Topics of this subpage:

  • Degus (Octodon degus)
  • The first Degus in Europe
  • Everyday life with Degus
  • How many Degus should I hold - group size
  • Willingness of Degus to fight

As pets, degus are a very good alternative to mice, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits or other small animals, because they have a great advantage: Degus don't smell unpleasant after just one week!


In general, one can say that degus are easy-care pets, the cage is cleaned depending on how dirty the degus are and the number of degus. Water should be renewed at least every 2 days and feed should be replenished depending on how hungry the degus are.


Holiday care at Degus is not a big challenge, even for non-Degu owners. Open the cage - take out the food and water - fill it up - put it back in the cage - done.


On the following sub- pages you will find detailed information about the suitable cage, cage location, furnishings, litter, exercise and  nutrition.


Odin, Gaia, Puckl
Odin, Gaia, Puckl

Degus (Octodon degus)

Degus ( Octodon degus ), which are often mistaken for rats or squirrels, are a genus of rodents from the family of Trug rats that come from Chile. The first scientific description comes from the Chilean naturalist Juan Ignacio Molina from 1782, who assigned the species as "Sciurus" degus to the squirrels (genus Sciurus). The assignment to the genus of the bush rats, which was founded in 1832 by Edward Turner Bennett, was made in 1848 by George Robert Waterhouse.


A distinction is made between four types:


the common degu ( Octodon degus ) is kept as a pet

the forest degu ( Octodon bridgesi ),

the coastal degu ( Octodon lunatus ) and

the Pacific Degu ( Octodon pacificus ).


For further information you can click on the individual names (link to Wikipedia).


The approximately 180-300g heavy degus have a body length of 11-19cm and a 10-15cm long tail. The tail is slightly hairy and has a hair tassel at the end. When pulling on the tail (typical lifting of mice or rats) the degu tail has a predetermined breaking point and leaves - therefore degus never lift or hold on to the tail!


Degus and gerbils are still very often bred or used as feed animals in zoological gardens.

You can find more information on the mentioned sub- pages under  Housing- / Cage- / Nutrition- / .


According to Sporon A., Mettler M., 2002 / Thomas J. Reynolda & John W. Wright 1979, 20 degus were caught in the village of Lampa, Chile in 1964 and sent to Dr. David Boraker imported to Massachusetts, USA. Offspring of these animals were kept by the National Zoological Park and the University of Vermont in 1970 (Kleinman DG, 1975). In 1967 the first six pairs of Degu were sent from a laboratory in Santiago de Chile to Europe to the Zoological Society of London. (Weir B. J, 1970, Woods & Boraker 1975)


The Frankfurt am Main Zoo owned the first 12 degus of unknown origin from a private owner in 1960-63, supposedly from the breeding line from the USA. It is unclear whether animals from this stock ended up in private hands. The offspring of the North American Laboriere should have had a rather squat, smaller physique with changed coat color through years of inbreeding. (Sporon A., Mettler M., 2002)

(Haensel 1982) erwähnt, dass 1975, 1976 und 1978 Degus Chicago, USA in den Tierpark Berlin Friedrichsfelde (ehemals DDR) importiert wurden. Eine Zucht entstand mit den Tieren aus 1978, die wohl ebenfalls an Institute abgegeben worden. Im Berliner Tierpark wurden bis Ende 1981, ca. 300 Degus gezogen, daher wurden überzählige Degus in unbekannter Anzahl an den Zoofachhandel und so an private Halter abgegeben. Etwa zu diesem Zeitraum sind über die ZAG „Kleinsäuger“ Degus an private Halter in die damaligen Tschechoslowakei gekommen.


At the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, wild-caught animals were again imported to Germany and the Netherlands in unknown numbers. (Sporon A., Mettler M., 2002) Due to the mixing with the new wild-caught ones, these days it is mostly a question of mixed types from the two lines, so the size and color can vary. Most of today's degus presumably originate from this mixture.


In the early / mid-1990s, the degu became better known and more popular as a pet. A short time afterwards, the first emergencies occurred and large degu groups were placed as a result of uncontrolled reproduction.


Everyday life with degus

In some pet shops there is still a rumor that degus are only active at twilight / night. In my opinion, this is simply wrong. My degus are still asleep when I get up in the morning to check on them, and I tend to feel like a nuisance when I watch a movie after 10 p.m. Degus generally sleep a lot, the usual daily routine is a mixture of sleeping, feeding, playing and running in the cog.


I often take my degus out of the cage and then let them run through our living room, making sure that they cannot gnaw on cables or poisonous decorative objects. Of course, there are also cables in my living room, so from the beginning I established a kind of human warning call which scares the degus and thus does not run the risk of injuring themselves. To do this, I simply pull air between the closed teeth, which causes a hissing sound (similar to the shrill warning call from degus).


Cuddling and tricks, is that possible?


Degus are not comparable to rabbits or other popular small animals, degus will never sit with the owner for a long time and allow themselves to be petted extensively. Therefore, I recommend a degu attitude for children from 10 years of age who have the necessary restraint in dealing with the animals.


Degus are very social animals, so they can become very tame and even learn small tricks if they deal with you on a daily basis. Many of my degus like to just sit on me, but never for more than a few minutes. Exploring the apartment is much more interesting!


How many degus should I keep ?

Wild degus live together in groups / colonies, these groups are extended family groups and consist of 2-7 animals. Keeping degus alone, regardless of age, is not considered appropriate to the species. The most natural group form would be 2 - 3 Degu females with a castrated buck, but I advise against castration , as this is very expensive and often associated with serious complications or consequences. Therefore, this group constellation is usually not the case.


Since degus are very social animals, they have to be kept at least in pairs . However, the social structures can only be better observed from a larger group of 3-5 animals. Due to the pronounced social structure of degus, individual keeping is generally not appropriate to the species and should therefore be rejected.


Same sex groups

In order to avoid offspring, you should keep a same-sex group, at best the animals grow up together or are put together at a young age. Siblings from one litter or together with the previous litter are very suitable. A good group size is 3 to 5 animals depending on the cage size.


Mixed groups

Multiple bucks and only one or two females will not work. Therefore, with degus it usually only works the other way around. The buck should be castrated beforehand (at least 6-8 weeks before it comes to the females) in order to avoid unwanted offspring. It is advisable to socialize two to three females with one buck. This group composition is usually very harmonious and uncomplicated, but I would advise against castration as it is very expensive and often associated with serious complications or consequences - unnecessary castration just to keep a mixed group should not be done to any animal.


Degu beginner

Beginners are advised to take a group of 3-4 degus from 2 years and up. Because the animals are already through puberty, there is less potential for arguments.


It does not matter whether it is male or female, there should always be same-sex animals in a group or a castrated buck with several females in order to avoid unwanted offspring. 



The general willingness of degus to fight must already be mentioned at this point. During puberty from about 5 months to 2 years, many degus tend to fight for rank which can end with injuries. A separation by a partition must always be planned in, a socialization back to the group must be approached with a lot of patience and can take weeks or months under certain circumstances.


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