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What is a Degu? Buying a Degu - Degu Cages - Caring for a Degu - Degu Food

Updated on December 15, 2010

Degus are rodents that are native to Chile. They look a lot a large Gerbil, but are a bit larger. They can grow up to a foot long, including their tail. Their tails have a small tuft of hair at the end, which has earned them the nickname of "Brush-Tailed Rat".

Degus are brown in color with a light colored belly. Each of their individual hairs go from a shade of gray at the base to brown at the tip. This color paterning is called 'agouti'.

For those of you into Biology or that just love Latin, the Scientific name for a Degu is Octodon degus. They are part of the Caviomorpha parvorder, which also includes Chinchillas, Guinea Pigs and Capybaras, which are the largest rodents in the world.

When kept in captivity, Degus typically live for around 4-6 years, but can live for over ten years.

This is a Degu
This is a Degu
Here you can see the Degus Brush-like tail.
Here you can see the Degus Brush-like tail.

Degus As Pets

Degus can make wonderful pets. Pet Degus bond closely with their owners and can be very loving pets.

Degus are diurnal animals, which means they are normally awake during the day and sleep at night. My Degus are just waking up when I getting ready in the morning and very playful in the afternoon when I get home. It is very nice to have a pet that naturally matches your sleep patern, instead of a nocturnal pet, that is up all night running in it's wheel keeping you up.

If you have had other more small animals, like Mice, Hamsters or Gerbils as pets before and now you are looking for a different type of pet, you may want to consider a Degu. They are also excellent for anyone who has a Chinchilla as their needs are very similar.

When kept in captivity, Degus typically live for around 4-6 years, but can live for over ten years.

Degu Diet

What Do Degus Eat?

Hay and More Hay

The bulk of a Degu's diet is hay, lots and lots of hay. When keeping Degus as pets, you should make sure that they always have a nice pile of hay to munch on. Pet shops sell Hay Keepers that you can put the hay into, so that you are not mixing their hay for eating in with their bedding. When buying a Hay Keeper, make sure to buy one that is metal and not plastic, as they will chew through anything that is plastic.

Pellet Food

You should also feed pet Degus a pellet food. Special Degu food can be purchased online, but you will not find bags of Degu food at your local pet shop. However, plain Chinchilla Food or Guinea Pig Food will do just fine. Look for one that is just the pellets, avoid getting ones with lots of fun fillers like sunflower seeds, raisins and bright-colored crunchies.

Degus should not eat a lot of nuts or fruits as they are prone to Diabetes.

My Degu sitting on top of a box of it's favorite treat, Oats!
My Degu sitting on top of a box of it's favorite treat, Oats!

Degu Treats

I had tried all sorts of treats, but many of them just sat in their cage as they continued to munch away at their hay. The one treat that I found my Degus really enjoyed were oats. Just straight out of the box, uncooked oats. I have a box of Oats that I picked up just for them, since they love them so much.

Some treats you can try feeding your Degu are:

  • Oats
  • Raw Sweet Potatoes
  • Raw Carrots
  • Frozen Broccoli (Slightly Thawed)
  • Frozen Peas (Slightly Thawed)
  • Fresh Green Beans

Special Treats

The occasional nut or fruit can be given as a special treat from time to time. Beware of giving your Degus too many treats from this list as these treats are very fatty and/or sugary.

These include:

  • Raisins
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Peanuts in their Shell (UNSALTED)
  • Whole Hazelnut or Brazil Nut in their shell.

Chew Toys

As with any rodent, Degus teeth are always growing and they need to chew on things to keep their teeth trimmed down. When you get your Degu(s) you should make sure to buy a Lava Rock for them to chew on. You will only need one Lava Rock as these small blocks can last well over a year.

You will need lots of wooden fruit sticks. They will chew these sticks quickly and you will probably need to buy them a couple bunches of sticks every time you buy a new bag of food.

I give my Degus lots of small sticks loose in their cage and do not put them on one of the chew Kabob Sticks. This is because they pile these sticks up in front of their nests. This is something that Degus do in the wild to determining dominance, whoever has the biggest pile of sticks is the head Degu. This stick piling can help cut down on fighting between new Degus as they try to assert dominance to become the leader.

Training Your Degus

Degus are very smart and can be taught tricks. Once you find some treats that your Degus like you can use them to help train your Degus.

Here is a video of meĀ using some oats to train my new Degus to come out. The one will even stand up to get the treat.

Using Treats to train your Degus

Buy a Degu Cage

PETCO Rat Manor Habitat
PETCO Rat Manor Habitat

My Degus Current Home.

The Rat Manor from Petco.


Degu Cages

What kind of cage does a Degu need?

Degus are larger than or Gerbils and should not be kept in cages designed for Hamsters or Gerbils as they are much too small.

You should get your Degu the cage with a large amount of available living space. A high multi-level cage will give your Degu plenty of area to run around. The cage should be all metal and have a large pan in the bottom to keep as much of the bedding in the cage as possible. Make sure the spaces between the bars are small enough to prevent your Degus from getting lose or getting their heads stuck. The spacing on Chinchilla and Ferret Cages is usually too large for Chinchillas. Cages designed for Rats will usually work well. I have also seen many nice Degu cages labeled for Sugar Gliders or 'Exotic Pets'.

One type of cage that works great for Degus are aquarium toppers. These fit on top of a standard fish tank, turning it into a multi-level cage. The great thing about these setups is that you can put lots of bedding in the fish tank part. That way the Degus can burrow through it, without tossing it all out of the cage. I do not currently have one of these cages and must vacuum in front of my Degus cage almost every day.

What Else Do Degus Need?

