Many people just feed their pets whatever food scraps they have left over.
Especially with smaller pets like degus or other rodents.
Those same people tend to have to replace their pets a lot.
And yes, those two things are connected.
If you want your pet degu to live a long, happy and healthy life, you need to feed it the right food.
What do degus eat in the wild and do you have to feed them the same in captivity?
No, you do not. In fact, you should not. Keep reading to learn what degus eat in the wild and what the best degu food is in captivity. And no, those two are definitely not the same.
- 1 What Do Degus Eat?
- 1.1 Best Degu Food
- 1.2 Foods To Avoid
- 1.3 What Else Degus Need In Their Cage
- 1.4 What Is Toxic To Degus?
- 1.5 How Often Should You Feed Degus?
- 2 What Can Degus Eat: Final Thoughts
What Do Degus Eat?
Degus are herbivores. In the wild, they eat flowers, fruits, shrubs, foliage, and seeds. In captivity, you should feed your pet degu a high-quality commercial pelleted diet that is specially formulated for degus.
In addition to the pellets, you should also provide your degu with an unlimited supply of high-quality grass hay, and a small amount of fresh produce. Always provide your pet with fresh drinking water.
In other words, the pet degu diet is very similar to te pet chinchilla diet. Let’s take a closer look at what you should feed your pet degu to keep it happy and healthy.
Best Degu Food
According to the RSPCA, degus need a herbivorous diet made up of the following foods.
Your degu always needs unlimited access to fresh hay. The best type of hay for degus is Timothy hay or Meadow Hay. This article listing the best hay for chinchillas is applicable to degus as well.
Avoid green hay. It can cause bloating in degus. Also, promptly throw away pink or moldy white hay, because it can make your pet extremely sick.
Pellets / Nuggets / Commercial Food
In addition to hay, your degu also needs high-quality commercial food that is specially formulated for degus or similar rodents, like chinchillas.
This is typically available in the form of nuggets or pellets. Each brand of food will suggest the appropriate feeding quantity based on your degu’s age and size.
In general, an adult degu should eat about 10 grams of pellets per day. This article on the best pellets for chinchillas is also applicable to degus.
It is also a good idea to provide small amounts of well-washed and fresh leafy vegetables to your degu daily. Try to vary the produce you feed, since overfeeding certain leafy vegetables could lead to bloat in degus.
Besides, you also want to provide your pet with different tastes to prevent boredom, while also ensuring a variety of nutrients. Some good options are carrot tops (but not the actual carrot), celery, lettuce, or spinach.
In their natural habitat, which is a dry, arid climate, degus do not drink much water. They generally lick the dew or moisture on surfaces.
However, you should still provide a constant supply of plenty of fresh water to your degu, preferably using a water bottle like this one. On average, two degus in one cage will consume at least 30 to 50 ml of water every day.
Foods To Avoid
If you stick to the foods listed above, you will be fine. But we understand that you might sometimes want to feed your pet something else. In that case, you should always consult with your vet first. There are some foods that are completely off limits, Make sure not to feed your degu any of the following.
Other than the occasional apple piece (without seeds), do not feed any fruit to degus. Degus are susceptible to diabetes and most fruits are high in sugar.
Avoid feeding too many parsnips, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, peas, carrots, and beetroots to your degu, because they are high in sugar. These veggies are okay to feed in moderation: no more than one or two small pieces once a week. Similarly, feed cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts only in moderation, because these could cause bloating in degus.
Other Pet Foods
Strictly avoid feeding pelleted food that is formulated for rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, or gerbils. Stick to food made for chinchillas or degus specifically.
Many gerbil and hamster foods have a high protein content which can be harmful to your degu. Some rabbit foods also contain ingredients such as molasses and sugars that can cause sugar spikes in their blood sugar.
Also, some brands of commercial rabbit food is known to contain ingredients like coccidiostat that are toxic to degus. (We will provide a list of items toxic to degus further below in this guide).
Furthermore, these pet foods are not formulated for degus and will not provide your pet with the optimum nutrition it needs.
Foods With Honey Or Molasses
These sugary foods can cause diabetes in degus. Strictly avoid feeding them to your furry friend.
Nuts And Seeds
Many nuts like almonds and cashews are high in proteins and fats. While they won’t harm your pet in small amounts, you should never feed them in excess.
What Else Degus Need In Their Cage
Food and water are obviously the most important things degus need in their cage, but they are not the only things they need. Here is a brief list of everything you should be providing for your pet degu.
