If you’re after fascinating pets, then you need look no further than degus. These comical rodents are inquisitive and playful, and have interesting social behaviour. We’re here to show you how you can make these animals feel at home.
Degus are related to chinchillas and guinea pigs and look like a cross between the two. With their plush coat and black button eyes, degus are not only cute to look at but they are also very interesting animals. However, their fascinating social behaviour can only be fully appreciated when they are at their most relaxed. Our tips will help you create the optimal environment for your precious little pets.
1. Large cage or aviary
Running, climbing, jumping and playing: degus like to be physically active and need plenty of room to let off steam. According to the German Veterinary Association for the Protection of Animals (TVT), the minimum cage size for two animals is 100 x 50 x 100 cm (length x width x height). However, this is only intended as a rough guide as degus should ideally be kept in groups rather than pairs. As these animals also prefer a varied living environment, an aviary with a minimum height of 1.4 m is more appropriate as it offers more space and more opportunities for the animals to set up home.
As previously mentioned, degus like to have a varied living environment. Design their living area across different levels so as to satisfy the curiosity and active nature of these little animals. Include tubes and roots for hideouts and climbing, a large treadmill with a closed running area, a small sleeping compartment and cork bark elements. Don’t forget to include a hay rack, a sand bath and at least two drinking stations. Important: Fill the cage with hay to around 15 cm high. Degus love digging around in the hay.
3. Living in a large family
“Birds of a feather flock together” – this is also true of degus. Keeping one degu on its own would be cruel. In their native country, degus live in family units. Domesticated degus also crave company from fellow members of their species. Ideally, a group should consist of one male and two to three females. In this case, the male must be castrated – and this is not an easy operation. Therefore, owners are usually advised to keep either two males or several females that have known each other from a young age. Despite the fact that guinea pigs and chinchillas are related to the degu, they do not make suitable companions.
4. Degus are not cuddly toys
Once you have allowed your degus sufficient time to adapt to their new home, they will quickly place their trust in you and become hand tame. Leave them in peace for the first few days and wait until they have got used to their new surroundings. You can then entice them to the bars of the cage with a little treat and gradually get them used to your hand. Degus are not to be treated like cuddly toys and physical contact with humans should be kept to a minimum. With this in mind, they are only suitable for older children and adults who understand and accept that these rodents prefer to be observed rather than stroked.
5. Supervise at all times when allowed out
Degus love nothing more than to gnaw at things. As they are very partial to gnawing and nibbling, it is not only important to ensure that the cage set-up is designed to withstand their teeth, but you must also be sure to supervise your animals at all times when you let them out of the cage to ensure that no harm comes to them and your furniture remains intact. Ideally, your pets should not be allowed near wooden furniture, plants or cables, and they should only be let out in a secure enclosure.
6. Varied diet
The degu’s digestive system is used to a very meagre diet. Its most important food source is high-quality yet rather rough hay that must be made available at all times. This can be enriched with dried herbs, vegetable flakes and mixed flowers for chinchillas. You can also give your pets small amounts of special degu feed from specialty stores, providing this does not contain sugar. Greens such as unsprayed lettuce leaves, pepper and cucumber are also allowed in moderation, similar to a guinea pig’s diet. Fruit must be avoided at all costs as this can lead to diabetes in degus.
Call into your local store today to discuss your small animal’s personal needs with our Maxi Zoo Pet Experts.