Newest Review: ... rope hammock in our cage for them to use and they love running and jumping around on them. Degus are intelligent creatures and will need ... more
Degus are a fun pet but a lot of responsibility
Member Name: jayneylane
Advantages: Very intelligent, loving, active, fun to watch
Disadvantages: Not very cuddly, have a very specialised diet.
Degus can become lovely pets, but need a lot of time and attention. I have had my Degus (Terrance and Phillip) for a year now and love them to bits, but they are fussy little things and I think before you purchase them, you need to be prepared for what you have install!
A Degu is a small animal, which looks a bit like a gerbil - but Degus are not related to the gerbil; in fact they are from the same family as the Guinea Pig. They originate from South America and have been introduced to the UK pet market only really in the last 50 years. They grow to about 30cm (15cm body, 15cm tail), are a brown colour, with a yellow tummy and they have a hairy/furry tail.
Degus are very active and need a large environment to live and play in. Ours live in a large Chinchilla cage, with the wire floors removed (Degus can get "bumble foot" if they walk too much on wired flooring). Degus need to live in pairs or groups as they are very sociable animals (in the wild they can live in groups of up to 100!) and the more Degus you have living together, the bigger your cage needs to be. They love to chew so make sure your cage is not made of plastic, else when you wake up in the morning, you may find your pets have escaped - they really chew that much! You can use metal cages, or some people prefer to use aquariums, however Degus need to be able to climb so it is important to have a cage that can accommodate that, so using an aquarium/ tank as the base with a wired cage on top can be ideal.
They need a nest box in their cage. We use a simple wooden one, with a flat top, so they can use that for jumping on and for sitting on. They need bedding in their house, Timothy Hay is fine for this.
As mentioned, Degus need to climb. Make sure that there are plenty of levels in their cage. We have wooden ledges, Java branches and a rope hammock in our cage for them to use and they love running and jumping around on them.
Degus are intelligent creatures and will need "Boredom Breakers" and this often involves chewing! Wooden hanging toys, wooden/rope balls, tunnels etc make great toys for your pet. They will love chewing them and moving the toys around their cage. You can also hide little treats for them in their cage which keeps them entertained and active. I find that Pets At Home are good for toys for Degus, they have a large range and I also like to look in their Degu cage to see what they are playing with and buy those toys. They can have cardboard providing it has no print on it, as this can be harmful to the Degus. Ours love grabbing empty toilet roll and kitchen roll tubes and putting them into their house.
Like Chinchillas, Degus need a regular dust bath. Just use Chinchilla sand for this in a large container twice a week.
This is one of the most important things when it comes to looking after your Degu. They are prone to diabetes so must not have any sugary foods. We use Pets At Home Degu Nuggets or Selective Degu Food to feed our Degus, they contain all the vitamins and minerals your Degu needs. It is nice to treat your pet though and I recommend using products that say on them "suitable for Degus (or Chinchillas)" and to only give in moderation. Degus can enjoy fresh vegetables once or twice a week to supplement their diet with extra vitamins and minerals. You must be careful which vegetables you give them though as some vegetables are surprisingly high in sugar - if you are ever unsure it is best to check. Every Degu will like different vegetables; ours like peas, carrots and mixed dried herbs the best. Your Degu will not need a lot of vegetables, we give ours two peas each and half a slice of carrot, rolled in mixed herbs. This is plenty. Degus also need to eat hay, I recommend you buy a hay rack as they may eat their bedding! Replace everyday so they have fresh hay to eat. We also give our Degus dried grass a couple of times a week (we hide it in a wooden cube with holes in, they love it!) and sometimes mini alfalfa bales. As a treat we give ours Sugar Free Yoghurt Drops, which are recommended for Degus and Chinchillas, you can buy these from Pets At Home). They need plenty of fresh water, so replenish daily. Some people recommend using bottled water, but I use tap water for my Degus and have not experienced any problems.
Degus are very intelligent animals, they are friendly and sociable. Without companionship, they will suffer. It is important to spend a lot of time with your Degus else they can become aggressive if ignored. They are curious, ours follow us round the cage to see what we are doing! They have a brilliant memory and after a short while they will soon know the sound of the front door and come to the front of the cage wanting to be picked up.
They can sometimes show dominance and so can dominate food and/ or water feeders. To stop this we have two water bottles and two food bowls. They don't fight at all now unless there is a brand new toy then sometimes one will not let the other have a look in!
They are very fast animals, when you are holding them they will not sit still like a Guinea Pig on your knee, they are on the go all the time. However, once they trust you, they will happily sit still to eat on you etc, ours took a couple of months to do this. If a Degu runs off you NEVER pick it up by its tail, it can come off which is very painful for the animal and will never grow back. You should gently scoop a Degu to pick it up, although when getting them out of their cage you should let them come to you.
To start with, your Degu may be unsure about coming to you (we were very lucky with ours, the staff at Pets At Home had already tamed them) it will just take time and patience to get to the handling stage. Let them get used to your smell and reward them when they approach you, then when they put their paws on you etc etc and eventually they will be happy to jump onto your hand and come out to play.
Degus need a lot of exercise, about 30 minutes outside of the cage a day, but remember that they chew before choosing where and how to let them get this exercise. Ours have large rat balls which they love running around the room in, but sometimes we close off our hallway (which has no wires or dangerous spots for the boys to get into) and let them run free with us watching them, they love this so much!
Unlike a lot of rodenty-looking animals, Degus are not nocturnal (big selling point for me!), they are most active in the morning and evening and respond to light.
As mentioned before, Degus can get Diabetes, so sugary foods need to be avoided. If your Degu shows signs of becoming overweight then it is important to reduce food intake, give them plenty of hay to eat and let them exercise more.
They can get something called "Bumble Foot" which is caused by walking on wired floors. If you buy a wire cage, just take the wired floors out. When purchased, our cage had 2 1/4 wired floors, it now just has the 1/4 floor, but by providing lots of ledges for the Degus to go to get off the floor if they want to, this is OK.
You must keep your water bottle clean as Degus are prone to mouth infections.
Who are Degus suitable for?
These are not a god pet for young children, or for people who do not have a lot of time. They are fantastic pets for people who are willing to put the time and effort in, and don't mind having to deal with their requirements! Degus are a very rewarding pet but you must think carefully before buying some.
Summary: A fun pet to have but have specific needs
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