Degus are becoming a popular pet in the UK and it’s easy to see why. Larger than a gerbil, smaller than a rabbit, they seem like a great pet if you have the space for them. They are highly social animals, enjoy living in groups and can become very tame with regular handling. So, here’s a quick low down if you are thinking of welcoming one of these fabulous critters into your home.
One of the first things to consider before getting any animal is its lifespan. Can you give it a secure home for the entirety of its life? 5 to 8 years is average for a Degu, but up to 10 is possible. So if your 12 yr old wants a Degu or two, but goes off to university at 18, will you still be happy to care for their pet?
The next thing you may wish to consider is housing. Now, remember, these are social animals, so keeping them in groups of two or more is essential. Degu’s chew…A LOT…EVERYTHING!!!! Cages need to be wire and metal, not plastic or wood as they will simply chew their way out. They should, however, have a solid floor as they can suffer from a condition known as ‘Bumblefoot’ if they are kept on a mesh floor. A Degu can grow to around 5 – 7 inches long, with an extra 5 – 6 inches of tail, so they are not small animals. A minimum cage size for two Degus is 24 x 18 x 24 inches (60 x 45 x 60 cm approx.), more Degu’s means more space. Something like a multi-tier cage
Do you have space?
A nest box and nesting material, such as paper towel, shredded paper or hay, need to be provided (and probably replaced frequently as it WILL get chewed) as well as bedding to cover the floor, paper-based is better than wood shavings.
A large, solid based, exercise wheel should be provided (11inch diameter is good) to keep them fit, as well branches to climb, ropes to play on, as lots of chew toys. Wooden bird toys and rabbit toys are ideal. All these things will need to be replaced regularly as they are chewed. Did I mention they chew? Can you afford these replacements?
Degus, like Chinchillas, use dust baths to keep their fur in good condition and so a dust bath of Chinchilla bathing sand should be provided a couple of times a week. About an inch deep in a shallow bowl is good, leave it in for half an hour to an hour but remove it after this time to avoid respiratory problems and mess when they knock it over.
Specialist Degu food is available and will give your degu a mix of everything it needs. Alternatively, you can give high-quality guinea pig or rodent pellets. Hay should be available at all times as they require a high amount of roughage in their diet. A variety of fresh veg can be offered such as sweet potato, carrots, and green beans. Don’t offer too much of any relative of the cabbage (broccoli, kale, sprouts etc) as they are not good for your Degu. Fruit should be avoided because it is high in sugar and Degus are prone to developing diabetes. Also limit the amount of sunflower seeds, peanuts and nuts in shells as these are high in fat (but they do make a great treat).
Now you know how to care for a Degu, and if you know you can provide them with everything they need for their whole life why not contact a rescue centre and see if you can rescue an animal rather than buying some.