Meet the Degu
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?
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.
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?".
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.
Degus as Pets
Have you ever owned a degu?
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.
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.
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.