Here at the Abbey Street Animal Rehoming Centre we find homes for many different animals - dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, hamsters, mice and rats are all common visitors to our Centre. As are Degus! Now, you may be asking, what are degus? They're not necessarily well-known pets in the UK and for that reason we often struggle to rehome our degus, with many of them spending months and months in our care before finally finding a home. This blog post will give you a little more information about these inquisitive animals, so that you can see if they would make the perfect addition to your home.
What are degus?
The degu is a member of the Octodontidae family of rodents. They originate from Chile and in the wild they live in groups of up to 100 in burrow systems. They live on average for around 6 years, although they can live for longer than this. They're friendly, funny and curious little animals who are always on the go - it's easy to spend hours just watching them going about their daily business.
Degus are very sociable animals. As mentioned above in the wild they live in large groups so they must always be kept in same-sex pairs or groups, as a single degu is not a happy degu. They must be kept in same-sex groups as otherwise there will fighting and pregnancies galore! Degus love to cuddle up together, known as a 'degu-pile' and they take real comfort from company.
Housing and sandbaths
Degu groups need a large cage with plenty of enrichment to keep them busy. Wire mesh cages are ideal but all floors and ramps must have coverings as bare wire will harm their feet otherwise. The cage should have at least two levels to allow them to explore. Lots of non-toxic wood shavings and plenty of hay should be provided for them to use as bedding. Degus love hay - it is important for their diet and they love to burrow in it so it must be available at all times. Degus like their nest box so make sure to always leave one in their cage, filled with bedding for them to create their own nest. Sandbaths are essential to ensure your degus have healthy skin and a clean fur coat. They really enjoy them as well so it is a great enrichment activity. Degus should have regular access to a sandbath - ideally daily.
Degu cages ideally need to be furnished with branches to allow them to climb and give them something to chew on. It's important to correctly research which branches to use: pear, apple, ash, beech and oak are ideal. Degus also love to run so a running wheel will make a welcome addition to their cage.
Degus cannot sweat to cool down so if they are kept in an environment that is too warm for them they can quickly overheat. They should be kept in an area that is around 20 degrees Celsius. If you see your degu lying on their stomach and limiting their movements it may indicate that they are too hot. They should also be kept away from any draughty and damp areas.
Sugar and carbohydrates are dangerous for degus as they can't metabolise them, meaning they are prone to diabetes. Good quality guinea pig and chinchilla pellets, without molasses, are the best pellets to feed degus. They also enjoy leafy vegetables and dandelions. As previously mentioned, fresh hay should always be provided.
Degus should be bright and active, with clear eyes and glossy fur. Teeth should be yellow, not white, as white teeth indicate a vitamin A deficiency. Wetness around the mouth indicates overgrown teeth and difficulty breathing can point to respiratory problems. Any indications that something may be wrong must be checked by a vet - veterinary care is an essential part of responsible pet ownership. If you are considering taking on degus, always speak to your local veterinary centres as you may need to take the degus to a specialist exotic vet.
Degus really enjoy human attention as they are inquisitive little characters, but they don't necessarily enjoy being picked up. As they are prey animals in the wild, they are naturally fearful of being picked up from above. The best way to handle degus is to let them come to you. They also often very much enjoy having their tummies tickled! They don't usually make suitable pets for young children as children usually want to pick their pets up.
These lovely, curious little creatures can make wonderful pets, but always make sure you thoroughly research any animal before making a decision. They have multiple needs that must be met. Also, if you do decide to take on a degu group, always check with your local rescue centre before turning to a pet shop - there could be some rescued degus just searching for their happy ever after.
Communications & Volunteer Manager