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Degu Discussion Twitching whiskers, curious noses, and all things degu related.

 
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-08-2006, 05:33 PM Thread Starter
 
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My BF and I got suckered in by their cute antics - but the advice we got at the pet store seems ALL WRONG!

First, they were (and currently are, at least temporarily until next paycheck) being kept in a 10 gallon aquarium. I would like to keep them in it a little longer so that it is easier to train them to come to my hand - is that OK for the short term? We went shopping for "the perfect cage" today and found one that we like: a multi-tiered rat cage about 3 feet tall x 2 feet wide by 1 foot wide the other way with a very, very deep base and a solid plastic floor (I worry that they could eventually chew through this?) without bars on the bottom to cause 'bumblefoot'.

Everything I've read indicates that degu are spectacular jumpers, but these two don't seem inclined. They'll climb on me or my BF (or anyone else who was handling them in the pet store) but have never attempted to jump. I wonder if I get them a cage with some jump-pads, if it'll just be a waste?

They also gave us a mix of food that isn't seeming right. In addition to tiny little seeds, it also has alfalfa pellets, some sort of vegetable-colored "cheerios", dried corn, peanuts in the shell, dry beans (Kidney or some sort of red bean), sunflower seeds and a couple of other oddities.

They didn't tell us (and hadn't been providing) hay or alfalfa. They were also using pine bedding. The girl at the pet store also said it would be just fine to buy only one of them - but everything that I've read has made me very glad that I got both. I can tell they're the same sex, and I think they're both male - if not, they're stuck being Felix and Oscar!

The basic instructions I got were the same as keeping just about any other rodent - and I'm quickly learning that this isn't right! I am worried, though, about changing their environment, food, etc. too quickly and causing them digestive and nervous upset.

At the store they were lively, curious, and ready to come out - easy to pick up. Right now they seem very stressed and hide in the corner of the aquarium, but eventually you can double-hand scoop them (Don't worry - I *DO* know not to pick them up by the scruff and *ESPECIALLY* not by the tail!).

Should I really switch from pine bedding to aspen, or to some other bedding? (I forget the name, but it's a biodegradable/recycled bedding product that helps tame odors?). I went ahead and added alfalfa chew-blocks in addition to the hardwood blocks that I'd gotten for their teeth, but should I also change their food to strictly guinea pig/chinchilla pellets (Without any fruits, I know!). If I change it, should I start weaning back off their regular diet to prevent stomach upset?

Today they've been a little 'noisy' - which is entertaining, but they've also not been very open to being picked up and played with/cuddled, which is disappointing. I'm guessing they're getting used to the house. The petshop said they came from a local person who had a house with kids, and they're very obviously used to being handled - I just hope they come around soon.

I keep reading posts on other boards and websites that they are incredibly intelligent, and that people have gotten them so socialized/trained that they'll come when called. Also, that some people let them run around free in the house. Isn't this dangerous? I got them both hamster balls for now, until they're more tame.

SulaBlue
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-09-2006, 06:33 AM
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Firstly hello and welcome to pawtalk and congratulations on your new babies, they make fantastic rewarding little pets and they are addictive so beware I'm sorry you seem to have been given the wrong information, it seems to happen quite a lot and unfortunately some people take the pet shops word as law and don't do the research you have done. I was like you as 7 years ago i walked into a pet store and only vaguely knew what Degu's where and was won over and a week later i was the proud owner of 2 boys. Back then there was little to no information around and it took me ages to learn everything and luckily for me i had been given the right information about dietry requirements etc.... You did the right thing getting them both as they are very social creatures and although you can keep a lone degu you would need to give it a lot of time each day and at the end of the day you can never make up for the company of another degu.

The aquarium isn't ideal long term as 10 gallon isn't simply big enough for 2 fully grown adult degu's but for the short term it is fine. Most pet stores keep them in aquariums for convenience as it limits the mess they make. You could incorporate the tank into their future home by using it as the base if you so wish making them a deep pit for digging in and then securing a cage onto the top for the height that they need as for their size they need quite a bit of space. If you decide to just go for the cage idea then i would really suggest you go for one with a metal base as they DO chew through plastic, i know i've had two of my boys chew through plastic bases (both were a rescue who came to me in hamster cages chewed to pieces ) and i know a few other people on here have had the same problem too. So i always advise metal bases as saves you a lot of money in the long run. I'm not from the US but i do know a lot of people use Martins cages over there so they might be worth you looking up to see if they do anything like what you are looking for, i have simular cages myself and ones at least 7 years old and is nearly as good as new so they do last. Degu's are more hoppers than jumpers, mine all have leaping ledges instead of ladders and they fly up those with ease and i also let mine out in my hallway and they run up and down the stairs like they aren't there. Degu's are rock hoppers in the wild so its built into them so i don't think the jump pad's would be a waste of money, it might take them an hour or so to get used to them to start off with but in no time they'll be zooming up and down them

