Housing & Substrate
degus like the company of other degus?
they actually require it. Degus are highly social animals and can become
depressed and even physically ill if kept on their own and deprived of
human attention. Always aim to keep at least two degus together.
can I give my degus to gnaw on in their cage?
and branches from the SAFE
LIST are great for your degus' teeth and nutritious as well as being
a boredom buster and climbing activity. You could provide a mineral
block or pumice stone, but these aren't as appealing. A simple cardboard
tube goes down a treat! More ideas on the enrichment
|When I first
got the degus I was told that sawdust was very bad for their health and
the best thing to use was wood based cat litter pellets. I have used
this ever since. However, I just read on Degutopia that sawdust is best
for the degus!! They cannot burrow in the cat litter and I just read
somewhere else that it can be rough on their feet as well. My problem
now, is should I carry on using what my degus are used to, or should I
change to sawdust. I want to do what is best for them and am not sure
whether changing over now may upset them or please them! Any advice will
be gratefully received.
shavings are a fantastic substrate as it's light, absorbent and soft on
your degu's feet, and of course degus love to dig in it providing it's
deep. The only time you should not use shavings is if your degu has an
allergy (you will notice this if they cough/sneeze a lot and if they
make a wheezing sound when they breathe). The dust in the shavings can
cause this, so as an alternative I would recommend shredded paper (but
not newspaper due to the ink). For more options see the housing
page. I would highly advise AGAINST using wood pellets; their
absorbency is great, like you say, but this can have fatal consequences
if your degus eat the pellets. If ingested, the pellets swell up inside
your degu and can cause colic, constipation, intestinal rupture and
death. You know how much degus love chewing wood, so believe me- they
eat the pellets! The roughness is also terrible for their feet, like you
say, and can lead to bumblefoot (for more info visit the illness
If you're really
against sawdust and paper, you might be able to try alternatives such as
corncob bedding, etc. As for switching, this is not going to upset your
degu's karma too much! I would strongly recommend you stop using the
wood pellets as soon as possible.
One more thing,
you must never use cedar chips as a substrate as cedar is highly toxic.
I'm sure you're aware of this from reading Degutopia's housing
just built a HUGE new cage for my degus, what I would like to know is
how many degus can I keep in it?
depends on the cage's volume. Degus are really active and require a fair
bit of space to jump, climb and run about inside the cage (and out!).
Degus also really hate being overcrowded, this can make them fed up and
aggressive to other group members, so it's really important you get the
group size right. There is a handy calculator tool on the housing
page which allows you to check how many degus your cage can
accommodate based on the dimensions.
is a baby female degu. I have never seen them in pet shops here before,
so I am unsure when I could find another female. I think I need to wait
until her parents have another litter. She is very sweet. The pet shop
said she did not need dust baths. However every web site I go to says
she does :) What is your opinion on this?
should have no problem getting her a friend. If you wait until her
parents have another litter, you can buy one of the female pups and introduce
her to your female straight away, this should be fine provided the
pup is juvenile. If your female does not take to the baby girl straight
away, you can divide the cage for a couple of weeks to let them get
accustomed, but I don't think you'll need to do this. The shopkeeper is
not correct about dustbaths. Degus need frequent dustbaths in order to
keep their fur free from grease and in good condition (they also have a
behavioural need to express bathing behaviour). When your degu sheds her
winter coat, dust bathing is also needed to help loosen/remove hair. You
should give your degu access to a dustbath every day, but don't put it
in her cage as she will use it like a toilet and stop bathing in it. You
can use any type of dusting sand or clay (sepolite) suitable for
wood is safe to give to my degus?
woods include apple, hazel, hawthorn and kiln dried pine. These woods
brought in from outside must be cleaned before your degu can chew them-
just give them a scrub in the bath with a nail brush. Be sure to check
the wood has not been treated with anything first! Don't give your degu
any other types of wood as almost all are toxic to degus- please visit
section for more information. Degutopia now has a complete list of woods
that are toxic to degus.
website didn't mention whether manzanita wood is okay. I wanted to
purchase a couple of really tall w/lots of branches pieces for the
inside of their cage - to be used to run up and down to different
levels. Manzanita is the wood most often used for parrots and parrot
extensive research I can't reach a definite conclusion about manzanita
wood, in all likelihood, manzanita wood (genus Arctostaphylos) is suitable for degu use. I am unable to find any reports of toxicity for the species which are used to create wooden perches/chews for animals, however one shrub species
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi should be avoided (although this is a small shrub an unlikely to produce woody branches). On another note, some species of manzanita are critically endangered so that may also be a factor in considering it for degu use!
