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Charlie and Marmalade keeping guard

I have kept degus as pets for quite a few years now, and have been able to gather lots of information about behaviour just from watching them!

To begin with, each Degu is different; with very distinctive characters that develop the more you are able to interact with them.  You will learn as you bond with your Degus, what each one likes and dislikes. And by understanding some of their actions you will be able to make them happier!

Degus have often been described as inquisitive. I would change this to just plain nosy! If they can get to something, and it looks even remotely interesting, then they will!  My Degu Marmalade actually used to have a strop when prevented from going somewhere! (This is necessary when you also have a dog in the house!!)

My current Degu brood consists of 4 males, two sets of brothers, two are a year and a half old, the other two are about 7 months old. These have been by far the most challenging group. More can be read about this group on the Degu family update page.


my first Degu, Gizmo was never keen on being taken out of his cage, but when the lid was opened he never ran away as we had developed a fun game! Gizmo would run to the open lid and lift one of his front legs so he could be scratched underneath on his belly! In fact he would go into a state of near ecstasy, lifting his front legs higher so we could scratch more of his belly, chirping quietly.  Very often he would get so carried away he would fall over!

The next stage of this game was when Gizmo decided to return the favour. Rings, or long fingernails were obviously unwanted, and he would do his best to remove them for you! Along with gentle nibbling of your hand in general.  I always let my Degus do this, it doesn't hurt or draw blood, and is their way of showing affection.

Looking back on it, I think that this was a sign of how lonely Gizmo was. He wasn't tame enough to want to come out of his cage, but wanted attention. Since grooming is such an important bonding action between Degus, Gizmo just wanted someone to groom him!


The three degus that I had after Gizmo, (Gromit, Marmalade and Charlie) were not related, and were actually a year apart in age each.  I rescued the first as he had suffered an injury at the garden centre, and lost his tale.  He was quite lonely, although he did get a lot of attention from me, so when he was a year old I found a breeder with another male, so I bought him home.  I divided a 4ft glass aquarium with a mesh wall and put one Degu into each end.  It was amazing to watch a Degu that had previously been alone all his life, running to the divide and chattering to the new addition.  On the very first night they both moved their beds to sleep right next to the divide, as close as possible.

After a week I removed the divide. Although there was some bickering to begin with, this was purely to decide who was boss, and stopped very quickly.


When the older Degu (Gromit) had been alone, he had had very grubby ears.  And as the skin is so thin on the ear, I was worried about cleaning them myself in case of injury.  It is very nice to see the two of them grooming each other now, and I am pleased to say that within a week of being together, Gromit’s ears where clean!

Until he passed away at the start of this year, his ears had stayed clean! However with age he did develop a wart on one ear. It seemed Marmalade just has to be more careful when cleaning that ear, or Gromit doesn't groom him back!



Baby Charlie joined the family on February 21st 2004. He was bought from the same local garden centre that Gromit had come from. Gromit and Marmalade were moved into one half of the introduction tank, and Charlie into the other. We had to move the three degus into their main tank after just three days because due to the confined space that Gromit and Marmalade were in, they were fighting and looking like causing each other serious injury!! So after meeting in the hallway, the main tank was thoroughly cleaned and disinfected so as to smell neutral, and then the three were put in! boy were we on edge!


What do you think you are doing NOW?I took this photo of my fiancé when he was trying to entertain Gromit and Marmalade. I think he was a little worried as to where they were deciding to go next!

Finally, I cannot stress enough that Degus are very intelligent creatures.  As already mentioned, they aren't often afraid of anything! This means they can get bored if not given new things to do.  I encourage my Degus to think for themselves by hiding food in the cage, and when giving them bedding, I use torn tissue paper that I make them retrieve and put in the bed area. (Watch this movie of the Degus fighting over a bit of tissue!)