What Owners Should Know About Degus

The degu needs company and is by no means suitable for being kept alone.

If degus are not kept in a species-appropriate manner, behavioral disorders can occur that endanger the life of the small rodents. Owners should therefore be well informed about the housing conditions of the degus.


Porcupine relatives – guinea pig relatives – treat relatives

Life expectancy

5-8 (up to 10) years


Males from 6 weeks, females from 10-12 weeks


Degus originally come from Chile and live in family groups during the day and at dusk. These associations can form colonies of up to 100 animals.


Degus are lean eaters. Therefore, the most important component of the feed is hay rich in crude fiber. This can be supplemented with suitable green fodder such as herbs or vegetables (e.g. cucumber, peppers, broccoli, or zucchini). If degus get too little roughage (hay) and gnawing material, they tend to eat fur. Due to their susceptibility to diabetes (sugar diabetes), degus must not be fed any food with molasses, added sugar, or dried fruit! Rodent drops etc. are also taboo.


As a special feature, degus can see UV light. Fresh urine contains substances that reflect UV light. Since the animals use urine for scent marking, they can presumably see where conspecifics have recently passed. During their activity phases, they are extremely fond of running, digging,g, and gnawing. This should also be taken into account when setting up the cage. Therefore, the device should not be made of plastic that can be chewed and swallowed. In addition, the housing unit should be made up of different levels and have several sleeping caves and a sand bath with special sand.

Since the litter depth should be at least 15 cm (preferably more), a deep bowl with a lattice structure would be the ideal way of housing. A clean terrarium can encourage abnormally repetitive digging and “jumping up in corners”. A bare cage, on the other hand, does not provide enough depth for the bedding and can thus cause abnormally repetitive grate gnawing. Controlled free-roaming in a degu-safe area must also be offered daily.

Social behavior

Degus should never be kept alone. Group housing (e.g. harem housing) is, therefore, the most animal-friendly. Degus are best socialized before they reach sexual maturity. Subsequent socialization is expensive due to intraspecific aggression, but possible if various aspects are taken into account.

The degu’s enclosure should not be changed too often as this puts the animals under stress. The highest-ranking animal, for example, creates a mound of bedding from which to observe the territory (“commander’s mound”). Destroying this mound during the cleansing can lead to ranking battles.

Behavioral problems

In the event of a lack of space or overpopulation, young animals are killed and eaten by other group members, not by the parents. Individual housing as well as restrictive, non-animal-friendly housing conditions can lead to abnormal-repetitive behavior (AVR) in degus. These include, for example, stereotypical pole gnawing, corner jumping, or stereotypical pacing and pacing. It is therefore important to ensure animal-friendly housing in stable groups.

Frequently Asked Question

What should you know about degus?

The degu is a rodent that looks like a cross between a mouse, a rat, a squirrel, and a chinchilla. The physique is more like a guinea pig, which is why it also belongs to this family. The degu is about 15 cm long, with the tail again having the same length.

How to keep degus?

Since the cute degu is very active, the cage should be big enough. The minimum size of the rodent aviary is 100 x 60 x 140 cm (l x w x h). You should buy a cage with multiple tiers, lots of branches to climb on, and platforms for the degu to rest and watch.

What don’t degus like?

Softwoods such as spruce or fir do not belong in the degu enclosure due to the high resin content and the essential oils they contain. Sweets intended for humans such as chocolate, biscuits or candy do not belong in a degu’s feeding bowl!

What do degus particularly like?

Hay and straw serve as the main meal, and herbs and vegetables can also be offered. Various staple foods cover the basic needs of the degus. Branches, especially from fruit trees, may be offered to keep the animals busy. But birch branches, hazelnut, and beech can also be offered.

How often do you have to feed degus?

Fresh food such as cucumbers, carrots, kohlrabi, lettuce, fresh grass and herbs, blossoms, etc. (no fruit) round off the degus’ diet. Fresh food is fed in small pieces 2 to 3 times a week.

How do I tame my degus?

Tame degus like to nibble on fingers or pinch something in them, and they also let themselves be scratched from time to time. On the other hand, they are not at all available for attention in the form of pats. Particularly cheeky degus use their caregiver as a climbing object by climbing on their shoulders.

How often should you clean a degu cage?

Since degus need their scent tracks and are usually very clean, their enclosure does not have to and should not be cleaned too often. If the degus urinate in certain corners, these are cleaned once or twice a week.

Are degus suitable for children?

However, degus are not cuddly animals that love to be cuddled. They are curious, and adventurous, and watching them scurry around brings a lot of joy. However, they are not suitable for small children.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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