Please do bear in mind that substances safe for some animals may not be
for others. Most parrot and bird websites with a list of safe woods
include manzanita on their safe wood list. HOWEVER, also on the safe
wood list are lilac, pear, fir, eucalyptus, magnolia, almond and myrtle.
THESE ARE NOT SAFE WOODS FOR DEGUS- PLEASE STEER CLEAR! This
demonstrates that some woods supposedly safe for one species are toxic
for another. I would stick with what I said previously- unless proven to
be safe, assume it isn't. A comprehensive index of toxic
woods for degus can
be found here.
you are having the discussion about safe woods right now, I'd like to
add that even though Birch trees are in the toxic category on your web
site, very many people from my German degu forum (www.degu-forum.de)
report that they have offered Birch for many years and that it is
considered safe. Just wanted to let you know.
compiled the list from various papers and I added birch to the unsafe
list as it is listed as toxic to humans- contact can cause dermal
irritation and respiratory complaints. There has not yet been any
specific research as to whether the wood is cytotoxic to degus, however
if it does contain a toxin I would be hesitant to give it to degus as we
don't yet know if it may be causing them harm. It may be that when a
degu ingests the birch wood, they are able to break down/convert the
toxin into a harmless form and excrete it, or it may build up in vital
organs such as the liver and could cause long-term injury. Since we just
don't know, given the evidence that birch is found to have toxic effects
on other mammals, I would stick to woods we now know are safe. But by
all means do some research and prove it safe!
degus eat/play with pine cones?
You must not give pine cones to your degus as they are TOXIC to them.
Please visit the toxic
wood list for more information.
wondered if you could give me a little advice on wood. I've been using
eating apple branches for years but I'm on a shortage at the moment and
I have a damson tree which is a fruit wood, so I wondered if it was safe
to give them? I've checked all the toxic woods list and it isn't listed
but I just wanted a second opinion before I went ahead and gave them
afraid that damson is a member of the plum family and so is not safe for
degus. This is for the same reasons as plum/cherry woods- they all
contain cyanogenic compounds which are really bad for your degus (and a
lot of other animals!). I would suggest you try asking around for people
with apple trees in their garden, or hazel is another common wood. Just
be sure to check they don't treat their trees with chemicals first. It's
always hard finding branches at this time of year, particularly when
most people have already finished pruning them! As an alternative, if
you're looking for things to climb on, you might like to try untreated
sisal rope. That's the really thick stuff made from natural twine. Degus
love climbing on it, although unfortunately it's not as tasty as apple
Environment & Exercise
degus like warm places?
are adapted to a warm
climate and so are more sensitive to the cold. You can tell if your
degus are cold as they will sit in a hunched up position with their fur
fluffed up (like shivering). You might find that when your degus are out
they seek out a warm place to sit even if they aren't cold, as they lose
less heat when they are warmer. Wild
degus often sit in the sun to get warm, but if they get too hot they
simply return to the cool of their underground burrows. For this reason
it is also important that your degu's environment is not too hot, as
this is very bad for them since they cannot retreat to a cooler place.
The ideal temperature for your degus is room temperature- around 21°C.
