Your Degus cage needs a lot of attention to be perfect, and needs to be set up before you buy/ adopt your Degus, as any kind of cardboard or plastic carry case you take them home in will not hold them for long. Below is what you need, along with some suggestions of where you can get them. Your Degus cage is your Degus home, it needs to contain all the vital necessities to keep them happy and healthy, as well as being clean.
As you can see by my cage on the left, there is a lot going on to keep my Degus not only entertained but also fit and healthy. This is an optimum set up for Degus, containing a nest box, food and treats bowls, hay cages, plenty of shelves and platforms, an exercise wheel, hanging and fixed toys, branches and hideaways.
When building your pets new home for next 6-8 years, you need to consider what budget you have, where you are going to keep it, how easy it is going to be for you to maintain compared with how much time you have to maintain it with, and how much stimulus its going to provide your pet when you are not available to play with it. For example, if you are keeping your pet in a bedroom or close to a bed, will you need an exercise wheel which is easily detachable to let you sleep, or will you have one that requires screws to keep it permanently in place? Simple questions that are easily overlooked in favour for the cheapest, easiest to obtain cage furniture.
Getting the right Cage for your Degu
Depending on the amount of Degus you intend to keep, we recommend a cage with a base of at least 25" x 15", with at least 2 levels to provide plenty of room for the Degus to explore. The base of the cage needs to be solid metal to prevent bumble foot, with the sides being wire, with the wire leaving no more than a 2cmx2cm gap to prevent chances of escape for young Degus. Cages cannot be plastic or wood as Degus teeth can break through in less than one night and you will never see your pets again. A glass aquarium style cage is only suitable as a base as there need to be plenty of air circulation and room to climb and explore. The base of the cage should be covered in wood shavings to provide comfort and absorbance. The cage should be placed in a calm area, away from temperature fluctuations like extreme heat and cold, as this will make your Degus ill.
Maintaining your Degu Cage
Your cage, base, and any metal, glass, wooden, plastic and ceramic surface should be cleaned and disinfected with a pet-safe cleaner, at least once a week. Any broken or badly worn items which make them unsafe should be removed immediately and suitable replacements found. Areas where your Degu excrements and urinates should be spot cleaned regularly to prevent smells and bacteria.
Any pet safe cleaner would be suitable. It has been reported that some Degus can become allergic to these disinfectants, which if they do, stop using them. The owners of this site has not come across this problem, and as there are many things that can become allergens do not get scare mongered into being 'over the top' safe until you see some sort of allergic reaction.
Shelves and Branches in your Cage
If your cage consists mainly of meshed floors, it is essential to place shelves inside your cage to provide somewhere for your Degus to stand when there feet are sore. These can be basic pieces of wood (prepared properly and sanded from the safe wood list, preferably untreated pine around 2cm thick) screwed to the side of the cage or rested on.
Alternatively you can use branches for your pets, as these will cause more naturalistic and give more exploration for your Degus as well as something for your pets to nibble on. These must be brought from a reputable pet shop to ensure they are Degu safe or picked from our safe wood page. You could use branches from trees as long as they conform to the details on the safe wood page, including the wood type, being completely natural i.e. contain no pesticides and completely cleaned and baked to kill any wildlife/ lavae.
This sand-blasted branch from Zooplus is perfect, comes in 2 sizes, and is never the same shape so keeps your pet amused. I currently have a 'F' shaped branch and its perfect for my pet to climb from one level to the next. More details here
|ZooPlus also sell these 3 other very cheap yet very suitable perches, the Y-shaped perch, a perch with ropes dangling off, and thin wooden perches that are dependent on the size of your cage. 2 of these feature in my cage a few times and are perfect for steps and places to relax for your pets. Click on each one to find out more details.|
Your Degus Bedroom - the Nest Box
Degus need a nest box to sleep in, providing warmth, shelter and shade. a wooden nest box is recommended, ensure it is not varnished in any thing that could be harmful towards your pet. For bedding, small animal bedding from your local stores are fine, including wood shavings and hay. The size of the box will depend on how many Degu you intend to keep, although you must remember they grow to around 15cm long plus tail, so imagine the size you would need to accommodate. Typically, A nest box designed for a chinchilla will the most suitable in most pet stores. If your nest does not have a base like the one in the picture, place a shelf underneath so your pet is not sleeping on wire. I placed a cold tile underneath mine so my pets stayed cool during the summer months.
|These 3 huts are examples of hiding places for your Degus, all cheap and from ZooPlus. As a bonus, they are all made of natural wood so you do not need to worry about our pet chewing on them. Click on each image for a detailed description|
Your pet will need suitable bedding in there nest box in order to stay warm and cosy during the night. Our Degus favourite, and recommendation is the white shredded paper type bedding (not actual shredded newspaper though, see the image), as others such as the vegetable fibre /cotton wool type bedding can be suffocating and harmful if swallowed, and the sawdust/wood shavings can cause allergies as it contains dust. The paper type can be bought in most pet stores, supermarkets and high street stores such as Wilkinsons, as well as online.
As an example, here is some from Pet Supermarket
Looking after your Degus Health
Degu's are as susceptible to health problems and diseases as you and I, here we go through the prevention of these problems, far better than trying to cure them.
Degus love dust baths, which are metal or ceramic tubs filled with with a 4cm layer of specialised dust bath dust (also known as chinchilla dust, chinchilla sand and chinchilla clay, but never use normal sand or dust as this would be extremely harmful to your pet) left inside the cage for 30 minutes a day. Any longer and your Degu could bathe too much which can cause the fur to become too dry and brittle.
Instead of the metal baths that are sold by most pet shops, I use a ceramic salt holder which has a flat base, is around 15 cm tall, round and completely contained apart from a large circular opening at the front, allowing my Degus easy access in and out.
The bath on the left is a rectangular version of mine, but would need to be supervised when in use as it is made of plastic and would be easily destroyed. An alternative would be a metal one here from Zoo Plus but it is rather large as its designed for chinchillas
The JR Farm Chinchilla Sand from ZooPlus on the right is great for your pet
Degus teeth are forever growing. If grown too long, they can hurt the Degus gums, mouth, and cut into skin. This is why Degus need wooden gnawing blocks to bite on, which will help erode away teeth, keeping them at the ideal length, and provide entertainment. Degus like to bite anything and everything in there cage, regardless of what material it is (metal, wood, plastic and cardboard). This is perfectly natural behavior and is nothing to worry about, apart from the costs of replacing the items!
If you notice excessive bleeding from your Degus teeth, we recommend you take the Degu to the vet immediately, and remove the offending gnawing item (identified by the blood covered bite marks) from the cage to prevent the same thing happening to your other Degus in the meantime.
These Willow play sticks from Pet Supermarket are great for Degus to nibble on.