Degus are rodents that belong to the same family as chinchillas, mice, and guinea pigs. They are as big as guinea pigs but have brown fur and long thin tails that make them look like oversized gerbils.
Their round squat bodies weigh 0.5-1 pound and have an average length of 10-12 inches. Degus make some of the most popular pet rodents nowadays. Though several things inform their popularity, one of the leading ones is the animals’ behavior profiles.
In the wild, degus are very social animals and live in groups of up to 100 animals, much like prairie dogs. Their diurnal nature, love for attention, and curiosity are the other qualities that make these rodents excellent pets.
Also Read: Do Degus Make Good Pets?
Most people opt to keep several degus because the animals are instinctively social, but the animals can be aggressive towards each other.
The following is information that will help you understand the behavior of degus and ease your work as a pet owner.
Understanding a Degu’s Behavior
Like other wild rodents, it is easy to tame degus when you handle them from an early age. When housed together, degus will often try to communicate with their owners using chitter-chatter sounds.
At times, you might hear screeches from your pet’s cage if the animal is threatened or stressed, and when its food is swiped. When you have a hand-trained degu, it will always come to you for belly rubs and cuddles.
A pet degu will rarely bite when not threatened or cornered. Fortunately, its nip will not break your skin or hurt. The animal only bites hard and injures someone when it fears for its life then goes into a defensive mode.
Wild degus live in groups comprising 1-2 males and 4-5 females. The females take care of the young ones. The animals mark their territories using anal gland secretions and urine. These fluids might make their cages smelly when not cleaned.
Remember never to pick your degu by its tail. It has an inherent anti-predator mechanism that it uses to shed its tail in an emergency. When picked by its tail, your pet degu might shed the tail. This is not only painful, but the tail might also not grow back.
Are Degus Friendly With Children?
Yes, degus are friendly with children. When you have kids, you need to be sure that the animal you choose as a pet is child-friendly. Children are naturally drawn to animals and will want to touch and pet them.
Animals that are not child-friendly can hurt the kids when touched since they interpret this as a threat. Moreover, other animals should be delicately handled to avoid hurting them and are thus ill-suited for kids.
Though their curiosity and social nature make degus ideal pets for kids, they are best for homes with older children. This is because they should not be delicately handled to protect their tails.
Even for older children, always ensure there is adult supervision when a degu is playing with a child to avoid aggression when the animal feels threatened.
Do Degus Love to Cuddle?
Yes, degus love cuddling when they get used to being handled. To be tamed and become comfortable around their owners, degus should be handled daily and offered small treats.
When cuddling them, place one hand behind the front legs, then over their backs, and the other under their rear ends. It is best to hold them close to your chest or place them on your lap since degus do not like having their legs dangling.
Why do Degus Fight Each Other?
Most degus are happier when kept with other degus. This will also minimize the time you need to spend with your pet because the animal gets neurotic and aggressive without enough interaction with humans or other degus.
However, you should not house male degus together more so if there is a female degu in the same cage. Most degus fight during the breeding season that spans from early winter to mid-spring. This is because of the physiological changes and fluctuation of sex hormones that happens at this time.
These changes make the animals dominant, but thankfully, the fighting reduces as the breeding season draws to a close.
If you wish to house several degus together, introduce the animals to the cage when they are young. Let them live in separate cages for a while with short supervised visits to each other’s cages for them to get used to each other.
Degus will reach their sexual maturity at six months and can get 1-12 young ones after a 3-month pregnancy. If you do not want to deal with an excessively large group, consider housing the males and females separately or neutering the males.
Do Degus Get Along with Other Pets?
No, degus do not get along with most pets since they are territorial and will often fight over the resources you provide. They should not be kept in the same cage with other rodent species, including hamsters, mice, gerbils, or chinchillas since they have different temperaments and care needs.
On the other hand, small house pets like rabbits carry diseases that can be transmitted to degus. As such, it is best to house degus alone or with other degus.
Thanks to the tidbits above, you now know the behavior to expect when you keep a pet degu. Even so, remember that these animals have diverse personalities, and their behavior will depend on their environments or upbringing.
As such, you should be patient to learn the temperament or behavior of your degus rather than assume that it is the same as other animals. If you want to change some behaviors you can work with an animal behavioral specialist to train your degus on the desired traits you would want it to have.
Thankfully, training the degu is not so hard. However, before getting the animal, consider the time, space, and resources you have to care for it. With adequate time, resources, and space, your relationship with a degu will be the source of your household’s happiness.