Chinchilla and Degu Essentials For First Time Owners

What to buy for Chinchillas and Degus

Chinchillas and degus are fast becoming popular choices for pets, and it’s easy to see why. Fluffy and cute, chinchillas are sociable and fascinating, whilst degus are active and love running around. If you’re buying your first chinchilla or degu, our helpful guide can let you know which products you’ll need for your new furry friend.

Sleeping

Chinchillas are usually sociable animals, so if you’re buying two or more together they can often share a bed. However, it’s best to also buy separate beds too, so they can also enjoy time alone. Chinchilla bedding should incorporate deep material, like shredded paper, to cover the floor. They are usually very clean animals, but you should check their bedding regularly and change them once a week. 

Degus like to burrow, so you’ll need plenty of semi-loose bedding to help them feel nice and cosy.

Wood shavings aren’t suitable as they may harbour parasites and fungal spores; they are also very dusty and so can give rise to breathing problems in both you and your pets. Soft shredded tissue paper, soft hay and chopped up pieces of card are suitable.

Eating

For chinchillas, good quality green hay is ideal for them to snack on 24/7, with occasional snacks of fresh fruit and vegetable, and a moderate amount of chinchilla pellets. High fat or high sugar treats like sunflower seeds or dried fruit can lead to obesity and bad teeth, so be careful to moderate these snacks.

When feeding degus, it’s a good idea to avoid fresh fruit, which can contain high levels of natural sugar. However, degus can eat green vegetables, peas, beans, dandelion and broccoli, but not cabbage which causes bloating. Make sure to wash your greens before feeding them to your degu.

Living

Chinchillas are lonely if not in a pair or group, so you should keep your chinchillas together in a large cage with shelves at multiple levels, with a minimum floor space of 1 m x 1.5 m and a minimum height of 1.3 m. As well as their beds, chinchillas need a heavy ceramic food bowl, a sipper water bottle, branches to chew on, toys, a slab of cool marble for temperature regulation and a dust bath.

Degus love to climb and will welcome the addition of some branches. Like chinchillas, degus are sociable so having more than one is definitely recommended. They also enjoy digging in soft soil so you should choose a cage that can contain this, or mimic this with lots of soft bedding. The minimum size we recommend for 2 – 4 degus is 1.3 m. high by 1 m long by 0.7 m wide (4 ft high by 3 ft long by 2 ft wide).

Travelling

Usually, you’ll only need a pet carrier when taking your furry friend to the vets, or if you’re moving house. However, you can also use a carrier to place your pet inside whilst you clean their cage, to prevent them from getting in the way. When choosing a carrier you should make sure that there is plenty of room for them to run around, with good ventilation. Place some of their bedding from their cage inside too, which will help to comfort them.

Cleaning

Chinchillas have the softest fur on earth, which is why you shouldn’t ever use water to bathe them. Instead, chinchillas prefer dust baths due to their being from dry and cool environments. A large and deep tray should be filled to a depth of about 10 cm with special, fine grade chinchilla sand, and placed in their cage once a day for around 20 minutes. This allows the chinchillas some grooming time, but leave the bath in longer and it will become soiled and they’ll refuse to use it. Once a week, tip out the old sand, clean the tray, and refresh with new sand, in order to keep the chinchilla's bathroom facilities hygienically clean.

Degus also prefer cooler temperatures, like chinchillas, but they are able to clean themselves. Make sure that their teeth are always yellow and not white, which could be an indication of vitamin A deficiency. Their fur should always look glossy, whilst wetness around their mouth could mean overgrown teeth. Give your degus something hard and durable to chew to prevent this from happening.

Playing

As chinchillas and degus are very sociable creatures, they love playing together and keeping active. Degus and chinchillas enjoy branches, both for climbing on and chewing, whilst an exercise wheel may be a good idea to keep them healthy and entertained. Snuggle tunnels are a great way for chinchillas and degus to play and hide as well as keep cosy and warm. Hard toys are ideal for preventing their teeth from overgrowing, but just make sure that there are no swallow hazards.


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