This post is to show you how to look after Degus and how they may differ from your traditional pet.We adopted our Degus around 7 years ago from someone who obviously bought them as a novelty and got bored of them quickly.
How to look after Degus is fairly simple once you understand the basics. Firstly I’ll explain what a Degu is as normally when I tell people we own them I get a blank look. A Degu is a rodent that lives in Chile in South America. They are highly social mammals that live in groups, nest in burrows and are active during the day. The easiest way I describe them is that a degu is like a cross between a gerbil and a chinchilla, they look more like a gerbil but live in a cage similar to a chinchilla. Degus are actually distant relatives to guinea pigs and sound very similar when they communicate by speaking. Degus are meant to have orange teeth so try not to be alarmed when you notice this.
As Degus are sociable animals it is important to keep them in groups, our original thought was to get 3 degus as should anything happen to one then the other would not end up alone. In the end, as we ended up adopting our Degus we ended up with 2. Unfortunately this year we lost one of our Degus which has left the other one on its own. We have decided not to introduce a new Degu as we know a few people who have tried to do this and it has taken them months to get along meaning they had to split the cage until they got use to each other. As our remaining Degu is around 8 years old now we thought it was best not to upset her with a new addition.
A degus’ diets is very simple once you understand the basic fact not to give them sugary food. Degus can easily end up diabetic so it is important to restrict sugar in their diet. It is best buying food purposely created for degus and other foods such as rabbit food or guinea pig food are not suitable. Degu diets should always be supplemented with good quality hay either meadow
Degus should always have access to good quality hay either meadow hay or Timothy hay. Veg should be given once a week. Using this guide will help you find what is suitable.
Fresh water should always be supplied for your degus through a drinking bottle. We learnt the hard way that a glass drinking bottle was definitely the way to go, as Degus are chewers they can easily chew through a plastic water bottle.
When it comes to cages the bigger and taller the better when it comes to Degus. When we originally adopted our degus they came in a wire mech cage. We realised that this cage was too small so got another very similar cage and attached it on top of the original one. Bar spacing needs to be a maximum of 2 cm so that the Degus cannot squeeze through the gap. Any cages that have wire shelving should be covered and made sold so not to damaged the degus feet. Degus are chewers so plastic base cages are not a good idea as they wouldn’t last. It is important to make sure the cage has a deep metal base to contain the bedding and to prevent the Degus chewing out.
The final cage we settled on was actually one that you could imagine a parrot in.
A typical cage for a maximum of two degus should be a minimum size of 70 L x 70-100 H x 45 W cm.
Wheel A large solid wheel will allow your degu to exercise. We use to have a large plastic flying saucer which the degus loved until one day they realised it was plastic and chewed it to pieces. Metal would be a preference if you can get hold of one. Take care not to use one with open gaps as the risk of the Degu getting a foot or tail stuck is too high.
We also put extra branches in the Degus cage, taking care not to use any woods that are toxic to Degus. Degus love climbing so extra branches really add enrichment to their lifestyle. Safe woods for Degus include Apple,Hazel, Hawthorn,Kiln-Dried Pin, Pear, Bamboo cane, Coconut Shell and Grapevine.
Tunnels and Hammocks are a great addition to any cage. Hammocks may be at risk of getting chewed but as long as you check them every so often making sure they are not dangerous you should be ok.
If you are considering getting a non-traditional pet it is important to make sure you do you research before hand. You can find out some information about exotic pets here
This post is in collaboration with RSPCA