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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

Degu: Facts You Won't Believe!

Degu facts help you understand the Degu vs Chinchilla difference.

Want to read about a species of rodents that have become increasingly popular around the world as pets? Then you should absolutely read about Degus. While their name may come from the Chilean language where the term Degu roughly translates into rats, the Degu pronunciation is very simple: 'day-goo'! These rodents are endemic to the Central Chilean matorral region but can be now found all over the world as pets. This is because Degus are easy to tame and they will often like to be held or cuddled. They are also very social in nature. Yet, Degus aren't happy when kept in small cages. They love it when they are kept in a large cage. The other South American rodents that Degus have similarities to are the Chinchillas, with these two species having a difference in physical appearances and some habits. However, Degus are known to have diabetes in them from birth and that must be kept in mind by their owners. These creatures also have the weird habit of ingesting their poop. So, read on for more facts on Degus and for facts on other animals, take a look at the jerboa and chinchilla.

Degu Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a degu?

The Degu, or the Common Degu as it is called, is a rodent that is native to the central region of the Southern American country of Chile.

What class of animal does a degu belong to?

Wild Degus belong to the class of Mammalia and the order Rodentia. In its suborder classification, Wild Degus are very common to the Guinea Pig and the other native South American rodent called the Chinchilla.

How many degus are there in the world?

As Degus are found all over the world due to their popularity as pets, there is no concrete data available on the total number of Degus. However, with their population not being classified as endangered, we can safely assume that Degu numbers aren't going down anytime soon.

Where does a degu live?

Initially found in the South American country of Chile, Degus are endemic to a certain type of habitat known as the matorral areas. There is a mixture of semi-arid shrublands and woodlands between the latitude of 32 degrees and 37 degrees south. This matorral area is sandwiched just between the drier deserts and the wet rainforests. Along with their native surroundings, there are found around the world as pets. However, Degus are known to need large cages where they can be held in captivity.

What is a degu's habitat?

Degus are endemic to the central Chilean matorral habitats. These animals are perfectly suited to live in this semi-arid region. The Degu habitat consists of woodlands and trees. These animals are diurnal in nature that is they are active during the day and live under the soil in burrows. The Degu rat is known to dig extensive burrows that serve as their territories with the Degus being very territorial.  Apart from their burrow homes, they are also known to climb up branches of plants in order to eat green leaves which are an essential part of their diet. Another habit that these Degu rodents have is that they indulge in a lot of dust baths. This trait can also be noticed in Chinchillas. The dust bath habit helps in keeping grease off their coats. In captivity, Degus need regular sand/dust baths either inside their cages or in sand bowls made by their owners.

Who do degus live with?

Degus are highly social animals. They are known to live in groups or colonies containing ten or more individuals. These colonies contain both males and females with a higher percentage of females.

How long does a degu live?

The Degu lifespan is comparatively shorter than the Chinchillas. While a Chinchilla can live anywhere between 10-20 years of age, the Degu animal can live between five to eight years when held in cages during captivity. However, in the wild, the longevity of these rodents is seriously hindered due to threats from predators. Wild Degus usually live till four years of age with a large percentage dying in the first year itself. This can be also induced due to their diabetes problem.

How do they reproduce?

For rodents, Degus are known to be prolific breeders. The breeding season of these diurnal animals is anywhere between the months of May and October at the latest. May is the month of Chilean autumn while September to October is considered to be the season of spring. Breeding amongst the Degus takes place only once everywhere. Very rarely will there be two litters in one year.

During the reproduction season, males are known to get very aggressive toward individuals belonging to their own gender. The male will often court the female in order to reproduce. Tail wagging and trembling the body are usual shenanigans performed by the boy Degu during courtship. In a weird way, both the courting Degus are known to mark each other by spraying urine on each other's bodies. After the mating takes place in autumn, the gestation period of the females concludes after 90 days. The litter size has an average of four to five pups per litter, but that may vary anywhere from 2-12 pups. The young Degus are born with teeth and fur.

What is their conservation status?

Degus are one of the most common rodents found in South America and hence they are not really in any form of conservation threats. The International Union For Conservation Of Nature (IUCN) has listed Degus under the Least Concern category in their Red List.

