Ideal housing for degus are wire cages approximately 90cm high x 60cm wide x 45cm deep per pet, however the metal base should be removed and replaced with perspex to prevent bumblefoot. The cage should be situated in a quiet, shaded location with good air circulation away from draughts and direct sources of heat.
Paper-based cat litter or dust-extracted shavings provide ideal bedding. The cage should also contain hay and some shredded paper for degus to sleep and hide in. The cage should be cleaned out at least once a week and more often for males. Like chinchillas, they clean their fur by taking sand baths, often daily, in special dust containing sand or fine pumice. After a degu has taken a bath, it’s advisable to remove the sand as, if used too often, their coats will become too dry.
Hay, hard vegetables (carrots, green beans, cucumbers etc) and hay-based pellets form a good basis for a degu’s diet. It’s advisable not to give degus any sugar and food containing high levels of carbohydrates and fats as these may lead to problems such as diabetes. Water must be accessible at all times and bottles are often easier to keep clean.
The teeth of a healthy degu are orange coloured. Light yellow or white teeth are an indication of a serious disease. Dental problems are a major health issue for degus. They need to eat fibre and grind their teeth on wooden blocks to wear down their continuously growing teeth. If teeth don’t get worn down enough this can cause drooling and lack of appetite. Your vet will be able to advise you on your pet’s teeth.
Regular exercise is important to keep degus fit and prevent boredom, which could lead to behavioural problems. Degus love climbing so fruit tree branches, ropes and cardboard tubes are ideal for cages.
Degus like cuddling humans and they can sit still and sometimes sleep on laps, if comfortable. Before handling degus, it’s advisable to ensure that your hands are clean and dry. Do not grab or approach degus from above as this resembles a predator in the wild. When you remove a degu from his cage, gently slide your hand under his body. As a natural defence against predators, degus can loose their tails if caught by them, so never lift a degu by his tail, it will not regrow! If your degu loses his tail, please contact your vet for advice.
Degus are very socialable animals that love to groom and play. It’s advisable to keep pairs or groups of the same sex together to avoid unwanted babies. If you’re keeping only one degu, make sure you regularly talk to your pet and place his cage where he can enjoy daily life
Regular health checks
Your vet can carry out a ‘nose to tail’ MOT. You can play a role too by following the guidelines below to keep an eye on your pet’s health and help him to stay in tip top condition and live a long and healthy life: Rub your hands over your degu’s body including his head, legs and paws to check for any lumps or bumps or anything stuck in his pads. Check your pet’s nose, eyes and ears for any irregularities. Your degu’s nose should be moist, the corners of his eyes should be free of discharge and his ears should be clean Regularly examine your degu’s teeth for signs of dental problems Monitor your pet’s weight by running your hands over his ribs and backbone. If he is losing weight or is overweight, it’s advisable to take him to the vet