A Degu (commonly referred to as Octodon Degu) is a small rodent home to Chile’s central and western regions. There are four species of Octodons; Common Degu, Pacific Degu, Bridges’s Degu, and the Moon-toothed Degu. Only two out of the four classifications are nocturnal, with the other two being diurnal, making them appealing to own as pets.
Having a Degu as a pet is becoming increasingly popular; their playful nature, calm and collected personality, in conjunction with their easy-going care requirements, make them an ideal animal of purchase! Younger Degus that are handled regularly tend to transition quicker into “pet-life” instead of Degus without such experience. Despite that, however, they’re still without a doubt an excellent pet to own and care for.
Forget common household animals like cats or dogs, Degus as pets are just as great and can continue to provide that perfect companionship. In this article, we cover everything you’d possibly need to know about Degus- from costs, care routine, and so much more! Continue reading to learn more.
Degus as Pets
If you’re looking to own a Degu as a pet, here are some things you should consider first:
- Degus lifespan, are you OK with that?
- Can you afford the maintenance and upkeep of owning one?
- Degus thrive in pairs or more, are you able to purchase a minimum of two?
- They should be held regularly, more-so during their early life stages- can you encourage this?
- Dusts baths are regular in a Degu’s life, can you maintain this need?
Degus are great as pets for both families or singles, but in particular families with children. Owning a Degu can teach a child gentle handling skills, animal-love, and additional kindness that isn’t always found when owning other types of animals.
In conclusion, if you’re looking for a non-traditional yet friendly, playful, and easy-going pet- the Degu might just be the perfect pet for you!
Costs of Owning a Degu
The initial cost to purchase a Degu is considerably cheap, only pushing you back USD 25 – 85, or no more than USD 100 in some states. What you should consider, however, is the additional costs required to maintain and care for a Degu yearly. When you combine these extra costs, owning a Degu may add up to be more than you expected.
Find below a list of additional costs to consider when thinking about owning a Degu:
- Housing | Cage, Hammock, or similar Animal Hut = $15 – $200
- Toys = $3.50 – $25
- Food / Water (Not including treats) = $15 – $45
- Medical = $15 – $50
- Vet Visits = $50 – $100
- Other (Exercise Wheel, Bedding, Dust Bath etc) = $20 – $75
Although the price you’ll pay to purchase a Degu is reasonable, when you add the additional costs, owning a Degu every year can approximately total to $118.50 – $495 USD. It’s a great idea to consider this before buying a Degu, to ensure you’re both mentally and financially ready to care for one.
Caring for Your Degu
When an owner dedicates providing adequate care for their Degu, they can quickly grow into healthy, friendly, and lively pets. Find below a list of ways caring for your Degu can be made more accessible.
1. Handle Them Regularly
Always encourage regular handling of your Degu; that way, they become accustomed to physical interaction as they mature. Failing to do this can create tension between yourself and your Degu- sometimes resorting to rebellious tendencies or significant distress.
2. Keep Them in Pairs
In the wild, Degus are found in numerous sets of pairs- meaning they’re naturally a social animal species. If possible, purchasing more than one Degu can be extremely beneficial to their development and overall happiness– otherwise, promoting plenty of social interaction is ideal.
3. Promote Regular Exercise
It’s crucial for you (as the owner) to motivate and promote regular exercise for your Degu. Uncontrolled obesity due to overeating and lack of exercise is one of the significant Degu health problems this rodent species face; thus, it’s up to you to monitor and deter such risk!
4. Dust Baths, Dust Baths, Dust Baths!
Degus need multiple dust baths per week. To keep your Degus coat both dirt and oil-free, be sure you provide regular dust baths for them (approximately 2 – 5 times per week.)
5. Healthy Diet, Healthy Mind
Like any animal, you must feed your Degu a nutritional diet to keep their tiny bodies and mental health in tip-top shape.
Are Degus Good Pets?
Degus make good pets when they’re cherished by the right person! Like most rodents, a Degu requires minimal effort to be cared for, which is always helpful for any pet owner.
