Choosing a Degu
Do you Degu? Scientifically known as Octodon Degus, Degus are furry little bundles of joy that are becoming more and more popular in the domestic pet world. Allow PetPlace to help you understand what Degus are, their needs and wants, and the benefits of owning a Degu. For more information on Degus and other small mammals check out our online library. There you’ll find info on adopting new animals, behavior and training, housing and cage care, small mammal profiles, and more!
What Is a Degu?
A Degu is a member of the Octodontidae Rodent family. Being a sub-order Caviomorph, Degus are related to guinea pigs and chinchillas, and most closely rabbits. Degus are native to Chile and can be found in regions spanning from the coastal plains to the Andes. The Degu is one of the most common mammals of central Chile; these hardy creatures tend to live in higher elevations of 1,200 meters and up in open grassy areas that have either small shrubs, rocks, or stone walls nearby for shelter.
A Degu only weighs anywhere from 6-10 ounces and is somewhere between 9-12 inches long. The added length to these minuscule animals comes from their unique tails. Like their chinchilla cousins, the Degu have long, soft tails. Unlike chinchillas, who are crepuscular which means that their peak activity periods take place between dawn and dusk, Degus are diurnal – meaning that they are active during the day.
Degus tend to live between five to nine years, being highly social animals Degus should never be housed alone. We recommend a pairing of two Degus or more to promote a family structure for your Degu. However, male Degus should not be paired with female Degus as they are liable to fight. In the wild, a Degu will live with a large family unit similar to prairie dogs in an underground complex tunnels system. Degus are natural explorers and love to climb, dig, and explore their surroundings.
It can often be hard to tell the difference between male and female Degus, leading to some awkward situations. Many Degu owners have taken home sets of male Degus only to discover a few weeks later that their Bob is really a Belle. Like most small rodents, female Degus can become pregnant right after giving birth. So if you wake up to a suddenly extended family one morning, it is imperative to separate your Degus to prevent further insemination. If you wish to breed your Degu consult your vet to ensure that your Degu is healthy enough to bear children.
Degus come in multiple color varieties and combinations including:
- Blue/Blue Agouti
- As mentioned above, Degus are highly social animals and should not be kept alone. A family of two or more Degus is always preferred. Male and female Degus should not be mixed as they are likely to fight or breed, or possibly breed and then fight.
- Room To Dig
- Degus are natural burrowers, and as such, they require ample space to build tunnels and little burrows. A minimum cage size for a pair of Degus is 24 inches by 18 inches by 24 inches.
- Bust Baths
- Just like Chinchillas, Degus need regular dust baths to be clean and healthy
- Chew Toys
- Degus are avid chewers and need ample avenues for chewing. Tree branches such as oak are great additions to any Degu cage.
- A Sturdy Cage
- Due to their need to chew, Degu cages shouldn’t be made of plastic or wood. Additionally, because they like to dig, your Degu cage should have a solid bottom.
- Nesting Place
- Your Degu needs a small space to call home. Simple hutches and wooden boxes will double as nesting spaces and climbing structures.
- Nesting Materials
- Along with a nesting place, your Degu needs some nesting materials such as tissues, paper towels, hay, or shredded paper.
- Exercise Wheels
- Degus need a lot of exercise, so an exercise wheel is a vital item that should not be left out of their enclosures.
- Degus are active little balls of fur that require a lot of exercise and play time. Their enclosure should have multiple levels and structures for climbing and running. Additional toys such as jingly balls and corn toys will keep your Degu happy and healthy.
Caring For Your Degu
Just like every other pet, Degus need specialized care to stay happy and healthy in your home. First, a Degu needs to be kept in a cooler climate. Their enclosure should remain around 68ºF, anything warmer than that and a Degu may become distressed and experience heat stroke. Next, Degus need constant stimulation in the form of friends, toys, running, or climbing. These little guys will not do well in a barren cage; they need plenty of toys and platforms to play on. As previously mentioned make sure that your Degus cage is large enough to accommodate multiple levels and a running wheel. Cages made for Chinchillas tend to work well for Degus.
The floor covering of the cage should be comprised of materials that are easy to burrow in – be careful to read the ingredients on the packaging if you decide to use wood shavings in your Degus home as there may be harmful elements used. Your Degu will need to have a dust bath available so that it can wash after it has been handled; make sure that you never get your Degu wet.
Degus need a special diet as they can’t digest or metabolize sugar or carbohydrates and are prone to diabetes. A mix of guinea pig and chinchilla food or rodent blocks will work well for your Degu as long as it doesn’t contain any molasses. For a special treat you can feed your Degu the following foods:
- Dandelion Leafs (make sure that no pesticides have been used)
- Leafy Vegetables
- Peeled Sweet Potatoes
- Green Beans
- Sunflower Seeds
- Nuts In The Shell
*Vegetables that are part of the cabbage family: cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, etc., should only be fed to Degus in small amounts. As should the seeds and nuts listed.
Are You Ready To Bring Home A Degu?
Have we captivated your interest in Degus? These little balls of joy make great pets that can be enjoyed by anyone. Still debating between a Degu and another small mammal? Check out our online database of small mammal profiles to get all of the info you need to decide which pet is right for you. Share your Degu story with us in the comments below!