn the pros and cons of owning a degu to help you decide if you are prepared and well-equipped to look after this animal.
9. The Degu Is an Affordable Pet.
The degu pet price is between £40 to over £100, depending on where you inquire. Whilst this exotic pet’s price range is relatively low-cost, consider adopting rather than buying from a pet shop or a breeder.
Abandoned degus housed in rescue facilities deserve a second chance. Help them experience a better and happier life by becoming their forever home.