Find below a list of additional reasons why Degus make good pets:
- They’re sociable and enjoy the company of others
- Enjoyment of handling (when done since young)
- Happy and playful creatures
- Small and great with kids
- Considerably cheap to purchase and own
- Minimal requirements
- Thrive when socializing
Degus Behavior and Temperament
Many people believe Degus are only well-behaved if they’re born by the right mother- which is not only silly but a poor excuse for lousy upbringing. Degus are, in fact, amiable animals and can make excellent pets when cared for by the right person.
Degus are naturally sociable animals, meaning they thrive off of the company of one another and behave similarly to bunnies or rabbits in that sense. When they’re not communicating with each other, they’re found playing, exploring, or digging.
If cared for properly, Degus can be passive and tamed pets- however, it requires the owner to promote regular handling and a gentle nature during their early stages of upbringing.
Some people have commented on Degus having a wild temperament, which can be prominent if there’s been neglect in care or nurturing in their early development stages. Trauma or sudden loss of parents can also create friction in the temperament of a Degu; however, it isn’t always common.
Do Degus Like to Be Held?
Degus only like to be held when they’ve been regularly handled while they’re young; otherwise- they’re known for not enjoying being held.
How Big Does a Degu Get?
On average (depending on the classification,) Degus reaches a size of 16 – 31 cms (6.2 – 12.2 inches) in length and no more than 300g in weight.
Do Degu Bites Hurt?
If you’re ever bitten by a Degu, you’ll be happy to know that their bites don’t hurt nor cause any significant damage to your skin.
Can a Degu Live Alone?
Although Degus are sociable animals and prefer to be kept in groups or pairs, they can still live alone if absolutely required. However, it is recommended that you purchase at least two Degus at one time to prevent isolation or behavioral problems.
Do Degus Smell?
A Degu smells just as bad as a rat or hamster, therefore establishing a cleaning routine should be implemented when possible.
Cleaning their cage on a regular basis, promoting many dust baths daily, and keeping up with additional hygiene measures is a great way to prevent your furball from stinking up the house!
What is the Lifespan of a Degu?
The average lifespan of a Degu is 6 – 8 years in captivity and 1 – 4 years in the wild.
What Size Cage Does a Degu Need?
When it comes to cage sizes, Degus prefers larger housing units as opposed to smaller ones. Don’t forget; Degus are playful animals that enjoy social interaction, exploration, and plenty of activity- therefore providing them a large-sized Cage to live in won’t cause any harm.
In general, a 24 x 18 x 24 inch sized cage is adequate to house a pair of Degus– and anything more significant should be an option if it’s within your budget. Also, try not to house your Degu in a cage smaller than this, if possible.
Do Degu Tails Grow Back?
A Degus tail has bones in them, making them susceptible to injury. If for some reason, it is injured, you should know that a Degus tail will not grow back- instead, it may heal or slowly die and eventually fall off.
Do Degus Need Dust Baths?
When in the wild, Degus go through multiple dust baths per week to keep themselves clean. While in captivity, it’s imperative you continue to provide these dust baths for them so they can continue their hygiene routine with ease.
Degus need regular dust baths, approximately 2 – 5 times per week (but sometimes 1 – 7 times), as it aids in the removal of dirt and excess oil. Sand is the particle used for these dust baths, making the term dust baths known as “sand bathing.”
If you want to know how you can make a dust bath, click here to learn three different ways to give a Chinchilla a dust bath, which also works perfectly for a Degu!
What Can a Degu Eat?
The primary food source in a Degus diet is good quality hay, as it provides natural resources that benefit their digestive system.
Other foods a Degu can (and should) eat are:
- Leafy greens
- Sweet potatoes (in proportion and without the skin)
- Dried herbs
- Commercial Degu food
TIP: If you have a picky eater on your hands, try mixing up and offering various vegetables in one sitting- while continuing to provide plenty of freshwater.
What Food Must Degus Avoid?
You must ensure to avoid feeding your Degu sugary foods at all costs. Avoid giving your Degu other rodent food, high protein, or vegetable skin (like sweet potato).
Do Degus Sleep at Night?
There are four classifications of Degus, two being nocturnal and the other two being Diurnal- which makes them ideal to own as pets.
What Do Degu Noises Mean?
Different sounds coming from a Degu can provide you the indication needed to understand what they’re trying to tell you. To learn the meaning behind unusual noises, your Degu might be making, continue reading.