If you can i would bin the food you have been sold as its not good for them at all. There is too many nuts and seeds in it for them which aren't good for them and should only be given as the occasional treat. Also too much alfalfa isn't good for them either research has shown, so always feed that in moderation too. The guinea pig / chinchilla pellet combination is a better solution although recent research has shown that chinchilla pellets aren't all that good for degu's and should also only be fed in moderation. I myself feed a guinea pig pellet / guinea pig food combination with a few chinchilla pellets thrown in occasionally. I also mix in with that a commercial degu food that is available along with plenty of fresh hay, dried grass and veggies and they always have fresh water available. I would switch the diet personally as the one you have at present isn't doing them any good and changing it should hurt them as you are only switching from one dried food to another and it will be a simular diet just without the nuts and seeds. They should be fine with the diet changes and being in a new environment as degu's are nosey and nothing phases them too much!

On the bedding issue, there are two option either kiln dried pine shavings or carefresh are the best. There is a lot of debate on the use of beddings, i myself use the kiln dried pine and have done so for the last 7 years with no problems but some people are against the use of shavings as with some rodents they can cause respiratory problems so it is a big open debate. But for degu's if you are to use shavings only ever use kiln dried pine as a lot of woods are toxic to them so you have to be very careful with what you use.

I'm afraid to tell you Degu's aren't the most cuddly of pets you will find, they will tolerate being held for a few minutes but they much prefer to be on the go running around. Sometimes there is the exception, one of my first boys loved to go to sleep in my top and would stay there for hours and he was very bonded to me but the majority are just too busy for all that. They will also need time to adjust to you and your surroundings (hence them being a little quiet at the moment) and they are normally quiet for the first few days when you get then home till they are used to the different smells and noises etc..... Take it day by day with them and i always advise when talking to them stick to their level as remember we must look huge to them and let them sniff your hands and get used to your smell, offer them small treats and let them come to you and they will soon come round and reward you with a lot of love and affection

Degu's are very intelligent little creatures, i've also kept rats in my time and i have to say my boys are on a par for sure with rats if not more so for intelligence. They are very quick to work things out especially when it comes to getting treats and i think one or two of my boys know their names. I let my older boys out in my hallway (most safe area in my home) as they are trusted and they have a good run once or twice a week. If you are to let them out then it has to be in a safe area where there are no wires for them to chew or anything for them to damage. I prefer letting them have a good run to confining them in a hamster ball as in my opinion a ball is not big enough for an adult degu, rat balls are slightly better but i just don't like the idea of confining them. I think till they are more tame you are doing the right thing with the balls for now as if you was to let them out now as they are still skittish and jumpy then they would be harder to catch and most probably freak out as only degu's do and accidents could occur then. They do make fantastic pets and every inch of love you give them is rewarded ten fold

Kirsty


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Amethystbelle is offline  
post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-09-2006, 12:06 PM
 
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well said amethystbelle and welcome to pawtalk sulablue
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-09-2006, 02:03 PM
 
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Great advice given and welcome to PT.
They are very addicting indeed!!
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-09-2006, 04:15 PM
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Amethystbelle gave great advice but I figured I could give some tips too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SulaBlue
My BF and I got suckered in by their cute antics - but the advice we got at the pet store seems ALL WRONG!

First, they were (and currently are, at least temporarily until next paycheck) being kept in a 10 gallon aquarium. I would like to keep them in it a little longer so that it is easier to train them to come to my hand - is that OK for the short term? We went shopping for "the perfect cage" today and found one that we like: a multi-tiered rat cage about 3 feet tall x 2 feet wide by 1 foot wide the other way with a very, very deep base and a solid plastic floor (I worry that they could eventually chew through this?) without bars on the bottom to cause 'bumblefoot'.

Everything I've read indicates that degu are spectacular jumpers, but these two don't seem inclined. They'll climb on me or my BF (or anyone else who was handling them in the pet store) but have never attempted to jump. I wonder if I get them a cage with some jump-pads, if it'll just be a waste?
It's ok for short-term, but you really should get another cage asap since that's way too small.

They probably aren't jumping much because they are in an aquarium with nothing to jump on . I'm sure if you got some Leap N' Ledges or something they'd love it. Mine have some plus ladders and various toys.

With the cage, plastic bottom might be ok, depending on how the cage is set up. My cage has a plastic bottom but they can't actually chew it the way the cage has it attached. But if possible, get one with a metal bottom.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SulaBlue
They also gave us a mix of food that isn't seeming right. In addition to tiny little seeds, it also has alfalfa pellets, some sort of vegetable-colored "cheerios", dried corn, peanuts in the shell, dry beans (Kidney or some sort of red bean), sunflower seeds and a couple of other oddities.

