Last Modified

March 9, 2023 by Umair Shahid

    

Wild degus live in large groups and they have a social behavior. These behaviors include grooming, playing, burrowing, and mating.

Degus can get sick if they have limited social contact. They rely on their friends.

Degus make wonderful for those who have time and capacity. Whether you have owned a new pet, or you are an experienced owner. It is important to know about your pet’s behavior.

Moreover, the way your pet is behaving shows how your pet is feeling. Their behavior tells us whether something is wrong and if we need to make any changes.

Degus have a wide range of behaviors and body language. They are interesting animals. All behaviors indicate different things.

It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with these behaviors. This is because you can help and take care of your pet according to their requirements.

Degus are social animals. So, they rarely bite their loved ones. Only when a degu feels threatened, then they bite. But this happens very rarely.

They reach the age of sexual maturity at 3 to 6 months of age. The gestational period is 90 days. They are born with full fur and open eyes.

To help you learn about degu’s behavior, I have put together some important information below.

Degu Behavior

Chewing and chomping

Like other rodents, degus have continuously growing teeth. They have an innate need to chew. Their incisor teeth continuously grow. They do so to avoid overgrowing their teeth.

If you keep degu as a pet, offer them appropriate items to chew. This is good for their health.

Don’t even think of allowing your degu to roam freely in the home without pet-proofing.

Otherwise, they can chew electrical cords which is harmful to you and your pet.

Dust Bathing

Not only chinchillas are dust bath beauties. Degus are also the dust bathers in the town.

They require a dust bath at least twice a week for 20 minutes. It helps the degu to remove debris and dust from his fur.

Hiding food

To survive winter in their natural habitat, they hide food in their burrows. Some might also hide them outside the burrow.

Don’t be surprised if you found your degu hiding food inside the cage. They also have a habit of checking up on his stash.

They dig it

In the wild, degus spend part of their day above the ground. They do forage for food. But they also need places to hide to escape from predators.

They also have to keep themselves cool on hot days. So, they dig tunnels and burrows for these requirements.

You can help him burrow and dig by providing them with bedding material. This will help them to feel secure.

They are diurnal animals. So, you will see the most active in the early morning and evening.

Frozen in fear

A degu is not a fight or flight animal. Instead, he is a nervous and cautious animal. He responds to the danger by not moving at all.

If your degu is motionless, find the cause of his displeasure. Try to relocate him to a familiar environment and calm him gently.

Peeing with purpose

A degu marks his environment by urinating on objects and areas. This means the degu in captivity will pee on his food bowls, water bottles, toys, and any other item that he possesses.

If you have more than one degu in the cage, the dominant one will pee the most on almost everything.

Moreover, he will pee on everything on whatever another degu has peed. He does so to show his dominance.

Some degu owners place the rags on the places where the pet pee the most. This is to limit these markings to specific locations.

Nibble on you

If your degu starts to nibble on you. Don’t worry he is not aggressive or trying to hurt you. He is just trying to show affection.

In the wild, degus groom each other. So, if they groom you. This means that they are showing the sign that they are comfortable with you.

Moreover, they also show a sign that they enjoyed you petting them for a long time.

Tail wagging

A degu wags his tail due to hormones. A female wags his tail to tell the male that she is in breeding mode.

Moreover, males wage their tails as a way of showmanship. If we talk about tails, never pick them up with their tails.

This can cause an anti-predator mechanism in them. So their tail will shed off. It is a kind of painful procedure. And your pet will not grow his tail back.

Tests of dominance

Degus have a social hierarchy. This means if you keep more than one degu, they will challenge each other for the dignity of the top degu.

If you see one degu mounting on another. You might think of it as mating, but he is showing his dominance.

If the other degu rejects his dominance,  fighting will occur. So pay attention to the behavior of your pets inside the cage. And do separate them if needed.

Dominance behavior in degus

Alpha males

Alpha male attitude is established with males at about 3 months of age. They form this behavior for hierarchy. This behavior is perfectly normal for male degus.

Extreme alpha behavior

The head boss in the group will show his dominance by continuously antagonizing beta males in the same group.

The alpha males will also mount upon them to show their strength. Moreover, they will also mark their territory when wish for.

Betas

Beta degus keep on challenging the alpha ones. And as a result, a fight occurs between them.

Beta degus mark the areas where alpha degus have already peed. They do so to gain some respect.

Female dominance

Females can be aggressive towards other females. They will fight and bite each other. Moreover, they can be aggressive towards males too.

But this doesn’t happen too often. They attack a male that tries to mount her if she doesn’t need or recognize the male.

Pregnant behavior

Gestational period for degus is 90 days. During this period, the female lies on her back and does not act like other males and females.