It's a good idea to keep a thermometer near your degus cage so you can
regulate the temperature more efficiently.
it safe to let my degu run around my room?
you introduce your degu to a new environment, make sure you remove all
potential hazards and block any escape routes. Remember that degus are
excellent climbers and are very curious. Be particularly careful to
check there are no wires lying around as degu love to 'test' things for
edibility- they could be in for a nasty shock! Be sure to remove any
potted plants at lower levels as degus love to try plant leaves, whether
or not they are poisonous. Your degus will love the time they spend in a
big room full of new things and it's great exercise for them.
often should I let my degus out into their play area?
should aim to let your degus out every day to keep them fit, mentally
stimulated and happy. You should let them out for a minimum of half an
hour, or let them out for shorter periods throughout the day. Remember
to give your degus access to a sand bath every time they come out.
time of day should I let my degus out?
are most active in the morning and the evening, as this is the time in
the wild they
would do most of their foraging for food. You should aim to let your
degus out at these times so they can get the most out of their play
|I bought a
hamster ball for the degus over the weekend (the kind you put them in
and they can run around the room). They LOVE it! I get a kick out of
seeing them in this. The only thing I am worried about is that
eventually the ball might be too small for them. How will I know when I
should stop using it? Thanks again so much for your help!
not a big fan of these balls because they restrict your degu's movement
and they can't get out of them when they want to. However, degus love
running in balls as much as they love wheels, so I would advise that you
leave the 'hole' you put them in open to allow them to get in and out as
they wish. By leaving the open ball in their play area they are free to
use it when they want to, and you can see which degu spends most time in
it and how long they spend inside. Giving them a choice (going in the
ball or not) also lets you judge how much they really enjoy being
inside, so you can monitor their welfare more accurately. Eventually, if
they get too big for it, they will stop using the ball altogether.
Of course as an
alternative you could buy one of those giant wheels (the 12" safety
ones, not wireframe wheels) and leave that in their play area. This goes
down a treat- and stops your furniture getting bashed!
inherited a 3-4 year old very tame male degu, & am hoping to pick
your brains a bit!
1. Do you know if it's
possible to litter train a degu?
2. Also, more importantly,
what do you do when you let your degus out for exercise? Where do you
let them out? How do you set up your room, etc.? I want to make sure
that my degu doesn't escape or injure himself, or get stuck anywhere he
Any advice would be
greatly appreciated! Cheers - a concerned degu convert!
lucky thing! Before I start, I'd like to say that your male is very tame
because he's solitary. Research has proven that social animals reared in
isolation crave attention and can become very attached to humans. This
is not a bad thing at all (I started with an adopted male, too) but it
means that you need to devote more of your time to playing and talking
(etc) to him to prevent him from becoming depressed. This is because he
views you as another degu and will actively seek out attention from you.
I'm sure you've discovered that he loves having his belly scratched and
will lift his front paw up for you to do so- I found that even now I
have seven friends for him to play with he still prefers attention from
Anyway... Yes it
is possible to litter train degus, you will find that most degus prefer
to urinate and defecate in particular places anyway. You will find it's
especially easy to train your one male to do anything (it's an attention
seeking thing!). Degus by nature are very clean and you will find that
when you let him out, as long as you either leave his cage open or
provide a dustbath, he will return there to go to the toilet. This does,
however, depend on what he was used to before. You might find that he
uses a specific corner of the room he plays in to go to the toilet. Also
remember that degus do scent mark, which involves passing a very small
amount of urine over something (e.g. the floor). There is no way to stop
them doing this, but I don't find it a problem.
Letting him out-
degus by nature are diurnal (awake during the day) with activity peaks
in the morning and evening. Let your male out at these times, if
possible! He'll get more out of it (exercise wise). The room- Check the
room throughly before you decide to use it as his exercise/play area.
Check all the walls and make sure there are no holes or gaps that your
degu can squeeze into- they're very curious and like to explore but by
no means will hide away when you let them out. They love to play with
you and aren't afraid to be out in the open. Make sure there are no
wires or cables lying around- degus aren't always big chewers but will
'taste' the odd cable- this can be a fatal mistake. And it's worth
removing your best wooden chairs- degus LOVE gnawing wood so watch out
for your wooden furniture! You should also make sure there's no
dangerous stuff lying around- common sense I know but you'd be surprised
what degus try to eat/play with- watch out for rubbers and pencils!
