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Meet the Degu

Updated on July 24, 2015
Lolash the Degu
Lolash the Degu | Source
A degu.
A degu. | Source

An interesting ...

What is small and brown speckled, rodent shaped with a partially shaved tail, cute as a chipmunk, clever as a raccoon and as agile as a squirrel?

A degu.

An adorable rodent with a tonne of personality and antics to keep you on your toes for years to come. They display the loyalty of dogs, have a cats independence streak and can make themselves known as easily as squawky birds can.

Degus are a surprising little package of intelligence and an innocent curiosity that carries them into all sorts of mis-adventures. They are sociable, smart, affectionate and capable of figuring out silly inconvenient facts like little notch locks on cages at night or popping the top where the food hides.

Owning a degu is a challenge to not only patience but ones creativity and problem solving ability, a degu will show you the flaw to any design you make within hours.

The degu makes a great pet for kids, adults or families so long as you are informed about them. Which coincidently is the goal of the hub, to inform you of everything degu.

Degu group napping
Degu group napping | Source

Speedios Rodriguez Gonzalez

Speedios Rodriguez Gonzalez, in case you did not know, was my pet about 15 years ago. I had him with them me for 5 years, he was a replacement from a rather callous soul who mistook him for hamster. Needless to say I had no clue what he was till a few weeks after he arrived.

Right off the bat it was easy to see how curious and intelligent this rodent was. I have had hamster, mice, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits and without a doubt, Speedios was the most amazing animal I have ever owned, even to this day. Even more amazingly, its one of the few rodents type pets that I would take as a pet, today.

Every night I would shut Speedios cage door, one of those bird type cages where a small latch would catch and hold it. Every morning, the cage door was open, sometimes with an angelic looking degu sitting on the tip of the door as if to ask "can I come out?".

Degu standing looking around with dinner in its mouth.
Degu standing looking around with dinner in its mouth. | Source

General Information

In the 1950s about 10 degus were imported out of Chile, their native environment being the lower Andes Mountains, in rocky cliffs. Originally brought to North America as laboratory animals, they eventually became a part of the pet trade. Interestingly, at least 99% of all degus in North America come from these original 10 degus.

In the wild they have a specific and narrow eating niche - bark, bulbs and tubers. Tricky to mimic, but many a pet degu has thrived off a high quality chinchilla or guinea pig (their cousins) pellets. Along with fresh foods following a sugar free diet, as degus can not metabolize sugar.

Some quickie facts on degus

  • They have a memory, they remember who was not nice to them and who was. Its wise to be polite to something that can bite you as deeply as these guys can. Being social creatures, they take a fair amount of annoyance or fear to make them bite, so if they do, you probably deserved it.
  • Their teeth constantly grow, they must chew and as a good owner, you should provide plenty of chewing opportunities. Either toys, toilet paper rolls or even just blocks for chewing. If you do not, expect them to chew through anything they can fit those teeth around.
  • Degus are social animals, extremely social, so much so it can affect their health to not have plenty of social activity. This is why it is always best to get at least two (same sex, unless breeding), if you only get one be prepared to spend a fair amount of time with them. Lack of social activity will result in a neurotic and badly behaving degu.
  • If you read nothing but nutrition information on these guys, you can consider yourself well armed. They are prone to diabetes, which is what grabbed the laboratories interest in them in the first place, they simply can not metabolize sugar. Know what your feeding your degu before you give it. And no ice cream cheeks on a degu is not cute.

Degu group.
Degu group. | Source

Degus as Pets

Have you ever owned a degu?

See results

Housing Degus

Degus require a fair amount, no that's not accurate, they need a lot of space, per degu and not per degu group, to be happily contained. This is not to say that those with limited space can not happily keep degus. They need stimulation and lots of it for their curiosity - toys, little puzzles or games.

Providing lots of space in a minimum amount of space, can be achieved with a little creativity and planning. They need a place to eat, sleep, clean (dust bath), exercise, toys and climbing apparatus galore. Climbing can be stairs, platforms, ropes or bridges, the more skill needed to cross it, the better enjoyed and appreciated by the degu it will be.

Like turtles, I have seen a large number of different situations work for different people. Mine slept in his cage when I was not home or sleeping, otherwise he ran free, since he was kept alone, he often rode on my shoulder and I could even go outside with him, with no worries of him running off.

The link for a DIY cage, is actually very close to the ideal habitat for a degu, lots of running space, sleeping and food as well as a tank on the bottom to allow for burrowing and digging, a natural habit of theirs.

Degu eating. If not eating, they are being explorers.
Degu eating. If not eating, they are being explorers. | Source

Degu Nutrition

They have degu nuggets on the market now but degus are illegal in many if not all of the United States, so you may have trouble finding degu specific foods or getting your hands on it. Guinea pig pellets or Chinchilla pellets are a good substitute.

Fresh foods are an excellent addition to offer alongside pellets. Some bad choices are the sugary kind like raisins, fatty ones such as peanuts (thus why only a treat now and then). Most Spring greens are good, sunflower seeds are good, broccoli and cabbage's (or any other heavy gas causing) you want to avoid. Read up on any food choice you give your degu.

Use a sturdy bowl, they tend to get all up in the bowl, or balancing on its one side while they feed. They most likely love it when the food bowl tips over, not sure you the butler, maid and owner, care for it as much.

Degus doing what degus do ... eating.
Degus doing what degus do ... eating. | Source

Degu Behaviour

If computer programs or applications were animals, the degu would be the Facebook of the animal world. They are incredibly social animals and do better as a social group than on their own.

They frequently weep, talk and make noises as they communicate to one another and you, they groom each other and you as well gossiping the whole time, if they like you enough that is. They do gather at the watercooler to talk shop or gossip around the food dishes. They are definitely the snuggly kind of rodent enjoying cuddles.

