Variety: Octodon degus

The octodon is a small rodent that is morphologically similar to the Gerbil. It has the head of a squirrel or even a Chinchilla. This rodent which can live up to 8 years in captivity against 4 in the wild. A gregarious animal, it lives in a community and is very sociable. It is thus necessary to think of adopting more than one so that it does not get bored and does not waste away. In addition, the octodon offers the opportunity to vary the combinations (a castrated male with females, 2 young males together, females together). Moreover, the degus is fearful, curious. The creation of emotional bonds with humans is possible. He also tames quite easily. The octodon loves caresses and climbing on the hands of its owner.

Way of life :

Feed :Herbivore

Behaviour :Sociable

Weight and height :From 170 g to 300 g

Size: From 20 cm to 35 cm


The Degus degus is native to central Chile , where it evolved in an arid climate, alternating between very hot during the summer and very cold during the winter. It can live up to 1,800 meters above the ground, although it is usually found around 1,200 meters. Traces of it can be found around 2000 BC to 1285 AD. It is also called Chilean degu . It belongs to the Octodontidae family which also includes octodon bridgesi, octodon lunatus and octodon pacificus.

It is a monotypic species, that is, it can only include one subspecies. Before its domestication, the Octodon was used as a laboratory animal, in Chile, but also in the USA, Great Britain and Germany. For more than twenty years, the Octodon Degus has been available in pet stores. It is thus considered as a NAC.

Physical peculiarities

The degus looks strangely like a giant gerbil, with a squirrel’s head. It is to know that the females are more imposing, taller and bigger, than the males. The Degus degus is tricolor in the wild. It has a coffee-colored dorsal part, a brown dress with a little black. Nevertheless, variations are possible, due to their passage through laboratories. Thus, we will find some degus with a less brown or black coat, with spots of beige or yellow on the ventral part. There are derivatives such as octodon bleu, Champagne agouti, Noir, Sable. The total weight of a Octodon can reach 300 grams in the female. At adult size, the Octodon is around thirty centimeters, tail included.

Its body  : we can clearly see the head which is distinct from the trunk and the tail. The degus looks like a giant gerbil or a squirrel as well.   

His hair  : he has a thick and quite soft fur, which is similar to that of the Chinchilla.

Its color  : agouti, between orange and grey. The Gerbil Meriones unguiculatus has a gray, yellow and darker tricolor coat. Other derivatives exist as a unicolor coat or gloved coat.

Its head  : a triangular head, a bit like a squirrel.

His eyes  : they are large and quite dark. 

His ears  : medium size, rounded and short-haired.

Its tail  : 10 to 15 centimeters.

Behavior and character

The degus is a diurnal animal, which lives mainly at the end of the day and in the evening . He must not be disturbed during his sleeping and resting phases, otherwise he will literally be in a bad mood. It is a very intelligent animal , endowed with a very good memory . He thus easily recognizes his owner once adopted, but he will find it difficult to trust strangers at first sight.

Lively , curious , he quickly removes his fear to let himself be cuddled and caressed . It is very sociable with humans , with its congeners also since it is a gregarious rodent. Thus, it is wise to count several degus. In addition, he gets along very well with rodents such as Gerbils or rabbits. He doesn’t particularly have a particular problem with the cat and the dog. But, since he does not perceive them as predators (which they are), they should not be brought into contact with each other.


Sexual maturity varies between male and female. The male can have it at 3 months as at 9, while the sexual maturity of the female occurs around the third month , if not before. Males do not mate until they are 5 to 8 months old . There is no breeding season, unlike in the wild. Degus can mate all year round . Gestation lasts an average of 90 days.

At the end, she will give a litter of an average of 6 degus . Thereafter, the mother will give milk to her newborns for 3 to 4 weeks. Thereafter, it is advisable to separate the males from the females around the third month to avoid any consanguineous gestation thereafter. Note that degus babies are not born naked, like some rodents. Indeed, they are already born with a small coat.

Living conditions

The degus is a rodent that likes room to move, run, and climb. He must therefore have an acceptable and spacious living environment. This living environment must also be designed to accommodate at least 2 degus . As a reminder, this is not an animal that likes to live alone. The length of a cage for 2 degus must be  1.20 meters minimum . It must be one meter wide and approximately the same height. The recommended area per individual is 800 cm². To avoid the height being too great, it is advisable to install floors . Thus, the degus will have fun climbing them without risk of falling.

The preferred material is the cage with metal bars, with bars spaced at a maximum of 2 cm to avoid any leakage. Plastic cages, Plexiglas or terrariums are to be forgotten, because they do not ventilate enough. This is harmful to the airways of the degus. In addition, he will have to benefit from several essential accessories such as a food bowl , a bottle , a rack which allows him to have continuous hay, a preferably very absorbent litter , a sandpitwhere the bathing ground will be disposed of. In this one, the octodon will cleanse itself daily to remove its excess sebum and thus fight parasites. The cage will have to have a hiding place with a small house where he will come to take refuge. Poplar, birch or willow branches can complete the whole. In parallel, it is possible to have a hammock for the octodon to bask in, but also a solid wheel for it to play.


The octodon has a body temperature of around 37 to 38°C. When diseases develop, it can of course vary. A healthy, balanced diet and a fulfilling lifestyle greatly reduce the risk of developing any pathology. However, they exist and must be anticipated. Thus, the main ailment of the degus is diabetes . It is often the consequence of the absorption of sweet fruits, considered as delicacies. Like many rodents, the degus can also suffer from dental malocclusion . This results in a weight loss of the rodent, which can no longer feed properly.

The octodon can also be taken from diarrhea in the case of a bad diet, a bacterial, viral or parasitic infection. Diarrhea is potentially fatal since it causes severe dehydration. Coryza is also a pathology possibly developed by this rodent, just like pneumonia , which unfortunately gives a very poor prognosis. The degus can also suffer from pododermatitis , following a bad litter that damages its pads. Finally, depression can also be a disease in degus. Often the one who finds himself raised alone, without a congener by his side.

Life expectancy

Minimum :6 YEAR

Maximum :8 YEAR


The degus is a strict herbivore . Like the Chinchilla, its diet should be rich in fiber, cellulose and vegetable protein. It should contain very little fat . Thus, its needs amount to 18% protein, less than 5% lipids and at least 15% fiber . Fibers found mainly in hay (from Crau) to be given continuously to the degus using its hay rack. The fibers will act favorably for its intestinal transit. Hay also has virtues concerning the teeth of the degus.

The slightest fiber deficiency can lead to fatal diarrhea. It is also advisable to distil some fresh fruit in its diet , sparingly, because they are a source of vitamin C. Thus, in addition to its hay, the degus must ingest about thirty grams of pellets per day . At the same time, plants such as nettles, dandelions, lettuce, bindweed can be given to him, as can certain plants (parsley, chervil, rosemary, mint, thyme, lime blossom) and fresh fruits and vegetables (zucchini, broccoli , carrot, radish, strawberry, fig, berry, cherry). The degus also appreciates branches of birch, apple, acacia and chestnut.

Maintenance and hygiene

The maintenance of the degus should focus primarily on its coat . It should be shiny and silky. The octodon washes daily with its bathing soil, which must also be changed every day. It thus removes its excess sebum which could retain parasites. In addition, he must face a moult twice a year . By brushing it regularly during this moult, the period can be shortened. It is the owner’s duty to inspect the coat of the degus regularly, in order to avoid any skin pathology.