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Courtship behavior

Degus show several unique behaviors. These include touching noses, grooming, cuddling, tail wagging, and shaking.

After mating is complete, the male proudly squeaks with chirps for at least 20 minutes.

Signs of a happy degu

Tail wagging

This is most often the part of mating behavior. This means that they are aroused and alert by a degu in their group.

Hair raising

When you first own a degu, they will fluff their hair to appear big. This means that they feel threatened by you.

This behavior is normal at first. You should ease them and make them get used to their new environment.

Jumping, body twisting, and hoping

This behavior is found mainly in young degus. This is playful behavior. You can also find this behavior in grown degus.

Running and bolting

This is also a part of their playful behavior. However, it can also be the result of a defense mechanism that they show when they are in danger.

They can bolt to their burrows and tunnels when they feel frightened.

Tail rump movement

This is a part of dominating behavior. They may symbolize their dominant or submissive behavior by raising their rump in the air.

This happens mainly with courtship and mating rituals.

Grooming

Commonly, degu grooms each other as a sign of friendliness. They groom their buddies. They will also groom you when they like you.

Scent marking

Degus pee on anything they feel like they possess. These can be toys, food bowls, and other items they want to mark.

Some degus overmark items to show their dominance over other degus.

Boxing and shoving

This is an argument between two degus. This is nonviolent. It is a show of strength to each other. Unless both cross their limits and end up in a fight.

Snuggling

Degus are social animals. They love to form a bond with others for comfort. They like to snuggle to remain warm. Moreover, they also do so to feel safe.

It’s a common sight for pet owners that degus sleep in piles. It is considered their normal social behavior.

Foot thumping

This is a sign that degu shows when he has to signal others. They do so when there is a threat near them. Foot thumping is also a sign showing trouble.

They also do so to tell others that they should stay alert and pay attention.

Nibbling hand

This is a grooming practice of a happy degu. They don’t harm you but instead show love and this is the sign that they want to groom your skin.

Signs of an unhappy degu

Frightened, shocked, or stressed

From time to time, when degus feel threatened they will sound off with foot thumping. Moreover, they will produce warning calls to alert others.

If they feel danger close by, they will bolt towards their burrows.

Biting

Young degus can bite you. But these bites won’t hurt much because they are small.

So, it’s better to tame them gently. A grown dog will only bite you when they feel threatened.

Repeat the same things over and over

Degus repeating certain behaviors like back flipping can be a sign of any illness. Commonly, they suffer from ADHD, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

If a degu takes 10 backflips in a row, then there is something wrong.

Chewing cage

Degus only chew their cage when they feel that their cage is too small. This is also a sign that they are unhappy with the environment.

Aggressive to others

It is the nature of degus to become aggressive. They become aggressive either to show their dominance or to gain attention.

If you have a degu that hurt other degus on purpose. Then, you have to remove that from the group.

Lazy and lethargic behavior

Degus are known to become less active and lethargic. This can be the reason for poor nutrition. A balanced diet should be provided to them to avoid frequent visits to the vet.

FAQs

What does it mean when a degu chirps?

A rapid succession of squeaks means that a degu is scared. It is an attention-grabbing sound.

So you have to check up on them when you hear loud chirps.

Do degus cry?

Most commonly when they produce the sounds 3 times in succession or 5 times in succession.

It is usually followed by the vocalizations such as whine or groan.

Can you toilet train a degu?

Yes, it is possible to litter train your degu. They also prefer to urinate in a specific location. You will find it quite easy to train your pet to do anything.

Do degus like each other’s company?

Degus are social animals. They require each other’s company to stay happy. Wild degus live in the form of groups.

They carry out a range of social activities like playing, grooming, burrowing, and mating.

If you keep them in captivity with limited social contact. They will become depressed.

Conclusion

Degus are social animals. They are full of energy and curiosity. They need plenty of space to explore. Burrowing and digging is also their favorite activity.

A dust bath is required to keep them cool. On a hot summer day, you can place the sand in a fridge to cool before adding the dish.

Although they are diurnal, still they adapt their routines. They also match their activities to the Temperature around them.

They are intelligent creatures. They can also learn their names and will respond to voice commands if trained.

They can get bored easily. They need plenty of exciting opportunities like chewing materials, hideouts, burrowing, and hidden food items.

A stressed and bored degu may pull out their fur. Degus are extremely vocal. They will bark and squeak to get your attention.

The urgency and body posture will help you to learn what sounds mean excitement. Moreover, their behavior will tell you if they are in a trouble or need something.

References

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-zoology/article/abs/energetics-and-burrowing-behaviour-in-the-semifossorial-degu-octodon-degus-rodentia-octodontidae/DAE26C885F60BCF042C3019F90F5621F

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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