Essential Tips for Handling Degus

A beautifully illustrated guidebook page showing a person gently holding a degu with one hand while offering it a small treat with the other, set in a cozy, well-equipped degu habitat filled with toys and a running wheel, under soft, warm lighting.

Essential Tips for Handling Degus

Degus are delightful, curious, and social rodents that have captured the hearts of many pet owners around the world. Originating from Chile, these small creatures require specific care and attention to ensure their health and happiness. Handling degus can be a rewarding experience, fostering a bond between pet and owner while providing the necessary social interaction degus crave. However, it’s not as straightforward as one might think. Proper handling improves your relationship with your degu, reduces stress for both of you, and minimizes the risk of injury. This article explores essential tips for handling degus, ensuring both you and your small friend enjoy each other’s company safely and happily.

Understanding Degu Behavior

Before you attempt to handle a degu, it’s crucial to understand their behavior and body language. Degus are highly social animals that live in groups in the wild, so they thrive on interaction, both with other degus and their human companions. However, they can be skittish by nature and may take time to trust humans. Pay attention to sounds they make, such as chirping and squeaking, as well as body postures, which can indicate their mood and comfort level. A calm, curious degu will be more receptive to handling than one that is frightened or stressed.

Creating a Trusting Relationship

Building trust with your degu is a step-by-step process that requires patience and consistency. Start by spending time near their enclosure, talking softly to acquaint them with your presence and voice. Offer treats from your hand to encourage positive associations with you. Once they seem comfortable taking treats, gently pet them while they eat. These initial steps lay the foundation of trust that’s essential for safe and enjoyable handling.

Safe Handling Techniques

When your degu is ready to be handled, ensure your approach is gentle and reassuring. Wash your hands to remove any scents that might be startling or unpleasant to them. Move slowly to avoid scaring them, and talk softly to keep them calm. When picking up a degu, support their entire body, placing one hand under their chest and the other under their hindquarters. Never pick a degu up by the tail, as this can cause serious injury. Once in your hands, hold them close to your body to provide security and prevent falls.

Ensuring the Safety of Your Degu

The safety of your degu should always be a top priority when handling them. Make sure the environment around you is safe for interaction. Close doors and windows, and ensure other pets are kept at a distance to prevent stress or accidents. It’s also important to supervise children closely when they interact with degus, teaching them how to handle these animals gently and respectfully.

Health Considerations

Regular handling can also help you keep an eye on your degu’s health. While holding your degu, examine them for any signs of illness or injury, such as bald patches, lumps, or changes in behavior. Early detection of health issues is crucial for their wellbeing. Additionally, ensure your hands are clean both before and after handling to prevent the transmission of any potential zoonotic diseases.

Setting Up a Handling Routine

Establishing a regular handling routine helps degus become more accustomed and comfortable with human interaction. Aim for short but frequent handling sessions, gradually increasing the duration as your degu becomes more comfortable. Always be mindful of their mood and readiness; forcing interaction when your degu is stressed or scared can set back your progress.

With patience, understanding, and the right approach, handling your degu can become one of the most rewarding aspects of pet ownership. Not only does it strengthen your bond, but it also plays a crucial role in their physical and emotional wellbeing. These essential tips will help ensure that handling your degu is a positive experience for both of you.


How do I know if my degu is comfortable with being handled?

A degu that is comfortable with being handled will appear relaxed and curious. It may approach you willingly, take treats from your hand, and allow you to pet it without trying to escape. Signs of discomfort include attempting to flee, freezing up, or vocalizations like squeaking in distress. It’s important to pay attention to these cues and proceed with handling only when your degu seems relaxed and receptive.

What should I do if my degu bites me while being handled?

If your degu bites you, remain calm and do not punish it. Degus may bite out of fear, stress, or confusion, and reacting harshly can damage the trust you’ve built. Gently place the degu back in its enclosure and give it some time to calm down. Reflect on the circumstances leading to the bite to identify any triggers, such as sudden movements or loud noises. Work on building trust again with gentle interaction and treats before attempting to handle your degu.

How long does it take for a degu to get used to being handled?

The time it takes for a degu to get accustomed to being handled varies widely among individuals. Some degus may start enjoying human interaction within a few days, while others may need weeks or even months to feel comfortable. The key is consistency, patience, and using positive reinforcement through treats and gentle speaking. Every positive handling session builds trust and helps your degu become more accustomed to being held.

Can children handle degus?

Children can handle degus, but it’s crucial to supervise these interactions closely. Before allowing a child to handle a degu, teach them how to do so gently and respectfully, emphasizing the importance of supporting the degu’s body and not squeezing too tightly. It’s also important to monitor the degu’s behavior and remove it from the situation if it shows signs of stress or discomfort. Handling should be a positive experience for both the child and the degu, ensuring safety and mutual respect.

My degu seems to hate being handled. What can I do?

If your degu seems to dislike being handled, it’s important to go back to the basics of trust-building. Spend time near their enclosure without attempting to handle them, speaking softly and offering treats to create positive associations. It’s crucial to move at your degu’s pace, allowing them to initiate interaction as they become more comfortable with your presence. Remember, some degus may never enjoy being handled as much as others, but with patience and gentle interaction, most can learn to tolerate and even enjoy it over time.

Are there any health benefits to handling my degu?

Yes, there are several health benefits to regularly handling your degu. It allows you to monitor their physical condition closely, detecting any signs of illness or injury early. Handling also provides mental stimulation and social interaction, which are crucial for your degu’s well-being. Moreover, the trust and bond formed through handling can reduce stress levels in your degu, contributing to a happier, healthier life.

How often should I handle my degu?

The frequency of handling sessions depends on your degu’s personality and comfort level. Initially, aim for short, daily sessions to help your degu become accustomed to being handled. As they grow more comfortable, you can gradually increase the duration. However, it’s essential to read your degu’s cues and give them space if they seem stressed or unwilling. The goal is to make handling a positive and enjoyable experience for both of you.

Can handling my degu too much lead to stress?

Yes, handling your degu excessively or improperly can lead to stress. It’s important to observe your degu’s behavior and body language closely during handling sessions. If your degu shows signs of distress, such as vocalizing, attempting to escape, or becoming aggressive, it’s time to end the session. Providing a safe, comfortable space for your degu to retreat to after handling is crucial for their comfort and well-being. Balance and moderation are key to a healthy, happy degu.

Understanding and respecting your degu’s needs and boundaries are essential aspects of handling and care. With the right approach, patience, and knowledge, handling your degu can strengthen your bond and significantly enhance their quality of life.


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