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Exotic Pets: Degus

By Edited Sep 5, 2016 0 0

Exotic pets often draw a lot of attention and more and more people are looking for the perfect exotic pet. Not all exotic pets make good pets and not all of them are for everyone, but that doesn't always stop people from wanting one. The Degu is one of the and a growing number of pet shops are selling them. However, the degu isn't for everyone. This medium sized South American rodent is becoming more and more popular in American and European homes, but is it the pet for you and your family?

The Degu as a Pet.
Some exotic pets are really bad pets to own. The degu isn't one of them, but they do have special needs and requirements. Because of this it is a good idea to learn as much as you can before purchasing one. This is a horrible pet for children to own and they should always be very well supervised with children under twelve years of age. It is also important that you have lots of time to spend with them. If well socialized they will come to love people, are friendly, and love interaction. They also need lots of things to do.

Some pets (and many animals) are solitary creatures, the degu isn't one of them. They are very social creatures and live in groups in the wild. Because of this they should be kept in pairs or small groups. Many people believe that social creatures should be kept alone so that they bond better with their owners, however this is a false belief and often leads to depression and even illness in animals. After all, you aren't there all the time and having a cage mate will allow them someone to play with, sleep with, and spend time with while you are busy. That doesn't mean that you don't need to spend time with your degus. If you don't socialize with your degus they can become depressed, anti-social, and even aggressive.

The degu looks much like a giant gerbil, but they are very different from the gerbil (they don't even belong to the same family). One major way they differ from the gerbil is that they like to climb upward instead of digging in their bedding. Because of this they need a tall wire cage with a lot of up options. Perches and ropes should be added to their cage so that they can climb. The floor and all the shelves should be solid because degus can suffer from foot problems. Choosing a large multi-level cage that is designed for ferrets or chinchillas is often best.

Cage Furnishings.
The first thing you need to add to their cage is a high quality recycled paper bedding. You should never choose pine or cedar bedding with rodents because of they are prone to respiratory issues and the degus are no exception. Therefore it is a good idea to choose something like Carefresh. They need several inches of bedding to cover the floor of their cage. This will give them a place to nest and enough bedding to help absorb any bathroom messes.

They will also need nesting materials. Some great options are shredded paper, hay, paper towel, material scraps, yarn scraps, or other similar materials. Wild degus will spend hours collecting nesting materials and stacking them into their nest. Therefore, providing nesting materials is important for creating a happy nester. It isn't a bad idea to provide a good sized, flat topped nesting box either. There they will have a feeling of safety and security.

The degus need a lot to do and enjoy going upwards. Because of this it is a good idea to provide lots to do in the top regions of their cage. Add perches, thick sticks (store bought never scavenged), and ropes. Look through toys that are provided for parrots, ferrets, and larger rodents and you will find a wide range of options available. Chew toys for rodents are also a good thing to provide for your degus as well. A large wheel (11 or 12 inches in diameter) should also be provided so that your degus can run. By giving your degus lots to do you will help prevent boredom, obesity, and depression.

Your degus also need a water bottle with a sipper tube. You will need to get a chew guard because degus are avid chewers and often chew wholes into their water bottles. Ceramic food dishes should also be provided. This will give you a good clean place to put food, while not giving them something else to chew up (especially something else they shouldn't chew up).

Dust Baths.
There are many creatures that bathe with dust in the wild. There are a few more exotic pets that use it as well. Most commonly dust bath mixes are sold as "Chinchilla" baths or "Chinchilla" dust. Either way, the degus need a dust bath as well. To take a dust bath the degus will work at covering themselves in the dust and then spend time grooming. This removes oils and dirt (yes that seems weird, but it works), smells, and also makes their fur healthy and helps eliminate skin problems. You should provide your degus with a shallow dish of dust for a half an hour two or three times a week. They will "bathe" and enjoy the dust and then you should remove it to prevent additional messes.

Degus love to chew. They are very very avid chewers. Because of this they need a lot of chewing options. Salt and mineral blocks and or wheels are good to attach to the sides of the cage. Additionally wooden blocks, sticks, and chew toys should be added. Rabbit chews and wooden parrot toys can also offer a lot of fun and great chewing options. If you are giving branches or twigs from your neighborhood it is important that you make sure the wood is dry and not a toxic wood.

The diet of most exotic pets is one of controversy. The degus is also one that people debate about. The wild degu diet is one of simple plant material that includes twigs, bark, tubers, and other plant materials. Degus are very prone to diabetes and shouldn't never eat foods high in sugar including fruits and many vegetables. Most agree that a base of high quality chinchilla or guinea pig food should be given. Timothy hay should be offered at all times (either loose, in a hay rack, or as a block). Small amounts of vegetables such as peeled raw sweet potato, carrots, broccoli, leafy greens, and green beans can be given as well. This should always be done in small amounts because it can cause loose stools.

Treats shouldn't be offered very often and should never include fruits, raisins, or regular people foods. Instead offer seeds and nuts in their shells and unsalted. Nesting materials can also be given as treats.

A Note About Degu Tails.
Degus are fun to watch, often playful, awake during the day (rather uncommon in the exotic pet world), and they can and do become attached to people. However, if the degu is nervous or grabbed its tail can fall off. This is a defense mechanism made to make it easier for the degu to escape predators. However, the degus use their tails for balance, it never grows back, and not having a portion of it can make it harder for the degu to balance. Therefore it is important that you are very careful with your degus, never grab at them, and try not to put them into situations that make them nervous.

With good care, a balanced diet, and a loving home degus can be wonderful pets that live for five to eight years. They are good pets for adults, those who are bed ridden, and older teens. They don't make good pets for small children because of their care requirements and the danger to their tails. They need a lot of attention, but they are easy pets to have and aren't real expensive. The degu, an unknown exotic pet, could be your next little furry friend.



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