Simple Guide: From Acquiring To Caring For Degus

A Degu is a social, curious and playful pet. Degus originate from central Chile and can grow to between 25 cm to 31 cm, which is (9.8 to 12.2 inches) in length. In weight, the degu can grow to between 170 and 400 grams. Caring for degus is quite easy and they do make great pets.

Degu Lifespan

Degus will live for 6-8 years WITH PROPER CARE!!!! In captivity.

Where do I get a Degu?
Where Can I Get A New Degu?
  1. From A Trusted/ Reputable Pet Store.
  2. Reputable Degu breeders.
  3. Reliable Adoption Agencies/ Rescues.

It is up to you, but Breeders are recommended. Why?

The minimum recommended age to acquire a young degu is 6 to 8 weeks old. You can always get an older one if you want.

Can a Degu Live Alone or Does He or She Require a Companion?

A degu requires a friend. Get at least 2.

Get of the same sex if you do not want to wake up and find baby degus and wonder what to do next.

Degus usually fight. It is normal. If you notice these fights are too much, you can try and avoid them by making sure you treat each degu the same. If you give one a treat, give the other one as well. Each can have their food bowl separate and placed apart from each other. Not a must, but may reduce fighting. Most get along quite well. Also, have plenty of hideaways/hideouts.

Degus Are Suitable for Children Aged?

12+ years, however, it depends on how your child or children handle things.

Handling Degus

NEVER lift your degu by the tail. It will shed off and cannot grow back.  If you have to pick up your degu make sure he or she gets used to you first by feeding treats from the hand. Once he or she is not afraid of you, you can try scoop him or her.

Is A Degu Nocturnal?

No. A degu is diurnal. It is active during the day.

Degu Housing
DEGU CAGE TYPES

A rule of thumb is that each degu you have needs at least 2-3 square feet of cage room.

It is not advised to have only one degu; it may get stressed out alone. You need at least 2.

Therefore, the minimum cage dimensions for degus is: 70-100+ cm long by 50+cm wide by 60-100+ cm high. Height and length are very important.

Here are our recommendations based on owners and experts’ opinions.  It is up to you which one works for you as they are all good for your degu.

#1. Midwest Critter Nation Double Unit with Stand (for 2-3 degus) you will need to make some modifications like replacing the plastic trays with bass metal trays. Degus are chewers!! They will chew the plastic trays that come with the critter nation. The Bass Equipment Company usually makes this and you can get in touch with them.

If you want to house 4 degus and want to go with the critter nation, you will have to buy another single unit to attach on the side. See image below.

A dremel tool is used to make cuttings.

You can also get two double unit critter nation cages and join them. See video.

Double Critter Nation Degu Cage Tour

 

 

 

 

 

#2. Savic Suite Royal XL

#3. Savic Suite Royale Navy Blue Small Animal Cage 95 x 63 x 159 cm

#4. Mansion Cage for Chinchillas, Hedgehogs, Rats, Ferrets, Degus

#5. DIY Cages- If you go this way make sure you read the CARA chart found here for measurement guidelines. You will need to be creative. To get ideas you can search online for what other people have built.  Here is a short clip we came across for an example of a DIY cage.

DIY Homemade Degu Cage Tour

 

 

 

 

 

Optimum Temperature for Degus

Degus require an optimum temperature of 21 degrees Celsius, which is 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This is what we know as room temperature.

Anything above 73 degrees Fahrenheit, which is above 24 degrees Celsius will lead to heat stroke and even death of your degu.

An air conditioner may be required during hot summers.

Degus are resilient to low temperatures. However, dump or wet situations are a NO!!

Degu Bedding
Caring for Degus (recommended bedding materials)

Your Degu’s health should be considered when it comes to bedding. These are safe for your degu. It is up to you which one you can handle in terms of cleaning.

#1. Hemp Rodent mat/ Hemp Floor for Small Pets – This bedding has been recommended by a majority of degu owners, who have used it for years. It is disposable and can get completely damaged after at least a month. Your degus will get some nesting material from it. Apart from spot cleaning a couple of times, it is disposed of monthly or when needed (when you notice it has become too damaged). It is absorbent and you will barely smell any urine. Cutting it to your required size should not be done by a child. It is quite difficult to cut.

#2. Fitch Paper Pet Beddingthere are basically no negative feedbacks from Fitch bedding. It is very absorbent and worth your money as it is compacted.

