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WHAT HAS BEEN GOING ON IN THE DEGU FAMILY?

Sadly, towards the end of 2005 we lost Marmalade as the result of a severe injury. He was already blind in one eye and was suprised by another of the group. He turned too quickly in defence, startled the other degu and a fight broke out. Sadly Marmalade suffered an injury to his good eye, and it was decided to have him put down to avoid any unnecessary suffering.

Gromit very much missed his companion of over 4 years. He pined for some time, much to the distress of the two male babies - Dillan and Dougal. We fussed over Gromit as much as we could, kept him fed, comfortable and quiet. For a time it seemed he was perking up, but sadly he died at the very start of 2006. Please do not take this story as anything more than an old degu who missed his friend. Gromit was already an elderly degu when Marmalade died, and was content until he passed away. It is no reason to suggest that you cannot keep a single degu, but it is perhaps a reason to support that groups of degus fair far better than individuals.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?

With both Gromit and Marmalade gone, Dillan and Dougal suffered a major upheaval. They had gone from being the young members of the group, protected by the adults, to being alone in the big scary world! We knew more degus needed to be introduced to the group, but could only find 4 3 month old males. This age was always going to be difficult to introduce, but from much experience over the years it was felt possible. So Dillan and Dougal moved into a huge delux Degu condo, and the 4 babies moved into their old cage, which was set up beside the condo. The methods of introduction were followed closely, frequent swapping of bedding, and meeting on neutral territory. Throughout it was clear that one degu baby was happily accepted right from the start, and two were definately going to be a problem. However, these two were also not getting on with each other now! So it was decided that the accepted baby and less "stroppy" of the other two would be moved into a divided section of the larger cage. The other two babies were moved further away, to allow time for the first two to be introduced.

WARNING

I warn all potential owners now, if you are not prepared to spend the time and energy needed to introduce new degus to an existing group, give up now. Its not easy, it is heartbreaking when they fight, and could be expensive if a vet visit is required. Anyway, long story short, Dillan was now boss, liked one baby, didnt like the other. finally, after nearly a month of the cage being divided the quiet baby was moved into the main cage. The remaining baby was distraught to lose his brother to "the enemy" but his spirit was broken, he had to accept Dillan as boss if he wanted to be part of the group.

Once the group of 4 was finally established, we tried to introduce the final two, however at this point we discovered why this was never going to happen. The dominant of the two babies would simply launch himself at the divide chattering and screaching to reach the others. He was very aggressive, and so it was decided it would be easier to re-home the two remaining babies who liked each other, but no other degus!

WHATS IT LIKE NOW?

So how does it all stand now? It has been a year since those introductions, but sadly we lost Harry a couple of months ago. We noticed Harry had stopped eating and so took him straight to the vet, who discovered his teeth were badly aligned at the back of his mouth causing major ulcers. It was felt kinder to let Harry go at this point rather than cause him further distress.

So now we have Dillan, Dougal and Houdini:

  • Dillan and Dougal seem to share the dominance, which often means small bickering sessions, but nothing serious, and they clearly have a strong bond so we would never split them up. Houdini greatly missed his brother for a while, but has found comfort from Dillan and Dougal, who although they boss him around, also cuddle up to him lots, and have even responded to his habit of throwing himself on his back in front of them so they will groom his tummy!