Degu belongs to the family of rodents. They are very friendly and intelligent pets when compared to other rodents. They are hassle free and demand less maintenance. Some people compare degus to chinchillas, squirrel and even gerbils. They have a tweed brown color and have a long tail with brush like hair at the end. The tail is nearly one to two third of the body’s length. They use it to maintain balance while climbing and while walking they keep it in upright position. Their belly is creamed color and there are circles around their eyes. Their ears are surprisingly big as well as their whiskers. They hinder the growth of their claws by nibbling on them, so they the claws don’t require grooming. Degu’s forelimbs are longer than their hind limbs. They are born with yellow teeth that turn orange after reacting to the chlorophyll present in plants, which also turns their saliva into orange.
They are originally found in Chile and are exported to other countries. There are some import restrictions on degu in America, so it is uncommon to find degus at pet shops, but they can be found in pet stores, all over Europe. Initially other countries brought them not as exotic pets but to conduct laboratory experiments. They do not have the ability to digest sugar, so they were used to test diabetes.
When young, their size can be compared to hamsters and when they grow to their full size they can be compared to hamsters. They grow in size within few months, so all the equipments should be bought with keeping these constraints in mind. The cage should be big and must have a running wheel. Their average body weight is 160-230 gram when they grow into full adult.
Degus are very playful animals and lots of toys are generally kept in their cage. Baby degus do not fight at all and are always involved in playing. It would be a bad idea to keep their cage in the bedroom, as they will keep people away with all the noise they make. Although they are diurnal, they sleep for short periods and chances are that they stay awake for few hours at night. They are at peak of activity in mornings and evenings and otherwise, shut their eyes a little. Since they are sociable and not afraid of humans, it is recommended never to keep a degu alone. They should be kept, at least, in pairs. If they are kept alone, they life period decreases and they get really depressed, in spite of human attention. They also become aggressive.
Degus have the tendency to shed their tail in defense when animals attack them. So it is recommended never to tug the tail. The tail bleeds and nearly half of the tail dries slowly and falls off or gets chewed by the degu. Even worse is that the tail doesn’t grow back. They even don’t like to be held very tightly and for a long time. Never lift them from top as they have the natural tendency of getting scared as the degus in forests get carried away by birds. Owners can gain familiarity by stretching out their palms and calling out to them calmly. The degus develop voice familiarity and get trained to climb onto the palm of the owner.
In the forests, the degus can live up to less than a year and less than one percent live up to two years. But in captivity, they can live up to five years and more. Females, who live with males, die fast as they become weaker because of constant pregnancies. Their pregnancy periods last for eighty seven to ninety three days. Therefore, it is recommended that members of the same sex should be kept together as pets. If the owner is interested in breeding them, opposite sex can be kept together, but should be careful about not exhausting the female with regular pregnancies. Keep In mind, that they shouldn’t beget a child more than once a year.