Other name(s): Common Degu; Brush-Tailed Rat; Trumpet-Tailed Rat
Scientific name: Octodon degus
Although somewhat squirrel-like in appearance, the Degu is actually related to guinea pigs and chinchillas, and shares many of the characteristics that have made them popular pets. Other than being a bit heat-sensitive, Degus are very hardy, and most are quick to accept human companionship.
Degus are found in central Chile, South America, where they in inhabit open thorn scrub habitats and dry, brushy grasslands.
Appearance / health:
Degus are stoutly-built, measuring 9-12.5 inches in length (with tail) and weighing 8-15 ounces. They are somberly-clad in yellowish-brown fur and have cream-colored underparts and yellow fur about the eyes and neck.
The average lifespan is 6-10 years. They metabolize sugar poorly, and contract diabetes when fed fruit or other high-sugar foods. Degus must be provided with sand-bathing facilities (see below) in order for the fur to remain in good condition. Like all rodents, they must be provided with daily gnawing opportunities, as their front teeth grow throughout life.
Behavior / temperament:
Degu are by nature very social , and usually readily accept human contact and handling. They are active by day, and seem always to be exploring, foraging or interacting. New owners should seek advice on proper handling, as Degus shed their tails if grabbed improperly, and will bite when distressed. Single animals do not fare well, as they are colonial by nature.
A multi-level commercial wire Degu cage or custom/homemade enclosure of at least 3x4x3 feet (L x W x H) , but preferably larger, makes a good home for a pair of Degus. Frequent exercise time in a Degu-safe room is appreciated. The cage should be furnished with shelves, PVC tubes, nest boxes, an exercise wheel, and dog bones and rodent-safe wood to gnaw. Aspen or other hardwood shavings may be used on the cage bottom. In order to keep their fur in a healthy, clean state, Degus should have access to a pan filled with commercial “Chinchilla Dust” for 30 minutes, 2-3 times weekly.
Degus are best kept at 65-72 F, and are intolerant of sustained temperatures above 82-85 F.
A high-fiber diet is essential. A Degu’s diet should be comprised of commercial Guinea Pig and/or Degu pellets and dry, brown Timothy (or “meadow”) hay. Pellets should not be offered free-choice, as hay is then often ignored (hay provides essential roughage and helps wear-down the teeth). A 2’ square piece of yam or carrot may be offered 2-3 x weekly if desired. Vitamin/mineral supplements should be used per manufacturer’s recommendations.
Sexual maturity is reached by age 2.5-3 months. Female Degus give birth to 3-11 young 90 days after mating, and wean them at age 4-6 weeks.
Written by Frank Indiviglio
favourite rodent, loving pet, sociable, cutest little things, fab little critters, pretty smart
no-sugar diet, loud, strong smelling urine, nasty bite, vets bills, incessant nighttime wheel, diabetes
standard bar wheel, weekly dust bath, timothy hay, pumice stone, active exotic mammal, poo schrapnel
Lucky to have had him
Where I live, degus are illegal to sell in pet stores. There was a temporary reversal where our local store got some. We thought about it but they're not your standard gerbil and wanted to learn more. By the time we had, they were sold. When we went back to get food for our other critters, there was one there again. We asked about it and they said they don't normally take returns but the lady who returned him hadn't been caring for him properly - the lady had picked him up by his tail and it had ripped off. They were trying to figure out what to do. We asked if we could take him (we had been longtime customers and had taken another "reject" from them) and they let us. It took some socializing to get him used to us. Degus are very social but normally moreso with each other than people. They should not be kept by themselves! We looked into trying to find a companion for him for adoption but had no luck, so we did our best to be his best friend. Again, degus are NOT gerbils. These guys love dust baths like chinchillas. He would get one every week and watching him roll around and play was a joy. We also had to special order him food because normal "small pet" food does not have the appropriate nutrient requirements. A very interesting thing is that they like to talk and will mimic noises. My mom liked to listen to the radio, especially classic rock music. Jasper would try to mimic the guitar in it which was really neat. When I went to college, he became my mom's best friend. They would chat away to each other. He was a great companion for her. .
From masihkap Feb 16 2019 12:44AM
Loud & messy little creature
These rodents are known to be very social and friendly and my degu is no exception. He's never been aggressive, even towards the strangers, he loves being petted and sleeping in the pocket of my blouse, while I'm sitting at the computer. Although degus are diurnal, mine is a little bit of a weirdo, because he usually sleeps all day and comes to life during the night time, which sometimes is a little bit frustrating, because he makes a LOT of noise. He's also a very messy pet - his cage needs to be cleaned twice a week, because the smell is quite unpleasant and everyday I need to sweep the area around the cage, because he likes to throw stuff outside on the ground. However, except for this, he's rather easy to maintain. He's healthy and eats almost everything I give him (but before he tries new stuff it takes a while). Because degus are very social animals they need a lot of attention. Everyday I try to let him loose for at least half an hour - I close the door to the room, protect all the cables and stuff like bags/shoes (because he will destroy anything on his way) and let him run free and he loves it :). Oh, and he absolutely hates cold - he's got a little house in his cage, full of papers and sawdust and he loves to bury himself in it, or even - during the winter time - to lay on a radiator :). Degus make really awesome pets, but my advice to anyone who thinks about buying one i s to keep in mind, that they need a lot of attention and they definitely have to be kept in large cages - to ensure they have a lot of free space, different levels and other attractions. Oh, and remember that they are quite loud, even during night time, so keeping them in a bedroom isn't the best idea..
From Patia03 Jan 8 2017 3:14PM
Selectively Social - Handle Them First
For the first few weeks everything was fine. Toast was happy with his cage and all of his new things. He nibbled and climbed all day long. And he let me pet him though any attempt to pick him up led to bites. Abruptly he decided that petting was no longer okay. He was happy otherwise and ate all of his food, but any attempt to handle him was met with unhappy nips. Several months later he found his person. A friend of my mother's was in need of a small pet- her apartment didn't allow anything else. Toast loved her. He would sit in her hand and let her pet him all day. He lived with her for five years without issue. I never quite figured out why he never liked me but I was glad he found someone who did. .
From Calciphyre Oct 14 2016 11:49PM