The Chilean squirrel (Octodon degus), also called Common Degu or brush-tailed rat, is a ground-dwelling, burrowing foragers of Chile. It looks like an overgrown gerbil. In many areas the species is considered an agricultural pest. They live in groups of 10 animals. Once established, a colony of degus is capable of causing a great deal of damage. In fields, they dig out seeds and young shoots and they will chew on anything, stripping bark from young shrubs and small trees. They are also good climbers. Because of all this, their importation in the United States is restricted, so it is uncommon to find degus at pet stores, but they can be found at pet stores all over Europe.
Two playful chilean squirrels having fun with the run-around wheel
As pets, degus are very social which makes them appealing pets. One disadvantage of the degu as a pet is their predisposition to chewing, due to their continually growing incisor and molar teeth. For this reason degus cannot be housed in plastic-bottomed cages typically found in pet stores. Degus often "groom" their human owners, by a gentle nibbling action, and readily bond with any person spending time with them.
Like chinchillas, pet degus must be given dust baths twice a week. Although degus do not drink much water, pet degu owners must change their water bottles regularly to prevent bacteria overgrowth. Ectoparasites are infrequent in degus, while dental diseases are the most common problems. With proper care, degus can live up to 8 years.
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- Companion Animals, Their Biology, Care, Health, and Management. CTI Reviews