Keeping degus together
Degus are social animals and live in small groups in the wild. Degus will groom each other and enjoy sleeping side by side. Even with lots of human contact, degus need to live with other degus, and can get depressed if they're kept on their own. Never house them alone unless you're advised to do so by a vet or clinical animal behaviourist. Here's how to keep degus together successfully.
Keeping groups of degus
When choosing which degus should live together, remember:
- Housing degus in same sex pairs or groups can be a good option to avoid unwanted breeding.
- A neutered male and several females can also be compatible.
- Even neutered males may fight if females are present, so never keep more than one male in a mixed sex group.
Always make sure there are enough resources available for all degus living together at all times. For example, there should be nesting boxes large enough for all degus to rest together if they want to, and enough hiding places that they can all shelter individually.
You'll also need to protect your degus from the sounds, sights and smells of animals they may be afraid of, such as cats, dogs, ferrets and birds of prey. Degus are a prey species and these animals can stress them.
Handling your degus
As well as the company of other degus, your pets will need regular calm and gentle contact with you. Reward them with treats to help them enjoy your company, as they can find exposure to humans stressful until you've formed a positive relationship with them. Always handle your degus carefully and considerately, and never pick them up using their tails - this is stressful and can hurt them.
Degus will be stressed by sudden exposure to people they don't know, or by rough handling. You should allow them to climb onto the palm of your hand and then gently pick them up in your cupped hands. Hands swooping down on them from above will stress them, as it's natural for them to run away from predators approaching from above in the wild.
Always keep a close eye on them when they're with another animal or person that may deliberately or accidentally harm or frighten them.