#3. FinaCARD Cardboard Bedding Maxibale (dust extracted)

#4. Pillow Wad Eco-Nest

#5. Hugro Hemp Bedding (get the large bag to get value for your money)

#6. Snowflake Woodshavings Natural Pet Bedding (This one is dust extracted and good for your degus)

#7. Aubiose

#8. EASIBED

#9. Aspen beddingbefore getting any aspen bedding, read here to make an informed decision.

#10. Kaytee Clean & Cozy Small Animal Bedding (White in color) UNSCENTED or

Kaytee Clean & Cozy Natural Small Animal Bedding (Brownish in color) UNSCENTED

 

Degu Cage Accessories
Degu Exercise Wheel

You can get the plastic silent spinner but your degu will chew on it and you may be forced to replace it from time to time.

We recommend getting a silent metal wheel that will give you service for quite some time.

Minimum size should be 12” plus. You can also DIY a wheel with a metal cake tin, if you find buying not for you.

Examples of nice wheels are:

To DIY one, see this video

How To Make A Degu Wheel

 

 

 

 

Degu chew toys

Degus need chew toys to help file their teeth down. Good examples safe for your degu are:

Degu Wood/ Branches/ ropes

Good examples that are safe for your degu are:

Water Bottle

Get a good chew proof one. A glass one is good. A majority of people get the living world water bottle. Here are examples:

Food Bowl/ Dish

A good ceramic bowl is preferred to prevent knocking over. Good examples are:

Ledges and shelves

You can add on the shelves for your critter nation. Recommendations for buying include:

Degu hideout/ Hideaways

God recommendations for hideaways include:

Hay Box

You can use a cardboard box that will fit in your cage or DIY a poplar wood or kiln dried pine wood box. You can also grab one of these already made:

Sand Bath

Degus love sand baths. You can place a sand bath in their cage and take it out after about 30 minutes.  Do not leave it in the cage as they will use it as the bathroom.

Make sure to sieve the sand to try and extend its use. However, after the 14th bath or when you see it is filthy, you should change it out.

What sand should you use?
What container should you use?

Thick Glass Container or Ceramic Container with long walls works well. Two nice examples are the:

Litter pan/ tray  

Degus pee everywhere, however, there are certain areas they will pee more than elsewhere, corners! Make sure to note the corner where they are using as the bathroom most and place their litter pan there. Good examples of litter pans include:

In the litter pan you can place a different bedding than what you have for your cage bottom. For example:

Feeding Your Degu
Caring For Degus ( Feeding: What, How and When)

Clean Fresh Water– this should be available 24/7.

Timothy Hay, Meadow Hay or Readigrass (dried ryegrass)- this should always be available in your degus cage in the hay box. Hay keeps your degus stomachs healthy and also keep their teeth worn down.

Foraging leaves, flowers and herbs-

  • Hannseman SAB Degu Plant Mix 
(Choose whether to give seed mixes or commercial pelleted food. You can also give both)

What you need to look out for is:

  • Calcium: Phosphorous ratio= 2:1
  • High sugar and molasses is bad
  • Vitamin C is great
Seed Mixes
  • Ratrations degu seed mix (1 teaspoon)
Commercial Pelleted Food 

Good recommendations are:

Treats- Degus love the following:

  • Dried dandelion roots
  • Sunflowers seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds

Vegetables- These are to be fed once or twice a week:

  • Broccoli
  • Fresh dandelion leaves
  • Cauliflower
  • Parsley
  • Dried Rosehip
  • Dried herbs (for example mint, plantain, nettle and fruit leaves)
  • Butternut squash
  • Beetroot
What is a good Feeding schedule for degus?

Hay and fresh clean water should be available in the cage always.

You can give both hay and the Hannseman SAB Degu Plant Mix to enhance foraging.

A degu should consume 10g of pelleted food or seed mix per day.

What options do You  Have?

Option 1

  • Morning 6am to 8am: 10g of pelleted food or seed mix
  • You can give treats weekly in a regulated manner
  • Also give vegetables especially those rich in vitamin c weekly (for example broccoli and dried rosehip)

 

Option 2

  • Early evening 5pm to 7 pm– 10g of pelleted food or seed mix
  • You can give your degus treats (if it is sunflower seeds, 1,2 or 3 a degu) weekly
  • Also give vegetables especially those rich in vitamin c weekly (for example broccoli and dried rosehip)

 

Option 3

  • Morning 6am to 8am: 5g of pelleted food or seed mix
  • Early evening 5pm to 7 pm– 5g of pelleted food or seed mix
  • You can give treats (if it is sunflower seeds, 1,2 or 3 a degu) weekly
  • Also give vegetables especially those rich in vitamin c weekly (for example broccoli and dried rosehip)
Do Degus Smell?