- High-pitched chirping – This means your Degu is excited, happy, and content. They’re indicating positivity, and are sharing this happiness with you
- Continuous fast squeaks – Stipulates fear, anxiety, or panic. They’ll also make this noise if they feel threatened.
- Grinding or yapping – Indicates your Degu is annoyed, so give him some space or remove him for his pairs for a while.
- Usually, whining or rapid groans imply agonistic behavior is about to follow- whether they’re playfully fighting or seriously feel one another are threats.
- Soft toned warble – This is a familiar noise numerous Degus produce when they’re communicating with one another.
Can Degus Swim?
It is believed by word-of-mouth that Degus can swim. However, there is limited research to back up these claims.
Do Degus Sleep With Their Eyes Open?
When it’s time for a nap, Degus indeed sleep with their eyes shut. However, it is common for Degu owners to comment on how Degus look like their eyes are open when they’re sleeping.
People believe Degus sleep with their eyes open because they’ve never seen a Degu sleep, and their eyes are always open. But like some other rodents, a Degus pupil narrows significantly, which aids in keeping the flash of light to be less shocking when they eventually do wake.
Can Degus Get Fleas?
The likelihood of a Degu acquiring fleas is probable; however, they’re more susceptible to lice than anything else. An infestation of fleas and its eggs within your furry friend’s coat is unlikely, but fleas within their bedding is another story.
Lice are more likely to make an appearance within a Degus coat as lice eggs glue itself to the base of the hair follicle. Despite that, both fleas and lice are still an unlikely appearance.
Do Degus Fight to the Death?
If you were hoping for a soft, gentle, and tender answer- you might want to look away now. In all seriousness, Degus fight, and if they’re not regularly monitored- things can get ugly… like “fighting to the death” kind of ugly.
It’s instinct for Degus, specifically wild male Degus, to prove dominance within their pack. This is a commonality found in many animals, and the reasoning is no different- meaning fighting is a way that such a trait is established.
Most Degu fighting happens during mating season but can also occur at any time of the year. An increase in sex hormones is usually the cause of this fighting, and can also be the most dangerous if some aren’t careful.
Due to a wild Degus stubborn nature and their unwillingness to back down, fighting can proceed until one has died– but this isn’t always common for captive Degus.
To avoid severe fighting, simply:
- Treat each animal equally
- Provide numerous hiding areas/furniture
- Separate your pets if required
- If possible, invest in a separate cage (shall the need arise)
How High Can a Degu Jump?
As you may already know, Degus are agile creatures that enjoy playful interaction and action-bolted stimulation. Apart from their some-what destructive behavior, Degus tend to jump around a lot, and can even jump as high as 6 feet.
At What Age Are Degus Fully Grown?
It’s believed that a Degu becomes fully grown around the six-month mark. In some un-ordinary circumstances, owners have reported their Degu reaching sexual maturity at the 6 – 8-week mark, with most babies leaving their mother at the four-week mark.
How Long is a Degu Pregnant?
Once your female Degu has been bred, expect the gestation period to last up to 90 days in total.
How Many Babies Does a Degu Have?
An average Degu litter size is around four to six; however, they can have as little as one or as many as ten in one pregnancy.
Do Degus Eat Their Babies?
Even though some rodents are known for eating their babies, this is simply a misconception when it comes to Degus and their own. Degus DO NOT eat their babies under normal circumstances.
Note: It’s imperative to keep the father with the mother and their babies (Do not split them up.) Doing so establishes a fundamental bond between one another, and promotes their overall physical/mental development- as a family.
Common Causes of Degu Health Problems
In general, the Degu is a healthy animal with no specific hereditary illnesses. However, this does not mean you should ignore common health problems that may arise- nor neglect providing them vest visits also.
The main common health problem that can arise in a Degu is obesity. Owners that provide their Degu an improper feeding routine or diet can be one of the causes for such health issues. Other reasons why obesity may occur is an absence of exercise, stimulation, or regular activity.
Other common causes of health problems found in a Degu:
- Self-injury (Uncontrolled observing of fighting)
- Improper handling (Broken tail, bites, or diseases)
- Isolation (Lack of socialization, Degu or community interaction)