Understanding degu behaviour
Keeping pet degus can be challenging, so here's a handy checklist of what your degu needs to stay healthy and happy. They will need:
- Easy access to the things they need - including space, food, water, safe hiding places, companion degu(s) and toys. Always make sure there's enough of everything for each degu, so they don't have to compete.
- The company of other degus - degus are social animals.
- Space to exercise - degus are active animals and can suffer if they get bored.
- Safe hiding places and nest boxes - degus need to be able to be alone, hide or escape whenever they feel afraid. They also need hay-filled nest boxes where they can rest and sleep.
- To dig, burrow and hide bits of their food - give them suitable bedding material so they can do this. As degus may hoard food, you should regularly check their food stores and remove any food that's going mouldy.
- Toys - degus need to be able to chew and gnaw on safe toys, as their incisor and molar teeth are always growing.
- To be able to eat their own droppings - this helps them get the essential nutrients they need and keeps their digestive system healthy.
- Dust baths - give them access to a dust bath two or three times a week for about 20 minutes at a time. This helps them keep their fur and skin in good condition, but remember that over-use of dust baths can lead to health problems. Remove the dust bath after each use to help prevent illness and reduce the risk of them becoming contaminated with urine and faeces.
- Predictable lighting times - degus are naturally active in the day and rest during the night, so keep them in a room where the lights aren't left on until late at night, and where regular hours are kept.
Treating your degus with kindness
Always handle your degus with great care, as rough handling will upset them. Never pick a degu up by its tail, as this is stressful and can hurt them. If you handle them, do so close to the ground, away from shelves or furniture, as they may try jumping off and could hurt themselves.
Above all, be kind to your degus and be quiet and gentle around them. Never shout at or punish them, as they're very unlikely to understand and it could make them more nervous or scared.
If you notice a change in how your degus behave, or if they show regular signs of stress or fear, ask your vet or clinical animal behaviourist for advice. It could mean they're distressed, bored or in pain.
Follow the links below to find out more about caring for your degus.