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Degus Only Live Happily in Families

Because they are diurnal and easier to tame than chinchillas or gerbils, more and more degus are finding a home in our homes. But not all of them are housed properly and can live in a degu-friendly way.

Sitting around all day, Funny ended up at an animal shelter when she was three. Luckily for her. Because from there she moved into a dream enclosure for the first time in her life – together with two other females and a buck. Because the four had to get to know each other and each other’s new homes at the same time, there was no friction. After a few hours of excitement running down the walls, dodging at every meeting, warning knocks to react and violent summit attacks with jumps into the depths for the same reason, calm returned. And just a week later, a bunch of apathetic individual animals had grown into a close-knit clan, with Fritz, the castrated buck, as its godfather.

Warning: sharp teeth and munching! The ideal degu enclosure is higher than it is long and wide. And it should be at least one square meter of floor space, the more the better. Bird aviaries with very strong wire mesh (e.g. for cockatoos) or glass showcases or terrariums are the best at resisting the sharp degu teeth. You can let your imagination run wild when it comes to furnishing: Commercially available bedding that absorbs moisture should of course not be missing. Pieces of the root, more solid logs, and one or two erratic boulders look good over it. Degus break down cork and softwood into building material in no time at all. All other soft materials too, so you must never put plastic pants in the degu cage or other incompatible materials. Because most degus dismantle their own house in a flash, it is better to choose a terracotta or clay pot as a degu house. Degus also use clay pipes or bricks as “washing tunnels”: They push themselves to scrub dead hair, dust, and other foreign bodies out of the fur. They also use chinchilla bathtubs with quartz or chinchilla sand – albeit very temperamentally.

The males aim high in the degu family, there is a division of labor. The goat guards his harem against above. If necessary, he also builds a tower out of everything that comes in front of his snout. Such degu hills are true works of art made of kindling, cardboard, scraps of cloth, twigs, and leaves, which the buck diligently piles up and wedges together. The basis is usually the building, i.e. the sleeping house, over which the guard station towers. At the top, the buck usually balances on two legs and has an overview of the entire terrain. Meanwhile, his harem on the ground rummages through the area, looking for something to eat, creates padding material in the building, does personal hygiene, or creates new building material by gnawing on twigs and wood.

As long as the females are not pregnant (e.g. because the buck has been castrated), they also have plenty of time to play, which they use boisterously until the drumming of their hind legs or the shrill warning whistle causes them all to disappear into the burrow in a flash. The buck will usually wait until its family is safe before dropping down and fleeing into the burrow as well. Degus show such spectacles during the day and in public. Because once they have gained trust in their people, they quickly become tame, curious, and even more adventurous.

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