Cheltenham Degu carePublished on 1st November 2015
Cheltenham Degu care with Social Paws
If you research ‘Degus in Cheltenham’ you will find very few results. Degus have recently become more popular as a household pet and I’m proud to own four myself; Silver, Flash, Peaches and Spiderman. They all live in a wardrobe which my partner converted into their very own Cheltenham ‘Deguarium’
What is a Degu?
The Degu is a member of the Octodontidae family of rodents, they’re in the sub-order caviomorpha, which means they’re related to guinea pigs and chinchillas, although recent studies show that they may actually be closer in relation to rabbits.
Degus originate from Chile, and can be found anywhere from coastal plains to the Andes mountains. They live in large groups of up to 100 in complex burrows which have nests and food stores. Degus are diurnal which means they’re active during the day. They love human interaction, living amongst other Degus and make ideal pets for older children.
The life span of a Degu is around five to nine years, although in the wild unfortunately it’s only one to two years. An adult Degu is around 15cm long and has a 15cm tail with a tuft at the end. Their coat is mid to dark brown but can vary in colour with a light cream belly and white feet.
Degus live best at temperatures below 20°C. Anything warmer than this can make them distressed and they are known to be prone to heatstroke. Although they can be pretty resistant to even extreme cold they don’t like wet or damp conditions so should be housed indoors.
Degus need lots of environmental keep them happy and healthy so there should be plenty of space for them to exercise and it’s best to keep them in wire cages with lots of levels and ramps. A solid exercise wheel, 25cm in diameter, should be provided to help them exercise. The flooring should be solid and covered with a material suitable for burrowing, such as hay, dust- extracted bedding or bark chippings. We often give ours paper to shred up or toilet tissue – we love watching them pull it through the bars. Degus love to gnaw so provide you can provide them with lots of wooden chew toys or tree branches which are great for furnishing the cage. Degus should have a sand bath available to them every day. This helps facilitate their natural behaviour and keep them clean.
Degus are very sociable so where possible they should never be kept alone as this can make them very stressed and unhappy. They should live in groups or pairs but introducing Degus of the same sex at an older age can lead to territorial fights. The best way to introduce Degus is on mutual territory – often a empty bath is best. Then over time you can slowly bring their two cages closer, side by side, swapping bedding on a daily basis. This process should not be rushed and like all animals some Degus will never get on. Once the Degus are use to each other at a distance and on mutual territory they should be introduced to a new cage at the same time, which is big enough for them to be housed on a permanent basis.
We advise getting your Degus out to be handled twice daily. You can also have a secure area out of the cage in which they can play. Nervous or new Degus can be introduced to your hand slowly by placing a tasty nut on the end! Remember don’t rush them, let them come to you in your own time. Degus can be early started so handle them gently and never grab them.
Degus can’t digest or metabolise sugar and carbohydrates and they’re very prone to diabetes so it’s important to make sure they get the right diet, we feed ours A mix of guinea pig food and Degu pellets. They also enjoy leafy vegetables and the occasional nut that has no added sugar or oils. Degus should have hay available all the time. I have trained my Degu Silver to take a tasty nut from my mouth! They are very intelligent creatures.
Degus should have clear eyes and be bright and energetic. There ears pricked up and glossy looking fur. They should have clean tails and no signs of faeces from their rear end. It is normal for their teeth to be yellow and not white – white teeth are a sign of a vitamin A deficiency. If you notice a wetness around their mouth, this could be a sign of overgrown teeth. Our Silver regularly has her teeth filed at Honeybourne Vets, we advise never clipping Degus teeth or attempting to clip them yourself. Discharge and difficulty in breathing could be an indication of a respiratory problem so seek immediate veterinary advice.
Degus are relatively cheap pets to buy and keep however vets bills can add up if you have problems especially with overgrown teeth. Also even minor scraps can lead to potential health issues so please ensure your Degus are socialised well and housed correctly. Any competition for resources can often lead to a fight so distribute food and bedding provisions evenly.
Is a Degu the right pet for you?
Due to Degus active nature I would only recommend them to older children, they can easily burrow and escape and don’t keep still for long! If you love a good nights sleep or are a very light sleeper Degus probably aren’t the best pet for you, when housed in your room they often become active in the early hours and can be quite noisy at times!
If you are looking to rehome a Degu and need some advise contact Helen at : firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheltenham Animal Shelter