Degus (pronounced day-goos) are small rodents from Chile which were originally transported to countries in Europe and North America for diabetes research. This is because Degus have an inability to digest sugar properly, making them particularly susceptible to the condition that is suffered by many humans.

They are still not very well-known animals on our shores, yet they make incredibly lovable pets as they are much more intelligent than the more familiar hamsters and guinea pigs. With training they can be taught to do tricks such as sitting still on your shoulder or climbing up your body when you call them. They have even been known to respond to their names (although I have as yet to achieve this) and often recognise their owners' voices.

It is difficult to describe what a Degu looks like without having to refer to another animal. To most people, Degus look like gigantic gerbils, their faces have the appearance of a squirrel or rabbit but they don't have pouches in their cheeks to store food. In a way, a Degu is probably closer in relation to a chinchilla only with less fur and greyish brown in colouring. They are rounder and chubbier than gerbils and can grow up to 6" long, with another 6" in tail which has a tuft of fur at the tip. Their tails are quite sensitive and the cute furry part can get easily damaged and fall off; similarly to a lizard's when being attacked only it doesn't ever grow back! Their teeth are bright orange in colour, which is a sign of good health. This is due to the chlorophyll in the greens that they eat reacting with an enzyme in their bodies that produces an orange fluid in their saliva.

Degus have many different moods, which are sometimes intensely hyper and very tranquil at others. They appear to never be asleep and always on the go due to their short, regular sleep cycles. They make a variety of noises to reflect their moods, such as a high pitched warbling when they are being happy at their fellow degu or human. They also make a chattering sound when they are distressed or unhappy, although degus also make this sound as a call to other degus if they have gone away for too long. The third sound they make is a loud squeak when they are frightened or angered. My Degu does this when I suddenly appear in the room and startle the hell out of him. Degus are very social with both people and each other, and can even live with other animals like rabbits and chinchillas as they share a similar diet. In the wild, female degus are known to look after each other's young and if there are more than one litter they are usually all raised together. When degus see each other they will almost always react in some way as a sort of greeting. A lone degu kept as a pet would get very sad and depressed, especially as they can live up to the age of 9 in captivity, the human equivilent of 120!!


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