I believe that the degu believes that they are just as smart or smarter than us and it shows in those defiant and stubborn hues of theirs. They shame donkeys with their stubbornness ability. They fear nothing at first, but learn fast, if they survive. Its not false bravado, its primal curiosity at its finest - they are intrepid, in your face explorers. Where most animals run from, the degu runs to ... they might miss some action or something you know.

They are clever, they need only watch you a few times to learn how to do something like .. oh I don't know, open their cage doors. They have an excellent memory, I think they have some elephant in them, maybe that explains the ears, anyway, their memory is excellent and they remember names, sounds and know who the nice people are and who the teasers were.

Offer them challenges in their habitat, little things like burying food or scattering it, so they need to forage, a toy that hides something from them, give them areas to dig, use swinging ropes instead of solid planks of wood as ways from one level to another or up and down. Challenge them, they love it.

Degus love scritchin


Submit a Comment

  • Eiddwen profile image


    6 years ago from Wales

    Oh yes I am on the verge of buying couple of these so I decided to read this and I want them even more now.

    Thanks for this gem.

    Enjoy your day.


  • Little two two profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Canada

    At no point did a single soul contact me privately and say, "hey those photos are mine, you were misled when you asked for and received permission to use them".

    I contacted the web owners of the sites I found the pictures from or the address stamped on the photo and asked to use the photo.

    If you have issues with any of the visuals or even the words, you privately contact someone first. To log and see copyright warnings and education over a simple photo that accompanies a 'hobby' article, is just unnecessary.

    I wrote this article for no reason other than to introduce an animal to people that many (outside of Europe) may never had heard of. It was not meant to be an exclusive care article by any means. You clearly know of degus, but did you say anything or share any degu experiences other than your copyright issues?

  • Little two two profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Canada

    will do when I receive it. As of you I have not.

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    Yes, I didn't wrote anything about the content itself. But I think a careful reader can feel when reading your lines, that this is own experience and enthusiasm for this beloved creatures. I kept this animals too - for more than 10 years (unfortunately my last degus died last autumn). I appreciate this sensitive kind of describing. Also that you point out the DIY cages as suitable solution, I like it and I also think it is a vital issue.

    Degu nutrition is a very large topic and is in an ongoing progress... I learnt for the last years nearly every day new stuff. I started with nuggets and sweeties at the end of the 1990s and I ended with a natural inspired diet consisting of fresh herbs, flowers, leaves, twigs, vegs and seeds. Here in Europe it is of course easier to collect all this stuff all the year round because our winter are pretty mild and not so long.

    Apropos behaviour there was a stunning study some years ago: japanese researchers demonstrated that degus can learn to use tools for gathering food. There was even an article in the New York Times.

    Coming back to your response, my only concern was that you use many photos from foreign sources. At least here in Germany the copyright act is a big issue (forfeit are high and harsh). I have the impression in North America it is also an acute issue, at least the Wikipedia protest black out against PIPA/SOPA bill seems to me a strong sign in this direction. Perhaps I overreacted with my comment and copyright act in Canada is lax, but I'd like to stress again, that at the one hand there are legal sources for images helping avoiding problems (e.g. pictures from U.S. government agencies are free / public domain), at the other hand the photographer are glad to hear from people asking for permission and often agree with pleasure.

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    Hello ! I have sent you a personal message. Please get back to me when you have the time.

  • Little two two profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Canada

    Never been to the site nor heard of them, that is not where I found the photos nor who I asked permission to use them. The photos will be removed, an educational and informative picture of a degus sexual organs really isn't worth the hassle.

    Thank you for your policing and diligence in copyright.

    I do hope you even read the article? maybe you can find a few words strung together to accuse me of plagarism.

    Have yourself a great day.

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    Please be careful with using foreign photos you don't have the permission to use them. Usually it is not allowed to use them without the explicit permission from the given creator (copyright law), so I highly recommend you to check the permissions.

    But there are in fact some sources of really free pictures, especially in the wikipedia and wiki commons project you can find many pictures with explicit permission for reuse, some are without any restrictions (so called public domain licence), others are only for non commercial use etc. Also keep in mind that some of the pictures are labeled with a wrong source, e.g. the degu sexing pictures are originally from / Chloe Long.

  • Little two two profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Canada

    Thank you for the comment and LOL, you would definitely be the marketing genius of that Association ... as to why, I believe they are listed as an invasive species, which they are, they are hardy and adaptive. Without predators, they cause a lot of damage.

    Let these guys loose in Brooklyn NY and you know, I think they would take over and move out the rats .. they are just that kind of pet.

  • Larry Fields profile image

    Larry Fields 

    7 years ago from Northern California

    I loved your hub! Voted up and interesting. I like larger dogs, but they can be very high-maintenance. And I'm allergic to cats. A degu sounds like a great choice as a furry little friend.

    Just out of idle curiosity, why are degus illegal in some places? Is there a concern about them carrying diseases? Would their niches overlap with those of some endangered species?

    The Virginia Opossum has managed to hitch a ride across the deserts into the Western US. They're doing quite well here in California, but I haven't heard any environmental concerns about these homely marsupials.

    If there are are no good answers to my questions about degus from lawmakers in the US, I propose that we start a National Degu Association. The motto could be:

    When degus are outlawed, only outlaws will have degus!

  • Little two two profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Canada

    Thank you for the comments ... Degus are great pets MarlobyDesign, but they do need either other degus or a lot of your time. My guy spent all his time with me.

  • sgbrown profile image

    Sheila Brown 

    7 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

    What a cute little animal! Very informative hub, thank you for sharing. Voted up and interesting. :)

  • MarloByDesign profile image


    7 years ago from United States

    So cute and I want one!!! Degus seem like great pets.


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