They didn't tell us (and hadn't been providing) hay or alfalfa. They were also using pine bedding. The girl at the pet store also said it would be just fine to buy only one of them - but everything that I've read has made me very glad that I got both. I can tell they're the same sex, and I think they're both male - if not, they're stuck being Felix and Oscar!
You should throw that food out. If they were fed it long-term you could end up with very sick or even diabetic degus. The best degu food IMO is Brisky's Diet Degu Pellets. But the main part of their diet should be timothy hay and leafy green veggies. If commercial degu food is not available you can feed Guinea Pig pellets as long as they don't contain sugar. You may occasionally mix in some chinchilla pellets but not too many.

It's good that you got two, since they're very social and need a buddy . Single degus can become depressed and/or aggressive.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SulaBlue
The basic instructions I got were the same as keeping just about any other rodent - and I'm quickly learning that this isn't right! I am worried, though, about changing their environment, food, etc. too quickly and causing them digestive and nervous upset.

At the store they were lively, curious, and ready to come out - easy to pick up. Right now they seem very stressed and hide in the corner of the aquarium, but eventually you can double-hand scoop them (Don't worry - I *DO* know not to pick them up by the scruff and *ESPECIALLY* not by the tail!).
I wouldn't worry too much about that, after all, their enviroment has already changed since their in a new home, right?

It's better that they start getting better care .

Quote:
Originally Posted by SulaBlue
Should I really switch from pine bedding to aspen, or to some other bedding? (I forget the name, but it's a biodegradable/recycled bedding product that helps tame odors?). I went ahead and added alfalfa chew-blocks in addition to the hardwood blocks that I'd gotten for their teeth, but should I also change their food to strictly guinea pig/chinchilla pellets (Without any fruits, I know!). If I change it, should I start weaning back off their regular diet to prevent stomach upset?
I would switch because pine bedding has been known to cause respiratory problems. If you must use pine, look for the kiln dried and make sure it isn't dusty. The best bedding IMO is aspen. Perfectly safe and fun to burrow in . Carefresh is fine too but some people claim it doesn't keep down odors. I've personally never used it.

Alfalfa blocks really shouldn't be fed...alfalfa is bad for degus in large amounts. If you could find timothy blocks then that'd be a great alternative. But remember to have loose timothy hay as well.

I'd actually try weaning them off their current food quickly since it's so bad for them. Just mix a tiny bit of it with the new food for the first couple of days and if they seem fine stop feeding the old food.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SulaBlue
Today they've been a little 'noisy' - which is entertaining, but they've also not been very open to being picked up and played with/cuddled, which is disappointing. I'm guessing they're getting used to the house. The petshop said they came from a local person who had a house with kids, and they're very obviously used to being handled - I just hope they come around soon.

I keep reading posts on other boards and websites that they are incredibly intelligent, and that people have gotten them so socialized/trained that they'll come when called. Also, that some people let them run around free in the house. Isn't this dangerous? I got them both hamster balls for now, until they're more tame.
Degus aren't really cuddly and hate to be picked up. In my opinion, a degu shouldn't be picked up until they completely trust you. I rarely pick up mine unless it's an emergency. They don't like it and I respect that. Once degus get to know you well you'll find that they are very friendly. Although you can't pick them up, they'll often jump into your hands or onto your shoulder. They love attention .

I wouldn't let them free in the house because you'll never find them again . But letting them out in a degu-proof room daily is a good idea. A great way to give them excercise and socialize them is to let them run around in the bathtub. You can sit in there with them and let them climb on you.

Hamster balls are too small for an adult degu. If you use balls get the ones sized for rats and chinchillas. But overall they aren't a good idea since degus can easily escape them or chew out. Mine hated them anyways.

Welcome to PT and good luck!




~Stephanie

"We weep for a bird's cry, but not for a fish's blood. Blessed are those with a voice."


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Last edited by Sasami; 01-09-2006 at 04:17 PM.
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-09-2006, 05:16 PM
 
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Great advice and welcome to PT and the wonderful ownership of degus!
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-09-2006, 05:24 PM
 
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I'm fairly new to degus as well and I can tell already that I will probably have degus for the rest of my life. They're just awesome little pets. Good luck with your little guys!

Welcome to Paw-Talk too
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chinchilla pellets, degu food, dried corn, dried pine, dried pine shavings, guinea pig, guinea pig food, guinea pig pellets, hamster cage, kiln dried, kiln dried pine, pet shop, pet shops, pet store, pet stores, pig food, pine bedding, pine shavings, rat cage, sunflower seeds, timothy hay


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