Degus chew everything, so it is important to avoid plastic cages. Galvanized mesh or stainless-steel cages with multiple levels work best for this species. See our article on the best chinchilla cages for a few great cages for degus.
The floor of the cage should also be solid and lined with plenty of non-toxic shredded paper, hay, or wood shavings. This will encourage healthy digging activity in degus and allows them to create burrows and tunnels like they do in the wild.
Your pet also needs plenty of room to move about and explore. If you are keeping two degus, ensure that the enclosure is at least 50 gallons – the larger the better.
The PDSA (a UK-based pet charity organization) recommends a floor space of at least 100 cm long by 50 cm deep (that’s 40 x 20 inches) for degus, with additional levels for climbing.
Please ensure that the cage is secure. Degus are little escape artists! It should also have a roof, since degus are prey animals and need overhead safety to feel comfortable.
Degus are social animals. Therefore, it is extremely important that you do not keep a degu on its own. Always house degus in small groups (or at least in pairs).
If you have no choice but to keep a single degu, then you must provide it with a lot of attention to substitute for its degu companions. Without companionship, degus can get very depressed.
Keep your degu’s cage indoors in a climate-controlled environment. The optimal temperature range for these animals is between 60° and 68° F (16° and 20° C). You can place a thermometer in the cage to measure the temperature.
Never let the temperature exceed 70° F, because degus tend to get distressed and might even suffer from heat strokes. For the same reason, keep the cage away from heaters and radiators and avoid placing it in direct sunlight.
Degus sleep during the night and are active during the day. They need natural light to maintain their natural circadian rhythm.
As mentioned earlier, keep the cage out of direct sunlight to prevent your pets from getting too warm. At the same time, it should not be too dark that they cannot differentiate between night and day.
Toys And Chews
Degus are intelligent critters that need constant mental stimulation. You can provide this through toys, hideouts, chews, and tunnels in their cage.
To entertain your degu, you can add sisal and/or rope toys, hammocks, balls, etc. Look for sturdy toys made of non-toxic, food-grade materials specially made for small pets like degus. This article on the best chinchilla toys will help.
Boxes, perches, and ledges can also provide exercise to your degus They like hiding and climbing. Remember to add new toys into the cage from time to time and discard worn-out ones that could pose a risk of injury to your delicate pet.
Nesting And Hiding Areas
Degus need nesting boxes to wind down at nighttime. Add some hay or shredded paper inside for them to dig and snuggle in.
Degus also need some alone time (especially when they feel afraid or overwhelmed). Hiding areas like tunnels and boxes can help your degus get some much-needed downtime and a safe spot to hide in their enclosures during the day.
You do not want your degus to become overweight. In the wild, they run a lot and expend their energy foraging for food. In captivity, an exercise wheel can provide your degu with much-needed physical stimulation.
Place a large shallow bowl containing some chinchilla/degu sand bath made of Sepiolite in your pet’s cage. Allow your pet to play and roll around in the sand bath for 10 to 15 minutes, at least 2 times a week. This is important for their cleanliness and hygiene as well as for their mental well-being.
What Is Toxic To Degus?
When outfitting your pet’s cage, you want to make sure to avoid any harmful material. The same goes when feeding your pet. Here is a list of items that could be toxic to degus.
- Certain woods: birch, cedar, oak, plywood, mahogany, maple, and cherry are toxic to degus
- Coccidiostats: these enzymes are added to poultry feed and rabbit food to prevent and treat coccidiosis, a disease that affects poultry animals in warm and humid conditions; these enzymes are toxic to degus
- Chocolate: chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, both of which are highly toxic to degus
How Often Should You Feed Degus?
- Hay: always provide an unlimited supply of fresh Timothy or meadow hay to your degu
- Pellets: you can provide chinchilla/degu pellets once or twice a day as recommended by the pellet manufacturer or your vet. Most adult degus eat 10 grams of pellets once a day (although you can divide this into 5 grams of pellets twice a day).
- Fresh fibrous leafy green vegetables: provide these daily, but in small quantities.
- Occasional treats like small pieces of fruit: feed these no more than once a month.
What Can Degus Eat: Final Thoughts
What degus eat in the wild and what they eat in captivity should not be the same. That is true for most pets. In the wild, they eat whatever they can get. That includes many foods that are not great for them.
In captivity, we are able to give our pets the perfect food for them. Pet food is generally formulated with the ideal percentages of various nutrients to ensure our pets stay as healthy as possible.
For degus, you can feed them chinchilla pellets, since the two animals have identical nutritional needs. In addition to the pellets, they should also get all the hay they want, with the occasional treat of fresh leafy green vegetables.