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Degu

1/2

Pronounced Day-Goo, sometimes affectionately called Goos.

 

I like to think of Degus as a cross between a rat & a guinea pig. They can be quite active and friendly like a rat but are related & share a similar diet to guinea pigs. They also are pretty noisey like the guinea pig. They kindof remind me of squirrels a bit lol!

 

Degu are rodents. They belong to the family Octodontidae. Genus Octadon, Species Octodon Degus.

They are a type of Caviomorph related to guinea pigs and chinchillas. 

 

They originated from Chile in South America. They have long furred tails. Note- it is very important never to pick them up by the tail as it could detach. 

 

One thing that may interest many people who have a hard time with rat's short lifespan, is that the Degu has an average lifespan of 5-9 years. 

 

They are very social animals who must be kept in groups. 

 

 

Degus are quite hyper and energetic animals and most active during the day.

They are also quite intelligent. This means they are going to require a lot of good mental and physical stimulation so that they do not get bored or destructive.

Things like a very large fun cage, wheels to run on (not rodent balls), things to climb on and lots of things to chew on are important. They also require sand baths like the chinchilla. You can take them out of their cage to play in a safe and supervised area.

 

Degu's are not quiet animals and can make lots of fun sounds like chattering & squeaks, You can listen to some here: http://degus.com/degusounds.html

 

Is a Degu the right pet for me?

 

  • Are you looking for a small caged pet with a longer lifespan?

  • Can you provide a large interesting cage?

  • Interested in a very energetic pet


 


Some cute videos that I found on youtube that show Degu's behavior.
None of these videos are mine.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AydBhEtqTT8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajgftqohVYA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADwUPmqzUJc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLEQdUYyjmE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_QZguqWF1w
 

 

I do not recommend them for young children as they can be very active and jumpy and could easily be injured if picked up wrong or by the tail. 


 

Pros

  • They are more active during the day whereas many rodents are more active at night!

  • Really fun to watch. They can be quite silly and active and super happy about treats.

  • It can be fun setting up their cage in a new fun way

  • Not a bad or strong odor

 

 

 

Degus are sadly illegal to own in Pennsylvania. 

 

Cons:

  • Requires a very large cage, which can take up space and be expensive

  • Requires hay which is messy and can mess with allergies

  • Makes a lot of noises- some people will love this quirk, and it will drive others nuts. Make sure everyone in the home is ok with it! Mine do not make tons of noise very often. Usually just when playing or when fed. But every now and then they just get super loud. You could hear it through my entire house and even upstairs! If you live in an apartment you will need to consider that.

  • Are more of a commitment with a longer lifespan

  • They are not very inexpensive pets as they will require a large cage and a good supply of fun things in their cage, toys and things to chew.

 

 

 

How much hands on interaction do they require?

 

It is important to remember that they are more of an exotic pet and not as domesticated as a rat. But Degu can really love attention. Degu are pretty calm , they are not very prone to biting. If your cage is very large and you put tons of effort into your cage for them to enjoy and get exercise, they will be quite content. But you can also take them out and let them play supervised in a pet safe/proofed area. 

 

Mine enjoy climbing into my hand, sitting on my hand but don't like being picked up. They climb right up into my hand when I offer it though! 

 

Some can be very calm and snugly but that is going to be more as they age and if you are putting the time in to build trust with them.

 

But you definitely need to spend time with them and have some sort of interaction, be it taking them out to run around and climb on you or having their cage in a busy area and stopping in multiple times to talk, feed treats and interact with them. 

 

 

 

 

Housing

 

Degus require a very large cage. The double critternation is my recommendation. A single critternation with a very good set up could be used. Large cages meant for chinchillas No plastic cages, they can are very destructive and will easily chew through one.

 

The cages should be filled with different levels and shelves for lots of climbing and fun. Things like lava ledges, bird wooden perches, flat wooden ledges, logs, wooden shelfs, tunnels, those wooden bridges or ladders, etc.... They also should have a wooden hide.

 

I recommend aspen or kiln dried pine bedding. 

 

They should have a wheel 12" or larger. 

 

Lots of things to chew and play with. They will need lots of things to chew, I can't stress this enough. I give mine apple wood sticks and they love them. Nuts in the shell are ok in moderation. Cardboard tubes or boxes are entertaining as well. But they will need a steady supply of wood sticks or blocks to chew on.

 

They require sand baths. Get specific chinchilla type sand and not the dust. You can be very creative with what you use as a sandbath. I think the favorite thing I have seen is a large glass bowl used for like floating candles! You can choose to keep it in the cage all the time, though it will need to be cleaned often as they will use it to potty in, which some owners see as a good thing and others don't like. Mine put all their apple wood sticks in theirs... Or you can put the sand bath into the cage every day for alittle bit or even just a few times a week. They do require this though. 

