Last Modified

March 11, 2023 by Umair Shahid

Common degu or Octodon degus is an intelligent and highly social animal. Common degu is native to the Chile in Chilean matorral ecoregion. These little cuties are adorable pets and their wild population is under the least concern conservation status.

Common degu belongs to the Octodontidae family of the Rodentia family. The name Degu is a Chilean language word meaning rat or mouse. Common Degu is widely used as a pocket pet because of its socially interactive and docile nature.

Before you decide to keep it in your house, you must go through the rules and policies of the state. Keeping common degu is prohibited in many of the US states. We have a separate piece of knowledge about the pros and cons of keeping degu as a pet here.

As adorable as common degu is, acknowledging yourself with complete know-how is important. This article will help you understand the thorough knowledge regarding common degu.

Brief Summary of Common Degu

OrderRodentia
SpecieOctogon degus
Country of OriginChile
Natural BiomeMediterranean, woodlands, shrubs
Climate ZonesArid, Temperate
Lifespan3 – 8 years
Weight170 – 400 grams
Body Length25 – 30 cm
Coat ColorBrown – Yellow
TemperamentInteractive & Docile
Breeding PatternSeasonal, Polygyny
Gestation Length90 days
Average Litter Size6 pups
LifestylePrecocial & Burrowing
DietHerbivorous
Population StatusLeast Concern

Physical Characteristics

If you have a glance at the common degu, it is slightly bigger than a hamster. However, it is smaller than a fancy rat and has a body length of 25 cm to 30 cm. The common degu has a yellow-brown coat color as a superficial layer.

Below the yellow-brown fur, you can observe the creamy-yellow color. The body structure is pretty small and common degu has an average weight of around 170 to 400 grams. In comparison to the other color varieties, common degu has a yellow band around the eyes.

The hair around the neck is paler than the rest of its coat. The tail is long and thin and just like other rodents, they also apply the defense mechanism of shedding their tail. The tip of the tail has a characteristic black color with a tuft of dark hair around it.

Like most other color varieties, common degu also has dark ears with very little fur over them. There is a greyish tinge in the toes of the common degu with a much smaller fifth toe. The presence of a smaller and nail-containing fifth toe is only in the forelimbs.

The hindlimbs are a little different with bristle-like hair over the feet. Common degu justifies its name ‘Octodon’ because of its figure-of-eight shaped cheek teeth. The characteristic color pattern of young common degu pups is darker than the adults.

Social Behavior & Temperament

In the wild, common degus live in a communal setting. They have a burrowing nature and their burrows are much larger than other rodents. Common degus are highly social animals and they construct burrows by working together.

The females of common degu specie also show grouping behavior. All of them nest communally during the breeding season. Common degu females are excellent mothers and they nourish, feed, and protect each other’s pups.

If we talk about feeding behavior, degus are good open foragers. They roam around and feed together and have a great sense of predator detection. They run at an appreciable speed and communicate with each other through vocal and other means.

In general, females prefer to roam and search for food for young ones. Whereas, male common degus stay in the burrows and keep the pups warm. As pets, they crave interaction and usually live well in an interactive environment.

They rarely bite and prefer to run around in large cages. Common degus interact with humans effectively when you train and tame them at a young age. These little pets respond to the given names. You can choose from our list of unique names for pet degus.

Breeding Behavior of Common Degus

Common degus start breeding in autumn in the Chilean climate. As they are seasonal breeders, they prefer to mate when the day length is the same as the night. The females stay in the burrows during the gestation length of 90 days.

The common degu pups are born around mid-spring. The gestation length of 90 days also varies according to the litter size in common degus. According to the recent breeding status, one female common degu gives birth to an average of six pups.

The females are usually responsible for searching for food. They roam around in groups to forage while the males stay inside and keep the pups warm. The precocial pups are born with complete development and darker small fur over their bodies.

Males and females both protect the young ones until they can leave outside. The common degu pups have active auditory and visual systems. The diurnal behavior of common degus enables them to have good and clear night vision.

Common Degus as Pocket Pets

If you’re interested in keeping degu as a pet, there are likely chances that this goes well. The intelligent and socially active behavior of common degus is well adaptable. By creating a suitable home environment, common degus can live well in a captive setting.

Common degus can live up to 8 years and are very good with kids. I recommend you to get a young degu as it is easier to tame and interact with. Staying playful is a very important aspect of a common degu’s life.

They are also highly curious animals and try to explore everything around them. It is always ideal to get two or more degus because of the communal nature. If you want your cage to get filled with young degus, you can choose similar gender degus in one cage.

Keeping common degus engaged in physical activities is good for their mental health. There are many common degu-friendly toys available in the market. Chewing toys are one of them as all rodents need to maintain their oral health in good condition.

Like other pocket pets, common degus are also pretty sensitive to many stressful factors. It is advisable to keep them away from loud noises and movements. You can also observe through their screaming voices that your common degu is experiencing stress.

A discouraging fact regarding common degus is their chewing habit. They can chew leather, cloth, and plastic materials easily by gnawing. Use metal-wired cages for them with enough toys and chewing stuff. Check out the advantages of degus as pets here.

See also  Degu names (Top 27)

Because of their invasive nature, many states across the US prohibit their use as pets. This is because they populate themselves easily in a new ecosystem and damage it. The prohibition is functional in Utah, California, Alaska & Georgia.

