Degus are highly intelligent, endearing creatures. They make excellent pets, particularly for people with limited space. But these exotic creatures require owners who understand their need for special care. Read as much information as you can before deciding to make degus a part of your family.
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Understand that degus are pack animals. In the wild, they live in colonies among hundreds of other degus. Consider how many you have room for and can afford.
Purchase a minimum of two degus of the same sex. Four is better, and half a dozen ideal. Single degus encounter depression and often refuse to eat. Quality breeders and pet stores refuse to sell single degus.
Buy males, or prepare for pregnant females. Degus are very prolific. A single male can impregnate a cage full of females. A careless pet store can send you home with pregnant females by mistake.
Bond with your new pets. Degus are highly intelligent. They crave daily attention and enjoy being around people. Hold them often, allowing them to become comfortable in your presence. Eventually, they can learn to sit on your shoulder, or crawl into your pocket!
Give them an appropriate cage. Wire cages with narrow spacing ensure adequate ventilation. Degus love to climb, and happily scale cage bars--even hanging upside down from the ceiling! Be certain the cage is large enough to accommodate your pets. A pair of degus need at least 60 by 60 cm (4 square feet) of floor space.
Eliminate wire flooring. Line the floor with newspaper to avoid bumblefoot, or painful sores on the bottom of your pets' feet.
House degus in enclosed cages, away from pets and unsupervised children. Give them floor time only in a degu-proofed room devoid of other pets. Loose degus scale curtains in seconds, and can easily hide inside furniture, so the bathroom is often a good choice.
Feed them appropriately. Most quality chinchilla foods are appropriate for degus. However, degus are unable to process sugar, which makes them naturally diabetic. Read the ingredients on the food package. Avoid pellets with ingredients that include natural sugars such as fructose or dextrose. Fresh water and hay must be available at all times. The texture helps wear down ever-growing teeth. Treats are to be given sparingly. Degus love plain, salt-free crackers, nuts and sunflower seeds.
Handle them properly. Degus enjoy being held by owners they trust. To develop that trust, always pick up a degu correctly. Face your pet head-on. Slide a hand underneath its body and lift. Degus quickly learn to hold still and welcome this process. Picking up a degu incorrectly frightens the animal, and can dislocate a rib.
Keep their cage clean. It smells awful to your pets long before it smells awful to you. For quick cleanup, line the cage floors with newspaper and add bedding on top. Roll the newspaper with the bedding inside for disposal. Aspen or kiln dried pine makes good bedding for degus. Shredded newspaper works, but does not mask odor.
Recognize signs of illness. Degus are active creatures. Listless behavior is a red flag. So are dull eyes, large amounts of hair loss, and sores on the feet or around the mouth. Dislocated ribs are common and can often be felt sticking out at odd angles. Sick degus deteriorate quickly. See your vet immediately if signs of illness are present.