A small caviomorph rodent native to Chile is the degu. The caviomorphs are characterized by their large heads, plump bodies, slender legs and short tails. They are also distinguished by the formation of their jaws and massafer muscles. The degu is sometimes also called the glitter-tailed rat though it is not related to the rat family.
The rodents are highly social creatures living in burrows. They dig together communally to make larger and more elaborate burrows than what they could do individually also. There are chains formed by degus digging together and coordinating their activities. The social behavior is also observed in case of the females who live in the same group who not only nest communally but also nurse the young of each other.
Caring For Degus Kept As Pets
The degus can indeed become very tame if handled from an early age. It is best however that they be kept with other degus as they are social animals. These are playful creatures and are active during the daytime i.e. they are diurnal.
If encaged, the degus need a large cage. A couple of degus ought to be kept in a cage that has the minimum length, breadth and height of 24 inches, 18 inches and 24 inches respectively. The larger the cage the better it is. The cage should be made of wire so that the degus who are avid chewers cannot chew and damage the cage. However, the floor should not be made of wire and should be solid and shelves and ledges should also be made of solid material. This will ensure that the degus do not have foot problems.
It is important that a solid surface exercise wheel is introduced in the cage of the degus. There can be thick branches placed in the cage helping the degus climb on to them and chew them for fun and exercise. There can also be placed thick cotton ropes for climbing purposes. Within the cage the use of ceramic dishes that are chew proof and a water bottle with sipper tube with chew guard is required. Since degus love to chew very much some chew toys can also be placed in the cages.
The degus need regular dust baths to keep their skin and coat in good condition. So, a shallow bowl is to be placed in their cage with an inch or two of sand a couple of times per week and left for around half an hour for the degus to enjoy sand bathing.
To feed the degus high quality food, chinchilla or guinea pig pellets can be given together with rodent blocks. Grass hay like timothy hay should be made available for munching of the degus all the time. A little of alfalfa hay can also be provided. Small hay racks to keep the hay stocked can be arranged for in the cage. Fresh vegetables may also be given to the degus preferably in small quantities because otherwise they may be causing diarrhea. The vegetables which are members of the cabbage family should be fed in very small quantities if not avoided altogether. The water in the bottles placed should be changed on a regular basis.