Not really, however, if you fail to clean up their cage, it will definitely give off some odor.

Can Degus Be Potty Trained?

Not really. But you can try. Training them is not 100%, you will just hope they pick up on it that they should go in the litter pan since you placed it in their bathroom corner.

Cleaning Degu Cage
Caring For Degus (Cleaning their cage)

Cleaning the cage will depend on what cage you have, your cage organization and the type of bedding you use.

How to go about thorough cleaning once a week or when needed when using fleece

  • Remove your degus from the cage
  • Take out accessories
  • Remove soiled bedding. (This will depend on what you are using. If you are using substrate bedding and notice some of it is not soiled you can reuse it. If you are using fleece (not really recommended for degus), you will need to wash it. For fleece, you will sweep out poop and hay, remove fleece and U-HAUL pads and shake thoroughly. Put in laundry basket to wash later. Machine wash and either sun dry or machine dry. You can use unscented free and clear detergent like All Liquid Laundry Detergent, Free & Clean. Also, add in white vinegar. DO NOT use scented detergents or any kind of softeners!!! DO NOT use dryer sheets!! 
  • Wipe down surfaces and trays with water and white vinegar with a clean rug and make sure they are dry. The ratio of mixture water to white vinegar 50:50
  • Give the wheel a wipe as well as the accessories.
  • Put in fresh bedding. For those using fleece, put in clean fleece and U-HAUL pads. (you will need to have a number of fleece sets to be replacing each week or when needed).
  • Wipe dry and put back the accessories.
  • Clean water bottle and food bowl. Put in fresh clean water and add some food.
See a nice cleaning video to get an idea of how the cleaning is done.

Degu Cage Cleaning TIMELAPSE

How to Wash Fleece Liners and Cozies

Travelling with Your Degus

Remember degus are prone to heat stroke, therefore, before thinking of travelling with them, think of getting a pet sitter or letting a family member or friend take care of them. Remember also that if you have many degus it can become cumbersome as you will need a larger cage and space in your car. It will be much easier to have someone watch them.

If you are moving house or going to the vet, then here is what you need to do:

Get a good degu travel cage minding the spacing of the bars. Remember that degus chew plastic, therefore you will need a wire cage.

A Good recommendation is the:

Inside the carrier
  • Place bedding (fleece) or towels and hay (If you want to place substrate bedding, you will have to get a small tray made for your MidWest Poquito Avian Hotel travel cage by the bass equipment company).
  • For food, you can put in some commercial food or seed mix. Carry some extra food and water as your return can be delayed.
  • For water, note that water bottles leak as you move. You can carry a water bottle but only put it up when you stop moving to prevent soaking the travel cage.
  • Make sure the travel cage is secured by the safety belt.

If you are going on holiday get a friend or family member to look after your degus or hire a pet sitter.

If you usually frequent to a relative’s place for a couple of days and you do not want to leave your degus behind, you will require to have another degu cage over there.

Degu Health and Vet
Perform health checks (once or twice a week)

What should you look out for when getting or caring for your Degus?)

  • Eyes, nose and ears– Their eyes should be clear and bright. Look for any discharge from your degus eyes and ears. Also, look out for crusty eyes and a running nose. Inspect the inside parts of their ears to make sure they are clean.
  • Respiratory health– Check how your degus are breathing. You should not see any form of wheezing or heaving. Most of these respiratory problems are caused by the wrong type of bedding and dump or wet cages. A healthy degu will breath lightly, barely noticeable.
  • Mouth– Look out for drooling, foul odor, swollen mouths/ gums and difficulty in eating. Inspect for broken, missing or very long teeth.
  • Fur- They should not have hair loss nor bald patches. Check for any wounds or blood on their fur. It is usually a sign of bad fights.
  • Behaviors– Degus are active and explorative. You should not notice any form of inactivity or lethargy. Be on the lookout for loss of appetite. Check also if your degus are limping. Other problems include tilting of the head, paralysis, agitation, seizures, jerking and circling.
  • Weight– Check your degus’ weight weekly to make sure it is not dropping rapidly.
  • Body- Feel around their small body for lumps.
  • Feet-You should look out for inflammation and sores.
  • Genital and Anal Area- These areas should not be bloody; neither should they have any discharge. Check for abnormal droppings in the cage.
Vet

Try and get a degu savvy vet not just a random one. (See a vet once or twice a year or when you notice something wrong with your degu)

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