December 2015 - March 2019

Our sweet little degu, Max, sitting on Derek's knee

Our scruffy new arrival

Our new arrival

Our new arrival

Derek and I have been fascinated by degus for a number of years. Having seen them on other pet sites that I love to follow, they seemed like amazing little critters. We have often considered having some, but they are not easy to get hold of where we live – until now! Our newest member of the family is a little scruffy, all on his own and may not seem like the best introduction for first time degu owner, but he is impossibly cute and adventurous and it was love at first site for both Derek and I.

After a sorry start to life, having been separated from his litter due to mites and put into isolation (he was the only one affected) so he could be treated, he found himself alone, with a few bald spots and in desperate need of a family. As he could no longer be sold through a pet shop he found himself up for adoption through a local pet charity, which is where we found him.

Derek chose the name Max for our newest addition, and it seems to suit him very well! After barely 24 hours Max has already left the cage of his own accord, explored our bedroom and been very amiable to being put back in his home – once we’d caught him that was. He’s a fast, but confident little guy, which is great, the last thing we want is to scare him while trying to round him up.

I have to admit to being surprised at how quickly he has settled in with us, maybe it is the way of the degu or maybe our little Max is going to grow into a right handful! Either way we are loving the new experience, and as Max grows and of course has met our cat Inkie, he will be able to explore more of the house.

A nervous explorer

After only his third day with us Max is getting the hang of coming out to play. He is still very nervous, but we are taking our time letting him settle and explore his new home at his own pace. Although he still gets a bit nervous once he has left his cage it doesn’t stop him coming out every chance he gets.

He has learnt when it’s time to go in and after only a few goes at being rounded up (not an easy task as degus are very fast and bright creatures) he is now making it easy on us and will wait in the same spot to be picked up. Hopefully soon we will have taught him to come and go from his cage and then handling him will just be about getting to know each other.

Hanging with Max

Wow Max is so much fun and he is winning out hearts very quickly. Our first degu is full of personality and has no difficulty letting us know exactly what he likes – and doesn’t. When out of his cage he is very friendly and loves to come see us and sit on our knees, even if we’re not giving him oats (his favourite treat). As he has learnt to come and go from his cage by himself we have no need to handle him if he doesn’t want us too, which is nice. It’s not like we have no physical contact with him, and have held and fussed him, but Max likes to be handled when he wants to, so we respect his wishes. If we do anything he doesn’t like, he tells us rather than runs away, which is very funny.

Max enjoying his hammock

Max enjoying his hammock

The other day he was sitting on Derek’s hand, eating oats out of his palm and I told Derek to stroke Max with his thumb. Max did not appreciate the attention and after warbling at Derek he took his back foot and stood on Derek’s thumb so he couldn’t fuss him anymore. Well, we think we have the smartest little Degu ever :-).

The other surprise about Max is how much he loves his hammock. When not playing, Max can be found lounging in his hay lined hammock. He really does love it and he makes little happy teeth grinding noises while snuggled in there. I guess because Max looks so much like a big gerbil we kind of expected similarities, but Max is more like a cross between our rats and bunny. He still lives in the old rat cage, which thankfully he hasn’t even nibbled, but we do have a nice big cage for him. We just need a bit of time to make sure it is completely secure for Max. I’ve read a lot about degus escaping their homes, and while Max has shown no signs of trying to escape we can’t be too safe, especially with two cats in the house.

Max’s cheeky personality is fitting right in with our family. He comes out four to five times a day to play and run around our dinning room and has even found his way up onto our dining room table! He is a lot of fun and I really hope he is as happy with us as we are with him.

The new degu cage

Max's new home

Max's new home

Max has moved into his new cage, and it seems safe to say he loves it. Derek and I had only just finished adding all his toys when he was straight in and playing. He’d played in his cage a few times before, so it wasn’t completely new to him, and we used the sawdust from his old cage, rather than fresh, so it all smelled like home. While we were transferring his sawdust, Max got a little upset that some of his stashed degu nuggies had been displaced, and he gave a little warble as he reburied them. Feeling bad for disrupting Max’s food, we made sure all his buried nuggies were safely transferred and Derek even reburied them for him.

After a good explore, and a bit of rearranging on our part, Max was happy to come and go from his cage like nothing had changed. All that seemed to matter was his favourite toy, his wheel, was in place, which he thoroughly checked for stability and everything was great in Max’s world. His new home has a flying saucer as well as his old round wheel. Many people say the flat flying saucer type exercise wheels are much better for rodents backs, and Max certainly does arch backwards when his running in his round wheel. For now he has both and he can choose which he prefers.

We have spilt the cage into two, top and bottom with some log bridges. These are great for Max as they are safe for him to naw on and they also mean he can’t fall the full height of the cage while exploring. So far Max looks very impressed and I’m sure after all his exploring he will sleep very well tonight, if he can decided which of his new beds to sleep in.