Finally, degus love jumping and climbing and you should let them do this
where possible. Degus can jump really high and can (annoyingly) get up
onto most things that they're not supposed to!
|I have moved
into a new place as of today, and the temperature in the house is warmer
than at my other house. I was wondering what temperature they (the
degus) should be at before they start having troubles?
subject of temperature, pet degus find it hard to cope with sudden
changes in temperature. In the wild, temperatures range from 0 degrees
to 40 degrees Celcius (see the habitat
section). Wild degus cope with the hot weather by hiding out in the day
in their burrows, coming out to forage in the morning and evening when
it's cooler. However, our pets can't escape the temperature of a room
and have to find other ways of keeping cool. You might notice that hot
degus lie on the cage floor/on a shelf and that they drink more and are
less active. In fact, it is temperature change that is the most common
cause of stress in small animals, as they have no control over it.
I would suggest
that you keep a close eye on your degus and watch for signs of stress
and heat exhaustion. Keep a thermometer in the room and try to keep the
temperature pretty constant at around 21 degrees C (room temp.). If you
can, in hot weather you could move them to a cooler room (try
downstairs- heat rises) and ensure as much ventilation as possible by
opening doors and windows.
is the key- your degus will cope much better if the temperature of the
environment changes slowly.
Cross Species Housing
please tell me if you think degus and chinchillas can be housed together
in a large cage? I have two young male degus, who recently destroyed
their plastic-based, wired-covered rabbit cage and are currently being
housed in a glass aquarium---which really isn't satisfactory! I also
have two female chinchillas in a large wire cage, and so I wondered if
it would be feasible to move the degus in with them---at least until I
can come up with a better home.
I don't think it's a good idea moving your males in with chinchillas.
Male degus might get on with female degus OK, but chinchillas are
different. Their size may intimidate your males who may feel threatened
by their presence in their 'home'. This could lead to fighting between
the degus and chinchillas, particularly with one or the other trying to
defend their territory and fight off the 'intruders'. The best thing for
you to do is to buy a large cage with a metal base- if you live in the
UK there are some great value examples on John Hopewell's site (see the links
section). Hope this help you!
|I have 3 male
degus who are just fantastic - they live in a huge cage and get the run
of the house daily, they are roughly about 2 years old now. I also have
a female gerbil who lives above them in a separate cage. Would it be
possible for me to introduce her to them? So they all can run about the
house together. My gerbil lost her sister 4 month ago and I would like
her to have some company. When my degus run about they go to her cage
but my gerbil does not like them going near her territory. Is it
possible for me to introduce them to each other or would it be a bad
like your degus have a great time!
Introducing any animal to another can be tricky, and even more so when
the animals are of different species. Problems arise with different
species introductions as there may be a communication barrier- for
example one species' threat or warning signals may not be read by the
other species, resulting inadvertently in conflict. There may also be
issues with each regarding the other as a threat, particularly around
each other's territories. Many species do not tolerate cohabitation with
another species, particularly if there is direct competition for
resources. Of course, this wouldn't be applicable to our pets, but the
cohabitation issue still arises.
However, it is frequently reported that wild degus share a burrow system
with another, smaller rodent, P. darwinii- Leaf eared mice. This
shows that degus can tolerate and exist with a cohabitant of another
Of course, your gerbil would not be living with the degus (and couldn't
due to the diets being different) so it's perfectly possible that your
degus would tolerate a gerbil in their territory (the rest of the
house). I would suggest that if you were going to try it out, introduce
your degus to the gerbil (not the other way round) when the gerbil is in
a large room that is relatively unfamiliar to both. You should keep the
initial interactions short and as soon as either is observed
demonstrating aggressive behaviour, remove them. Repeat the encounters
and gradually increase the time spent together, then eventually you
should be able to let them out together in a more familiar place. I
strongly recommend that you keep a close eye on them while they're out
with the gerbil, and if aggressive encounters are frequent I would say
they're not compatible and should be separated. Bear in mind that your
degus are all male and your gerbil is female, so some confusion could
arise between the hormone smells. At the end of the day, I've no
experience of how degus get on with gerbils, so all this is speculation!
can I keep my degu's molar teeth short as well as their incisors?
your degus a small amount of fresh grass to eat on a regular basis.
