Do Degus Make Good Pets? 5 Things to Consider
Getting an exotic new pet can be a very exciting experience, especially if it’s an unusual one such as a degu. Keeping these furry little animals as pets is a fairly new phenomenon and as such, experts are still learning how to care for these pets.
If you have decided to buy a degu, you are probably wondering how best to care for this adorable animal. In this article, we are going to share with you some of the best care tips for degus including diet, housing, and more.
What is a Degu?
A degu is a burrowing rodent that is native to Chile in South America. These highly social animals usually live in communities of up to 100 when out in the wild and are typically very active during the daytime.
Degus are also curious by nature and quite playful, which makes them great animals to keep as pets. An adult degu usually weighs between 6 to 10 ounces and between 5 to 7 inches long.
Behavior and Temperament
Degus are usually very easy to tame when they are still young. They usually function best when housed in same-sex pairs which promote socialization and interaction with other degus. Given their instinctive need to socialize, degus can become very irritable, neurotic, and aggressive when kept in isolation.
These creatures usually communicate through chitter-chatter sounds although they may make high-pitched screeches when hungry or stressed. They rarely ever resort to biting unless they are threatened in which case they can get defensive and bite the perceived threat.
When trained from birth, degus are very responsive to affection and will often come to their keeper for belly rubs and cuddles.
It is important to note that you should never pick up a degu by its tail since this can cause it to shed its tail which is a very painful experience for the animal.
How to House a Degu
Degus are highly active creatures that need to play and run around in their cages. Since they are social creatures it is important to keep them in pairs which means you need a sizable cage to fit them.
Ideally, you should house them in a vertical cage with ample room for toys. A typical cage for housing a pair of Degus should be at least 28 inches wide, 18 inches deep, and 40 inches high. While this is a larger cage than the ones used for other rodents, it should still be able to fit well in an apartment.
It is worth noting that these tiny rodents can be very voracious chewers and can eat their way through plastic. You should therefore house them in a cage that is made of wire or metal.
In addition to this, the cage should contain a nesting box in order to replicate the burrows that these hyperactive animals usually dig up when they are in the wild.
What do Degus Eat?
Degus typically eat a diet that is low in carbs and high in roughage. The proper diet for degus should include some guinea pig pellets, good quality chinchilla, and a rodent block. You should also ensure that their cage is well stocked up on fresh vegetables, raw peeled potatoes, leafy greens, and green beans.
You should avoid feeding them too much cruciferous vegetables such as kales, cabbage, and broccoli since their fragile digestive systems are not capable of handling them in large amounts. It is also not advisable to feed them fruits since the high sugar content may be too much for their system.
Occasionally, you can feed degus treats such as peanuts, sunflower seeds, and nuts. However, you should be careful not to overdo it due to the high-fat content. Make sure you always keep a bowl of clean freshwater in your pets’ cage at all times.
How Easy is It to Take Care of Degus?
Like most rodent pets, degus are very low-maintenance and can survive comfortably as long as there is ample food and their cage is cleaned regularly.
You should make it a habit to clean up their cage at least once a week. Furthermore, you should handle them and play with them regularly in order to keep them tame.
How Easy is It to Handle Degus?
These rodents are typically easier to tame when they are still young. Handling them daily will help to strengthen your bond with them. Failure to do so might make them wild and a lot harder to handle.
When handling degus, you should pick them up with both hands and hold them tightly to prevent them from falling.
These animals have very fragile bodies and a fall even from a very small height could lead to life-threatening injuries. You should never pick them up by the tail since this could fall off and won’t grow back.
Are Degus Safe for Kids?
Degus are naturally very curious and friendly animals with the capacity to bond very well with their owners. If you have kids, it is always a good idea to ensure that the pet you keep is child-friendly.
Degus will certainly spark the interest of your child due to the fact that they are very adorable and funny. While these rodents are child-friendly when tame, you still need to be cautious when it comes to letting your child handle them.
You should always supervise your kids when they pet or handle degus to prevent agitation which could make the creature aggressive.
It’s highly recommended that younger kids not have access to the degu cage and instead simply watch them from outside the cage. However, you can always let your kids pet the degus and give them belly rubs when you pet them.
If you have older kids, you can allow them to handle the degu but make sure you teach them the proper way of handling them to avoid falls which could injure the pet.
How Long do Degus Live?
In captivity degus can live about 6 to 8 years. With good care, they can have a life expectancy of even 10 years. So, keep in mind, that with pet degus, you will make a commitment for many years.
If you can’t make such a long commitment, but still want a small pet, you should consider hamsters or pet mice, which have a shorter lifespan. They live about 2-3 years.
Degus are very cute and low-maintenance creatures that make great pets as long as you know how to take care of them. Just remember to feed them regularly, clean their cage and give them lots of love.