Chinchillas & Degus

Written by Lucy Marcham, Academy Trainer


A new pet can be a fantastic companion, but sometimes the novelty can wear off (some pets live for a very long time). You may find that regular cleaning, feeding and handling becomes a time consuming chore.

Please try to handle and play with your pet as often as possible, you will find that you will be rewarded with a much happier and friendlier pet.

If you are not 100% sure that you or your children will be able to give your pet the attention that it needs then please think twice.

Chinchillas and degus can make excellent pets. They can be very active with great personalities. If raised and handled properly they’ll be your friends for life. Here are a few tips to get your pets started in their new home.

They are sociable animals and should live with their own species, but they must be introduced before they’re fully grown (8 months for Chinchillas and 4 months for Degus).

Chinchillas are nocturnal which means that they are most active at night, and they have a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years. Degus are diurnal (most active during the day) and can live for 6 to 8 years.


Check their food and water twice a day, making sure you clean any poo and woodchips out of their food bowl.

Clean the cage thoroughly at least once a week with petsafe disinfectant. Make sure you clean everything your pet touches. A cage with two pets may need cleaning twice a week. Use a litter scoop to make this easier.

Allow your pets to settle in for 24 hours before handling them for the first time. Play with your pets as often as possible, when handling them be gentle and stay close to the floor. A member of staff will show you how.

Exercise is essential, let your pets have a supervised run around indoors as often as possible.

Keep them indoors out of direct sunlight, in a room with a steady temperature and no draughts. A bedroom or lounge is ideal.

We recommend: Johnsons Clean N Safe Small Animal.


Do not feed LETTUCE or AVOCADO as these can be harmful. You can give Chinchillas very small amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables, but no more than twice a week. Degus CANNOT have fresh fruit or treats with honey, sugar or dried fruit in them.

Never pick your pets up by their tails as it hurts them.

Do not keep them near televisions or stereos as these can produce high frequency sounds that will irritate them.

Do not use aerosol cans near them as they can produce toxic fumes.

Although a few toys are a good idea, please don’t overcrowd their cage with them.

Potential Health Problems

Overgrown teeth
Chinchillas and Degus can suffer with overgrown teeth that may have to be clipped by a veterinary surgeon. Always make sure there is plenty of gnawing material available.

Watery eyes
Chinchillas and degus need to gnaw continually. They can suffer with eye infections due to overgrown back teeth. Always make sure there is plenty of gnawing material available.

Diabetes (Degus only)
If you feed your degus fruit they will develop diabetes as their bodies cannot process the sugar. So NEVER feed them fruit. If they develop cataracts it’s a sure sign that they have got it and will not live much longer.

We recommend: Rosewood Naturals – Gnaw Stone Stack.

Weekly Health Check

  • Is underneath the tail clean?

  • Do they have all their toes and nails? Are they clean and not overgrown?

  • Do the legs move freely with no staggering or stiffness?

  • Are the teeth present? Are they straight and not overgrown?

  • Is the nose clean with no discharge?

  • Are the eyes bright and clear?

  • Stroke the ears; are they smooth and clean?

  • Is the fur clean with no bald patches or parasites?

  • Blow in the fur; the skin should be healthy not red, dry or flaky.

  • Feel the body. Is it fat enough? It should not feel bloated or bony.

  • Listen to the chest. Is the breathing almost silent with no wheezing?

If you answered no to any of the above your pets may require veterinary attention.

What They'll Need

  • Cage: Chinchillas and degus need a lot of room. The minimum suggested cage size is about 72cm x 36cm x 44cm for 2 degus, and 72cm x 103cm x 44cm for 2 chinchillas. Chinchilla cages should have a square mesh, but bars are fine for degus. They should be no more than 17mm apart or they may get their heads stuck or escape.

  • House: Chinchillas and degus need a house in their cage so that they can hide away and sleep in peace.

  • Woodchips: Use plenty of woodchips in the bottom of their cage, this will soak up urine and protect their feet (particularly if their cage has a wire floor).

  • Hay: As well as being used for bedding this is an essential part of your pets’ diet. So some should be put in a hay rack to keep it clean.

  • Water bottle: Make sure your pets can reach the spout, and refill it daily to monitor their drinking.

  • Food bowl: Stainless steel or ceramic are best, as they are hygienic and can’t be chewed.

  • Food: They are both herbivores so chinchillas should be fed a mixture of chinchilla pellets and complete chinchilla mix, and degus need chinchilla pellets mixed with complete guinea pig mix. It is vital that animals are weaned gradually onto any new food.

  • Wood gnaws: Like all rodents your pets’ teeth grow continuously, gnaws are essential to keep their teeth trim.

  • Treats: Feed treats every now and then, but not too often.

  • ¬†Silver sand bath: A weekly sand bath is essential to keep your chinchillas and degus clean and happy.

  • Toys: To stop your pets getting bored while you’re away toys are vital to keep them active. They love climbing ropes and tubes!