Very similar to chinchillas, degus make fantastic pets. These larger rodents hail from South America and, in captivity, can live up to eight years if they are cared for correctly. Degus are charming pets and love being handled by their owners and, whilst they are relatively easy to look after, attention still needs to be paid on their housing, diet and health to ensure they are properly looked after.
How Big Should a Degu Cage Be?
Wire cages are the best option for degus. Each individual degu requires a space that is a minimum of 90cm high, 60cm wide and 45cm deep. This should be kept in mind if you are housing degus together as they will obviously need more space the more there are.
Most wire cages have metal bottoms. This should be removed and replaced with plastic so that your degu does not get bumblefoot – an inflammatory bacterial infection of the feet.
You should make sure your degu’s cage is in a quiet part of your home, away from draughts and heat sources.
What Do Degus Eat?
The perfect degu diet is comprised of three sources; hay-based pellets, hay, and hard veggies. Carrots, cucumbers and green beans are particular favourites. Degus can fall foul of health problems (such as diabetes) if they are fed food which is too high in fats, carbohydrates or sugar so it is best to ensure they have a balanced diet. Access to fresh water is essential and most owners use water bottles as they are easier to keep clean and topped up.
How Much Exercise Do Degus Need?
Degus are active and inquisitive animals that need stimulation to prevent boredom and live a healthy lifestyle. Staying fit and alert avoids issues in later life, such as behavioural problems. Make sure your degu has ropes, ladders, tree branches and tubes in their cage to keep them occupied.
Why Does My Degu Have Orange Teeth?
Don’t panic if your degu has bright orange teeth – this is completely normal! Whilst we may be very worried if we woke up with a luminous smile, for degus, light yellow or white teeth are an indication of a health issue.
Degu’s teeth continually grow and they must have hard objects, such a wooden blocks, to gnaw on to keep them at a suitable length. If your degu isn’t eating or is producing excessive saliva, this could be a sign that their teeth have grown too long and you will need to visit your vet.
Do Degus Like Being Handled?
Degus do like interaction with humans and time spent together is useful for bonding. Some degus can cuddle into their owners and sit comfortably for ages, whilst others take the opportunity to have a snooze.
The first few times you handle a new degu, they make be skittish as it is a new experience for them. Approach quietly and calmly, cupping a hand under their body for support. They will soon learn that being outside of the cage is a positive and loving experience.
Whatever you do, never pull or pick up your degu by its tail. As a natural defence mechanism, degus can lose their tails. Should this happen, take your pet degu to your vet.
Can Degus Live in Groups?
It is advised to have more than one pet degu as they are playful and sociable animals. If you just have the one, make sure they are handled often and you talk to them throughout the day so that they are stimulated.
If is best to keep groups of males together and groups of females together to avoid unwanted degu babies. However, please be aware that, like humans, not all degus will see eye to eye.