Diet Requirements for Common Degus

In the wild, common degus prefer to stay on an herbivorous diet. Their stomach cannot tolerate anything other than natural grasses and plants. This strictly herbivorous nature enables them to browse and eat shrub leaves and seeds.

In the Chilean environment, forage is dry for almost the whole year. The forage available is usually dry and therefore, common degus eat a high-fiber diet. You can find more regarding the diet of common degus through our Degus diet guide.

Degus are active during the day and emerge out of burrows during the morning and evenings. Most of them don’t prefer to leave their burrows mid-day due to increased predator activity. These aspects enable them to survive in the wild.

As pets, common degus must stay on a high-fiber diet. Animal nutritionists suggest completely cutting off the sugars from degu’s diet. Their digestive system cannot tolerate high carbs and sugars and it also leads to several other health issues.

The digestive and hormonal physiology of common degu is incompatible with sugars. Research has found the divergent insulin structure in the case of common degus. This makes them easily prone to issues such as diabetes mellitus.

The basic diet of common degu consists of freshly dried hay as the main diet part. Make sure to get only the highest quality hay. It is vital to check for the presence of harmful pesticides and insecticide chemicals which are lethal to degus.

There are many commercially available pellets foods made according to rodent nutrition. The nutritional composition of such foods contains minimal carbs and low protein. Besides, these pellets still contain more than 15% fiber in them.

Common degus also need other essential amino acids and fatty acids. You can fulfill this requirement by adding herbs and vegetables to your diet. However, not every vegetable is suitable for common degus.

A good choice is leafy vegetables such as lettuce and celery. Mint and parsley are good herb choices for them as these create minimal stomach upset and bloating in degus. Nevertheless, the use of vegetables is restricted to one or two times per week.

Housing Requirements for Common Degu

Wild common degus have their natural habitat in the form of burrows. These burrows protect them in case of danger and also keep the young ones warm. However, they are highly adaptable to new environmental setups as pets.

The goal of housing for common degu focuses on the provision of a stress-free ideal place. Keeping them in an unhygienic environment leads to health deterioration. It will not only affect them physically but lead to stress and anxiety.

If you’re a beginner and confused regarding housing, have a read about the degu cage setup guide. Common degus can easily live in captive environments when all of the housing needs are fulfilled.

This includes choosing a cage of an appropriate size and material. Degus have the inherent ability to chew onto stuff. Use a wired mesh metal cage so they can’t escape after chewing on one side.

In the case of cage size, the general rule is to provide 4000 square centimeters of space per degu. Common degus are playful so providing them enough space saves you from panic troubles. You can also place the males and females in separate cages to avoid breeding.

Among many different cage materials, only glass and metal are ideal for common degus. They have very fast movements and it is not easy to catch them once they escape. Besides, chewing on plastic and other material cages causes health issues in common degus.

One of the important parts of housing is the provision of degu-friendly toys. You can also make small hideouts for them to feel safe and for sleeping. The food bowls must be made of metal to avoid them from gnawing on them.

Similarly, glass water bottles are an ideal choice. Chinchillas and common degus have similar toys and living needs. A good option is to tie a hammock inside for a comfortable place to sit and relax.

As physical activity is very important, an exercise wheel can do this job quite well. In choosing so, stick to the same rule of only metal or glass material for it. There are many exercise wheels available but the use of treadmills is discouraged.

Chewing toys such as wooden blocks of bamboo and applewood is ideal. Such wooden snacks can help fulfill the chewing needs of common degus. Cardboard and wooden chew sticks clean their teeth and help to rasp them while gnawing on these toys.

Apart from that, the cage location, its placement, and regulation of temperature must be maintained. If you’re interested or trying to develop a cage setup, I encourage you must give read to the guide for degu cage setup.

Final Thoughts

Common degus are excellent in terms of adaptability and social behavior. These rodents are native to Chile and are considered an invasive species in many species. Pet owners worldwide keep common degus in their homes because of their good temperament.

Common degus also demand a lot of care and social interaction. If you are housing degus, make sure to read the complete guide to care for common degus. The guide will enable you to follow all the necessary living aspects of common degus.

With that being said, make sure to read the policy regarding common degus as pets. This policy varies from region to region but still, their keeping is prohibited in many states. By following a proper diet and housing plans, common degus can make astounding and playful pets.

Research References

Edwards, Mark S. “Nutrition and behavior of degus (Octodon degus).” Veterinary Clinics of North America: Exotic Animal Practice 12.2 (2009): 237-

Ebensperger, Luis A., and Petra K. Wallem. “Grouping increases the ability of the social rodent, Octodon degus, to detect predators when using exposed microhabitats.” Oikos 98.3 (2002): 491-497.

Lee, Theresa M. “Octodon degus: a diurnal, social, and long-lived rodent.” ILAR journal 45.1 (2004): 14-24.

Bauer, Carolyn M., et al. “Stress, sleep, and sex: a review of endocrinological research in Octodon degus.” General and Comparative Endocrinology 273 (2019): 11-19.

Author

I am a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and have a keen interest in animal health care. Working as a veterinary content writer, I intend to stay with professional approach in producing quality content. I like research-based reading and currently seeking my veterinary profession. My hobbies are travelling to exotic places and observing nature to the fullest.

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