Degu: Its Origins and everything you need to have one!

white and brown degu on top of a trunk
02 October 2020 Pets4Company

Friendly, curious and extremely sociable. Arriving directly from Chile: Octodon Degus!

Its Origins and Characteristics

The degus are rodents of small / medium size, with daytime habits, coming from central and northern Chile, in South America. They live in rugged areas of low and medium altitude (up to 1200 meters), occupying natural caves between rocks and shrubs, forming communities composed of several dozen individuals of both sexes.

They are extremely social animals that must always be kept in the company of one or more individuals of the same species and of the same sex: whole males must be kept separate from females if otherwise the colony will increase considerably with all the inherent responsibilities in a very short time.

The introduction of two or more degus may or may not be successful. As a general rule, babies born in the colony are well accepted by adults, partly because they smell the elements of the colony itself and its habitat. However, as soon as they enter adolescence and begin to challenge authority, conflicts can occur. The same is true with regard to the introduction of new elements external to the colony.

The degus have a very complex body language composed of sounds, tail movements and various poses. Faced with a potential threat, there may be a small quarrel in which degus push and try to establish dominance / hierarchy. In more serious cases they can engage in combat causing physical damage, in which case the elements involved must be temporarily separated.

brown degu in his cage on top of a wooden platform
Image by Pixabay

Preparing the habitat

  • The cage must be spacious containing several levels and platforms so that the degus can move freely without generating conflicts over space. The cage must be made of metal and the platforms can alternate between metal or non treated wood (note: the wooden ones will probably be gnawed. After all, these little ones are rodents!). Plastic cage and platforms will be promptly gnawed, causing poisoning in degus .
  • Among the most important accessories are: hammocks , hiding places , tubes and nibbling sticks (for wear of the incisors). If you choose a exercise wheel it should not be closed and o its size should be appropriate by degu, otherwise it may cause injury to the spine and joints.
  • As litter to place at the bottom of the cage you must choose between paper or wood pellets avoiding sawdust and sands whose dust greatly affects the respiratory system of degus.
Note: if the cage has a base and platforms in grid or wire it must be covered with polar fabric or non-toxic natural fiber material to avoid accidents or injuries.

  • At the base of the food there must be a feed suitable for degus, without added sugar , since they have a natural predisposition to develop diabetes. They also need to have good quality hay at all times at their disposal through which they obtain a large part of the fiber, also providing the wear of the molars in permanent growth .
  • We recommend that the water bottle should be made of glass, a material that is easier to clean and more resistant to the rodents' natural curiosity.
  • Like chinchillas, degus also take sand baths . The sands used for this purpose are very specific and are available for sale in petshops. The use of non-recommended sands can cause serious health problems!

brown degu in his cage on top of a wooden platform
Image by Pixabay

Finally, if you acquire a degu , think that this is a commitment of some years - in captivity you have an average hope of life 8 years and there are even reports of degus who reached 11 years of age. And if the decision is made, let it be the beginning of a beautiful friendship!