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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 11-21-2013, 02:30 AM Thread Starter
Newborn Pup
Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: Canada
Posts: 17
Smile Tips and tricks?

Hi there

I just recently got a couple of rescue degu's. I'm new to degu's though not to rodents. I also have hamsters and gerbils.

I am finding that the degu's are very inquisitive, but are nibblers. It's usually okay, and sometimes they will groom my hand but my one degu, Nutmeg, has taken to actually biting! I think maybe he was just in a bad mood tonight.

So I have a couple questions that maybe a seasoned degu owner can answer.

How soon is too soon to handle them?
-I have been handling them sparingly but trying to take them out of the cage for a few minutes a day to sit on me or run around the bed. Cinnamon is usually happier about this. I pick them up by waiting until they go into their one tube and pick them up from there. They will not run onto my hand but will put their paws on my finger, sniff, nibble (though Nutmeg was biting rather hard and insistantly tonight) and then walk away.

Should I perhaps be covering the cage when not home?
-I have a cat who is very protective of my critters but I still worry he might be stressing them out simply because of his presence.

Also, after the biting episode, one of the degu's gave out what I identified as a "wheep" It was two quick high pitched almost barks. This was about 10 minutes after handling them, and I had been sitting away from the cage. It didn't seem like anything was amiss. Anyone have any ideas if they could have been startled, or was something else going on?

I know they're still adjusting, so I will be patient. I just want to know if there's some things I can do to make this transition easier on them and me. For one, I really don't want to be bitten! Not even lightly...Grooming of course is ok.
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 11-27-2013, 08:32 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Ottawa, Canada
Posts: 188
Hello, Nagichan:

I have had degus both degus and gerbils. Unlike gerbils, it seems that degus don't tolerate being held very well. I think what you are doing – letting them run around the bed and sit on you – is a perfect way for them to get used to you.

I don't handle my degus except when I need a closer look at them. When I give them time out of the cage, they will come and sit on me but I don't generally hold them. And I catch them just the way you do – by waiting until they run into a tube.

How hard is the bite? My degus nibble a bit – hard enough to make me draw my hand away – but I don't think it is meant as a bite to scare me off. Their grooming can be rough.

I don't think covering the cage is a good idea. Is there any way to keep the cat away from the cage? It is risky letting the cat near them when you're not there to supervise and he might indeed be stressing them out.

I think the "wheep" you heard may have been an alert call. When mine do this, I just sit quiet as if I am part of their group. Within a minute, they're all usually back to doing their thing. I usually can't see what spooked them; however, they are very sensitive and even the sound of a car parking in our driveway puts them on alert.

Hope this helps.

Last edited by 16degus; 11-27-2013 at 08:41 PM.
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 11-28-2013, 01:50 AM Thread Starter
Newborn Pup
Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: Canada
Posts: 17
Red face

I haven't been taking them out as much, but rather playing through the cage and offering small amounts of spinach and other such treats to them instead, it's progressing a bit better. I have to get another cage as the one I have is very tall (and I am very short) and the only opening is on top which makes it awkward.

Since then they are trusting me a little more. The other day Nutmeg allowed me to lift him when he ran onto my hand. The nipping is hard enough to make me draw away, but not enough to break the skin. I figured out it may have been an attempt at dominance. I learnt giving a slight bit of a poof of air on his face deterred him without setting things backwards. He would do it on two instances upon closer inspection...If Cinnamon would be grooming me and he wanted to groom Cinnamon instead and when I was messing around with his wheel.

I covered the cage for the first few days. I live in a basement with no doors to hide them away in. The problem with covering them became quickly apparent, they tried to pull the blanket into the cage. They have been uncovered a few days during the day (I completely trust the cat...He's a very odd cat. Loves the small critters and will let them run all around him...Yet hates other cats.) The degu's seem to tolerate him. The one time he stuck his nose in a bit to see them, Nutmeg gave him a curious nip and since then he hasn't tried. The little silly sometimes steals some of their timothy hay though xD He must think he's a rodent or something....

I am very happy with the progress now. I needn't have worried as much as I had been. Just tonight Nutmeg let me pet him behind the ear, even tilting his head so I could get the right angle. Whatever Nutmeg does Cinnamon follows so I'm sure he'll be curious soon. You're probably right about the wheep, it was dark and I couldn't identify a threat but then again my gerbil often seems to thump at nothing. The only one that seems completely oblivious is the hamster xD

Thank you very much for the advice and reassurance. It is great to know there are a good many degu owners out there who can help me make the best home for my two new pets.
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 12-03-2013, 09:30 PM
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The thing with degus is that they can't simply be picked up and handled like other rodents. You're best off letting them come to you and just ignoring them at first. Keep your hands hidden if needed to prevent the nipping.

I usually just left the cage open and let them come out on their own. If the cage is in a room they can't be let out in and is too big to move, transfer them in a tube or container like you've been doing. Then move them to somewhere like the bathtub where you can sit with them and let them run around. Continue offering them treats but keep actual handling to a minimum. They need to get used to you first.

It's really important to have patience with degus. They're honestly wild animals, they haven't been domesticated like, say, a guinea pig or rat. Now, once they get used to you, they can bond very closely, it just takes a while (and I think a lot of people simply give up too early). Mine got to the point to loving belly rubs, riding on my shoulder, and falling asleep in my pocket. Two of mine got friendly enough that they learned basic commands and were allowed mostly free-range of my room...they simply went back to the cage when asked! They're very cool critters, just not born tame. They're also extremely intelligent so they'll remember any mishandling...unfortunately, this also means that they'll learn quickly if biting gets the scary hand to go away.


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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 12-03-2013, 11:08 PM Thread Starter
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Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: Canada
Posts: 17

Thank you all for the suggestions.

Lately things have been going very well. Both Cinnamon and Nutmeg are responding to me, coming to see me through the bars when I come home and walk by, taking treats and pets readily. Cinnamon is a little more shy and doesn't like to be pet so much but Nutmeg loves his belly and behind his ears scratched. I take them out once in awhile and they spend a lot of the time running up to me.

I am slowly finding out their preferences in food. Nutmeg seems more drawn to nuts and seeds whereas Cinnamon enjoys fresh veggies a lot more. They still eat their hay and pellets with sometimes a ravenous appetite.

I think the funniest thing is when Nutmeg plays through the bars. He will come up to be pet and does a bit of finger boxing, then back to more pets. I really adore the both of them and hope to keep bonding with them so they enjoy their time with me to the fullest.
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biting, degu, handling, questions, training

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