Wooden Houses

Every Degu cage should have a Wooden House in it. This gives the Degus a place that they can go when they don't want to be bothered. Since these houses are wooden they also serve as a chew toy. My Degus have actually spent more time chewing their wooden houses than they have spent sitting inside of them.

Water Bottle

Water bowls do not work well with Degus. If you put a water bowl in a Degu cage you will quickly have water in the bottom of the cage and the bowl will be filled with bedding.

You should look for a water bottle that will last your Degus at least a day or two. Avoid the large water bottles for rabbits as the spouts on these are too large for a degu, and your degus may have troubles getting water from them. Instead pick up 2 medium sized water bottles, if your concerned about your Degus having enough water.

Ideally the bottle should hang on the outside of the cage and the bottle as well as the hanger should not be made of plastic. Super Pet makes a Glass Chew-Proof bottle that works great and will last a long time.

Exercise Wheel

Degus love to run and should have a wheel in their cage. If you have more than one degu you will find that they will run on the wheel together, so you will need a nice wide wheel. Make sure to check that the wheel you get will fit in your cage.

You may also want to get your Degus a large Exercise Ball. Besides being a great toy, they can also be a useful to put your Degus in while you are cleaning their cage out.


No Degu cage is complete without some ledges. Degus love jumping between ledges. Space the ledges out far enough that theĀ Degus can jump from one to the other without falling.

In addition to adding some fun and exercise for your Degus these ledges will give their feet a rest. Standing on a mesh wire all day can hurt your Degus. In severe cases, Degus can develop an injury called Bumble Foot.

You should be able to easily find Chinchilla Ledges in most Pet Stores. The most common brand of these ledges are called Leap N Ledges. These are wooden ledges that attach to the side of your cage. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, you can make these from a piece of an untreated or kiln dried pine.

Another type of Ledge that are wonderful for Degus are the Lava Landings from Super Pet. These ledges are much smaller, but are a great size for Degus to jump around on. These ledges are made from the same lava material that the lava treats, so your degus will chew away at them. This rough lava perch will also help file down your degus nails some.

Dust Bath

You should not bathe your Degu in water. Degus clean themselves in volcanic dust. You can purchase Dust Bath along with a Bath house from your local pet shop. Simply place the Dust bath inside your your degus cage for 15 minutes once or twice a week. Your degus will roll around in the dust until they are clean.

Adopt a Degu!
Adopt a Degu!

Do You Want a Degu?

So now that you want a Degu where can you get one?

Before getting a Degu you should make sure that it is Legal to own a Degu where you live.

Adopt a Degu

The first thing you should do is check if you can adopt a Degu, or better yet two of them. Craigslist is a great place to look for Degus that need a new home.

Buying a Degu

The national chain stores do not typically carry Degus for sale, so you will want to check out your local pet shop to buy a Degu. Even if they don't have any for sale, check the adoption posts and let pet shop employees know you are interested in buying one. They may know another customer that recently had a litter of babies that they are trying to get rid of.

Buy a Degu from a Breeder

If you can't find Degus for sale at your local pet shop or if you would like to buy them directly from a breeder you can contact a Degu Breeder from this List of Degu Breeders.

How Many Should you Get?

Degus are social animals and live together in colonies. A single Degu kept alone can get very lonely. To start with you should get a pair of two Degus from the same litter. They should be of the same sex (2 males or 2 females), so you don't quickly end up with 10 Degus. If you are getting 2 females make sure that they were properly separated out from the male Degus early on or you may have a surprise in a month or two.

Would you like to have a Degu as a Pet?

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    • profile image

      gaga for googoos 

      7 years ago

      I have my first degu and in a matter of days have trained him to come out of the cage, JUMP on command to a little tray with shavings in, and to KISS on command. IT's adorable, and he prefers CORN FLAKES for treats. Don't forget to get your degus marble slabs from the pet stores for the summer heat as they can be put in the freezer and keep the lil goos nice and cool. I am next going to teach BRUCE to do some agility. I saw someone taught their hamster to GO HOME and think this would be a useful trick. I am degu proofing my daughters bedroom today whilst she is at school....putting skirting boards on all the furniture he can get under if he gets away. They are incredibly responsive and so interactive!!!!!

    • Eiddwen profile image


      7 years ago from Wales

      What a great hub on an animal I have only recently been introduced to.

      We are finding out as much as we can about them before deciding. At the moment we are between a Degu or a Chinbchilla.

      I have to vote this one up plus bookmark.

      Take care


    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I think degus are the most cute things which i have ..they are little and charming ..i have also beautiful degus cages to keep them in a proper manner..

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie Marie 

      8 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      I never thought of having a degu as a pet before, but now I would consider it. I have a hamster right now. Thanks for the hub and the information!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I have 2 boy degus right now. This is very informative for me, as I just got them in November and they aren't very used to me yet. I also have to make them a bigger cage because they are getting bigger every day! :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Aw i used to have one and i had him for 12 years. He was an ol little thing. He passed away last year. maybe someday in the future i will buy a new one :)

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Too funny that they assert dominance by the size of their stick piles,imagine if humans did the same,lol. Great hub on an interesting little creature. Well done!

    • eveliens profile image


      9 years ago from SK

      Nice hub; very informative. I own rats right now, but I intend to get a pair of degus in the future. They sounds like fun little pets and I've enjoyed the ones I've handled so far.

    • aperturering profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Thanks! Don't worry I wont ship one to your house.

    • saleheensblog profile image


      9 years ago from Dhaka,Bangladesh

      never heard of it earlier, I am not interested in it but enjoyed your hub.Thnx


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