Degus originally come from Chile where they live in large colonies in deep burrows in the mountains. Over the years they have become a popular pet as they play during the day and sleep at night.


Degus are very active and extremely good climbers. They also like to chew and burrow.

If possible buy the largest cage that you can afford. Pet degus are very good at chewing through things, so avoid using cages with plastic bases. Cages suitable for Chinchillas are best, or alternatively use a large glass aquarium with a mesh lid. This can be filled with shavings and toys to keep your degu occupied for hours.

Cages with mesh shelves will need to be covered with wood, as walking on mesh shelves can cause degus to get a problem called “bumblefoot” (foot sores). Whichever cage you opt for, ensure all doors and lids are very secure. Degus are quite good escape artists and can be hard to catch if they do get away. Any piece of wood that you incorporate in your cage needs to be from fruit trees and ensure that they are washed before you put them in. Anything plastic that you put in your cage will almost certainly be chewed, so think carefully about any items that you want to put in. A wooden nest box (budgie nest box would be ideal) should be put in filled with hay or paper bedding for a nice cosy bed. Similar to chinchillas, degus love a dust bath - chinchilla sand is perfectly ok to use. Pop the bath in two or three times a week and it will help keep your degu’s coat and skin in perfect condition.

Feeding and Diet

Degus are susceptible to becoming diabetic and for this reason only certain foods can be fed. Do not feed foods rich in sugar and fat as a degu’s body cannot naturally dispose of them. Never give degus any type of fruit because most are rich in sugar. Also tap water is not very good because of the chlorine, either leave tap water in a jug overnight or use bottled still water. A mixture of chinchilla pellets and guinea pig food mixed with Reggie Rat will provide a staple diet. Offer carrot and cucumber two or three times a week, but not too much.


Remember to handle your pet degu with care. Never pick it up by its tail. The tail is very fragile. Degus seldom bite unless they are frightened or handled badly. Place your hand in the cage and let your degu explore, offer him titbits – he will soon learn to trust you. Some degus will love to have their ears tickled, but remember they do not like to be handled all the time. If you over handle them they will run and hide whenever you approach their cage. Use both hands to hold your degu - one to support his weight, the other to cover him and prevent him jumping.


Degus’ cages will need to be cleaned out at least once a week. Degus drink large amounts of water, so any build up of urine will soon start to smell. Wood shavings as opposed to sawdust is best, they are absorbent and can be changed quickly. Sawdust can cause breathing difficulties so must not be used. Good quality hay and straw can be used for bedding and is an essential part of the diet. This is best bought from pet shops or speak to your local Dobbies – bales can be full of dust, parasites and thistles which may harm your degu.

Degus are very social and should be kept in pairs or groups. They are very intelligent and have a very good memory. If anything you do upsets your degu he will remember for quite a while. Degus do not like extreme heat or wet and damp conditions. In captivity they seem to be prone to catching colds, if your degu catches a cold, seek veterinary treatment straightaway to prevent pneumonia developing. Any problems are always best dealt with by a qualified vet.

Important information

Degus are expected normally to live for 7–10 years.

If a pet degu becomes ill, veterinary treatment may be needed. Although many degus will never need veterinary treatment during their life, you should be prepared for the possibility when taking on the commitment of a pet.

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