Grass has a layer of silicone on the surface which helps to wear down
the teeth when chewed. However, the most important part of the diet
that keeps the molars in top condition is hay, which also contains these
silicates. Be sure your degus are getting through plenty of hay
every day, and if not cut back on their hard feed portion to encourage
them to eat more of it- it's really important for their health.
|Is it possible
to litter train degus?
is going to take a lot of training and
patience and believe me it won't happen overnight! You can train your
degus to urinate in a certain place, but they cannot regulate where and
when they produce droppings.
To get started,
place a small shallow tray or dish with some dusting clay in a corner of
the cage (degus prefer to urinate in corners). I would then recommend
that you watch your degus in the cage, and when (eventually) one uses
the tray as a toilet, reward them immediately with a treat. You're going
to have to do this several times before your degus get the idea, but
they will eventually get the hang. This
might involve long periods of sitting with your degu cage (why not watch
TV at the same time?), but as they learn to associate relieving
themselves in the tray with reward, the frequency of use will go up.
When they've got the idea of using it in the cage it's time to introduce
it to their play area, and the process starts again (but hopefully will
be learnt quicker).
If you get stuck,
I'm always here to help, but patience is the key here I'm afraid!
went on a trip and left me her 5 degus to babysit in my back room!! We
were a bit worried about the gathered smell... any ideas??? to help keep
it down other then a daily cleaning??
by nature are not only very clean animals but do not produce strong
smelling urine, unlike mice and rats. You won't need to worry about
keeping the smell down in the room, particularly if you're cleaning them
|Can anyone tell
me if Degu like/enjoy/need pumice stones to chew on? I have been surfing
some Chinchilla sites that recommended them for Chins and was wondering
if it is something our goos like.
Degus can have pumice stones, but they don't always take to them. I
guess they just don't get the idea of trying to eat a rock- they
probably don't taste of anything! You might instead like to try mineral
stones/blocks, these go down quite well. If you're looking for something
to specifically keep their teeth short, I suggest you put in a kiln
dried pine wood block, or even a couple of apple wood branches for your
degus to chew on. These don't last long!
a mother degu and her daughters. How do you tell your degus apart? I can
tell the mom is bigger but the daughters are identical almost.
the old 'spot the difference' degu dilemma! Juvenile
degus are notoriously difficult to tell apart, as they haven't yet
developed the little distinctive features that they get in adulthood. It
doesn't help that they're all related and some of them will be identical
twins- this makes it even harder!
One trick to use is in
pigmentation. You probably have noticed that some degus have slightly
lighter coats than others, or slightly darker ears. This is due to the
skin being more/less pigmented in some degus than others and is useful
in distinguishing degus as long as you look closely and can compare them
directly (it's very hard picking up one baby and knowing if they are
light/dark pigmented!). It's tricky, but it's the best method. The other
trick I use is most helpful during shedding season (early summer and
early winter) when all the degus will shed at different rates, causing
lines or bands of darker fur to appear. These aren't permanent though,
but they do help out a lot! By the way baby degus DO shed their fur,
just in case you were wondering!
Anyway, if you're planning
to keep the babies longer than a couple of months you will soon find
other ways to tell them apart. Differences in weight and size will
occur, and you can start picking up on their personalities. Every degu
has their own unique way of life and this makes it very easy to know who
you're dealing with! Also look out for tail tuft development. The soft,
baby tuft will be replaced by a thicker adult brush unique to the degu.
Some degu tails are longer than others, and some have a white
flash in their tail tip.
If you're really stuck,
you can trim a small patch of hair on their back. This will grow back in
a few months, but is very handy for when you need to know who's who!
All I can say is good
luck, you'll have your work cut out! I know how hard it can be telling
all the pups apart and many a time I have mistaken one for their
brother/sister, but it does get easier as they get older.