Degu Fun Facts

What do degus look like?

Degus are rodents that are quite small in size in a manner similar to other endemic South American rodents like the Chinchillas. Degus have a relatively large head and large eyes along with large ears that are highly pigmented and very furry. This Degu tail is known to be thin and long with a plume at the end of the tail. They have white teeth with their cheek teeth being formed in the shape of an eight. This unique feature of the Degu teeth is the reason why Degus belong to the genus called Octodon (eight teeth).

In regards to fur color, Degus are yellow-brown the majority of their body along with white or cream on the underside of their bellies. They have banded patterns around the neck and the eyes. Interestingly, this animal has a nail in the place of a claw on the fifth toe in the forefeet. The hindfeet are observed to have bristles in Degus.

You should be aware of diabetes in Degus.

How cute are they?

On the cuteness meter, Degus are quite high. These smaller animals are very social and are very popular on the internet as pets. You will often find videos of Degus being the most chill individual around the house.

How do they communicate?

Degus are known to communicate via various vocal calls. These animals also have good hearing and eyesight. In a unique feature, Degus are able to see and detects ultraviolet light and fresh urine from the Degus has the ability to reflect ultraviolet light. However, apart from this feature, the Degus need calls to communicate primarily especially between mothers and the pups. The Degu sound can have up to 15 different variations.

How big is a degu?

As a rodent animal, Degus are small in nature. The average Degu size measures anywhere between 9.8–12.2 in (25-31 cm) in length and they have a long tail. They are almost similar in length to the Chinchillas who average around 10 in long excluding their tails.

How fast can a degu run?

Degus are considered to be fast runners with some sources claiming them to be the fourth fastest species of rodents. These same sources say that Degus can run at a maximum speed of 26 mph (42 kph).

How much does a degu weigh?

The average weight of the common Degus measure between 6-14.1 oz (170-400 g). There hasn't been any significant sexual dimorphism observed but boy Degus are thought to be slightly larger than girl Degus.

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no such distinct names for the two different genders amongst the Degus.

What would you call a baby degu?

A young Degu is simply referred to as a Degu pup.

What do they eat?

Degus eat grass, leafy greens, shrubs, seeds as part of their food diet. The food diet doesn't include any type of meat as they are herbivores in nature. A Degu food diet has a high fiber intake. However, Degus are known to eat their own poop so as to reingest the fibers that may have been excreted. On the other hand, the Degu diet might be seriously compromised due to their diabetes problems. They cannot have food that has a high sugar value.

Are they aggressive?

Degus are thought to be chill creatures who are very social in nature. However, the male gender behaves aggressively during the breeding season. Degus may also be aggressive in regards to territory and food.

Would they make a good pet?

Although initially used as a lab animal, a Degu pet has become quite popular in recent years. In the United States, the Degu price is an average of $100. However, the creature is banned in some states of the USA and Canada. It is also illegal to have in New Zealand.

Degus need a lot of room to survive in captivity. They can be very easily tamed as pets with love and care. A large Degu cage is perfect for these creatures. Due to their social behavior, people love to have the species of Degu as pets. However, Degu care is important if you keep them as pets. You must keep them away from food with high dietary sugar as they are born with diabetes problems in them.

Did you know...

While keeping Degus as pets, you must never hold them by their tails. They have an in-built mechanism through which they can shed their tails in a painful process. They developed this feature as a counter to predatorial animals and the tail, once shed, can never grow back.

In the last few years, with Degus being kept as pets around the world, a new mutant coat color has emerged that is kind of silver-gray. Degus who have this mutated coat are called Blue Degus. However, a Blue Degu is still rare with its first occurrence happening in the country of Germany in the 1990s.

Do degus sleep with their eyes open?

No, Degus are not known to sleep with their eyes open. However, due to various predators in the wild, these animals always stay alert for any sort of incoming danger.

How do degus work together to build tunnels?

Degus are very intelligent creatures who work together within their colonies to make elaborate tunnel networks for their groups. They do this by burrowing into the soil in sync to make these tunnel networks.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including American pika, or water vole.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Degu coloring pages.

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