 

Toys...

Look for things made for rabbits, guinea pigs or chincillas. Wood based or woven straw.

 

Can they have hammocks? 

It really just depends on your individual degu. If they want to chew on it, I wouldn't let them have it. Never use nonfleece hammocks or old clothing, they fray and are incredibly unsafe.

 

 

 

 

Cleaning and Care

 

As said, Degu use sand baths to stay clean. Do not bathe your degu. 

 

Degu are no where close to as messy as my rats. Their smell of urine/feces is not as bad at all either. Hay is messy. I hate hay with a passion. It will somehow get to every corner of your house. And dirty hay does not smell pleasant. If you have an improper sand bath, they may make a mess with that. 

 

As you need to use bedding and critternations have the shallowest pans, you will need to fix that. I use cement mixing pans from home depot, it is like less than $15. You need the large 21gallon size. Do not cut them! They will fit without being cut, if you cut them it will leave an edge that might encourage chewing. To get it in the cage you will be tempted to try and insert it at an angle, DO NOT DO THIS! Instead put it flat against the bottom and push, keeping it flat and straight. Mine have not chewed on it at all. 

 

If you are concerned about chewing you can also get metal pans from bassequipment , they are not cheap but metal.

 

I suggest cleaning the cage weekly at the least, though the cage you have and how many degus will matter.

 

 

 

 

Diet

 

If you like to share your dinner with your pets, this is not a pet for you!

 

Unlike the other rodents I have, Degu are herbivores. Their diet is similar to guinea pigs or rabbits.

 

The main part of their diet should be a nice quality Timothy Hay.

People ask me alot what hay I suggest. I actually have a ton of rabbits and guinea pigs and even the gerbils, mice and sometimes rats like to play in the hay, so I go through alot of it! I buy huge compressed bails of timothy hay from tractor supply, they are just under $20. I do also buy smaller bags of hay from chewy.com Oxbow brand either timothy or orchard grass sometimes. 
 

Avoid Hay that doesn't look very fresh or is too dusty. Don't waste money on the tiny bags, even just having a pair. Get the larger bags because you will go through alot of hay! Avoid hays that have bits of stuff in it for the most part.

I would also avoid most hay racks and such. Let them play and nest in the hay as well. Many hay racks can be pretty dangerous. I usually throw some hay into a pile on the floor and some on top of their house.

 

Just always make sure they have hay in their cage. 

 

They also need a good grass-based pellet diet. They need plain pellets, not with added little bits and things. 


They have food specifically made for Degus like Sun Seed Sunscription Vita Degu Food or you can use a high-quality food made for guinea pigs. You want to find a pellet that does not have added sugars or molasses.

 

I actually feed a mixture of the degu sunseed pellets, that I believe I have to buy on amazon.com & have to buy a pack of several small bags! And then I also feed Oxbow guinea pig pellets mixed with it. I get the oxbow pellets sometimes on chewy & sometimes at my local tractor supply.

 

Seeds, Herbs, Nuts-

They do sell dried herb mixes made for bunnies usually or other similar animals. You can also mix in seeds and some nuts. These are basically "healthy junk food" They should be in moderation, use them as a treats as well. But too many can make for weight issues. Mine go absolutely insane for sunflower seeds. I also give pumpkin seeds, millet and some nuts in the shell. Obviously, do not give salted seeds or nuts or flavored ones. Avoid herb mixes with dried fruit. 

 

 

They can have fresh foods but stick with mostly veggies & in moderation.

Dark leafy greens. I like to give spring mix lettuces. You want to avoid fruit for the most part. See below for why! An odd nibble here or there won't be the end of the world, but I'd rather not get into the habit of it. It is also very easy to go overboard with such small animals. 

 

This website has a good list of the food breakdown and a list of safe foods.  I really like the idea of it. You do not need to be that precise but that is the basic idea.

  • 42% Various types of Grass

  • 15% Herbs

  • 10% Seeds

  • 23% Leaves, Roots and Flowers

  • 2% Bark from Trees

  • 8% Fresh Vegetables

 

 

 

One unique dietary concern with Degus is that they are very sensitive to sugars. It is not part of their natural diet and too much sugar can cause many health issues and even diabetes. 
With this in mind, you want to be very careful feeding fruits which are high in sugar. 

Avoid any treats made for pets, they are sugar filled crap. Do not feed things like yogies (which is just pure sugar), do not give little sugary treats, do not give a nibble of your cookie, etc.... 

 

Obviously, they need a water bottle at all times with fresh clean water. 

 

I prefer to feed them their pellets in a bowl and then give seeds tossed around the cage for them to have fun finding. Or I hand feed them seeds. 

 

 

My Lines

I was able to work with a wonderful breeder to start my lines. Niche Critters & Exotics, located in Indiana

My Degu are Blues

 

 

Price: $40 each