Getting to know you, Max

With three degus in the house we’re finding it really funny how different they all are. Max is a very noisy little chap. He does have a very varied vocabulary, but mostly he just chooses to squawk at us. While Pip whistles and Roo sings, Max just screeches, and he will make this noise if he wants fuss, letting in or out of his cage, heck sometimes if we just talk to him. It’s not a terrible noise, though it can make us jump if we are fussing him, as it’s a bit like being yelled at, but to Max it obviously means different things.

Sometimes the noise makes sense, like if he’s eating and he thinks maybe you’re getting too close, but other times we are baffled what he’s on about. At night Max will also squawk at our bunny, Fern if she gets too close to his cage, not that she cares. I think he’s just telling her it’s his home and to go away, which pretty much sums up Max’s attitude towards us, unless he wants a cuddle or some oats :-)

Unlike Pip and Roo, Max is not a wheel fanatic! Just like the other boys he has a posh metal wheel, but he only tends to use it at night before bed and then compared to the other two he only goes for a gentle jog in it. He seems very content though and other than his screeching he is definitely the calmer of the three guys.

As Max had been treated for mites, before we got him, he is very used to being handled and he always loves his fuss, especially a tickle under his chin. It took time before we could fuss Pip, and Roo hates to be touched, but Max has always been a fusspot. He also loves to lie down while out of his cage. Oh yes and he does the most enormous yawns when he’s been out too long.

Max chilling on an armchair

Max chilling on an armchair

Sleepy Max

All our animals spend as much time out of their cages as they like, although not all at once. If it was up to me they’d be out all of the time, but it’s not what they want. Here’s what happens if Max stays out to long, bless him.

Max is tired

Poorly Max

Max before he was poorly

Max before he was poorly

Little Max has been adding to the degu drama, and though he seems to be though the worst of his illness Derek and I are still very concerned for our little guy. It started Wednesday night, we’d played with him in the afternoon and he seemed his usual bossy-self. Come bedtime though that had all changed. Max was up in his hammock covered with a piece of kitchen towel, he did not respond to us, come out to play or show any interest in his new food. We weren’t sure what to think, he’d been fine only hours before so we went to bed hoping he’d feel better in the morning. He didn’t.

By Friday it was obvious things weren’t going to improve on their own, so we took him to the vet first thing. The vet checked his teeth and felt his tummy, but everything seemed fine. She didn’t want to do anything to drastic, like x-ray him as that would require giving him gas to calm him down and keep him still. Instead she gave him an injection of pain killer and something to help his tummy if he was feeling a bit poorly. She also equipped us with some syringes to feed him with.

As soon as we got home a grumbly Max went straight back to bed and I ground up some of his pellets and left them in water to go all mushy. The pellets created quite a disgusting concoction, but I loaded up a syringe and did my best to feed Max. He was not impressed, but he was, at least, to weak to resist.

It took twelve long hours, but Derek and I are happy to report we have seen some improvement in Max’s condition. He’s up and about a and picking at little bits of hay. We don’t know if his improvements is because of the injections, or it if will wear off, but we are very hopeful his condition will continue to improve.

Feeling much better

I’m very relieved to say Max is well on the way to making a full recovery. He still gets a little tired at play time, but he is eating, drinking and running around like nothing much happened. It was so so difficult seeing little Max so poorly and not knowing how to help him, but thank goodness he is bouncing back now.

One odd thing we noticed though is that Max won’t use his old water bottle. He was drinking fine before he was taken ill, we change his water every night and pay attention to how much the boys drink, but when he started to feel better he wouldn’t touch it. Fortunately I have lots of spare water bottles in the house, and I gave him a second bottle and he went straight to it. We kept seeing him go to the old bottle like he was thirsty, but he would not drink. As soon as that second bottle was there he had a huge drink.

I don’t think his illness was dehydration, as he was still peeing, but he was so poorly he’d tinkle in bed and have to move afterwards, and his water had been going down normally until he was ill. I can only assume something upset him about his water bottle. Not that I’m worried about that now, he has a new water bottle and is looking so much better and brighter.

Max feeling much better

Max feeling much better

Our sweet little Max has gone

Our sweet degu, Max, enjoying a lie downI am really shocked to say that our sweet degu Max has passed away. He started passing blood in his urine a few months ago. We took him straight to the vets and got him medicine, and it cleared up quickly. The blood was put down to an infection and we didn’t think any more about it. Max was happy and playful, so life carried on.

Sadly it wasn’t as simple as we had hoped and a few days ago max took a turn for the worse, and then the blood returned. Somehow we managed to get a urine sample off him, which our vet tested. The results were inconclusive, there was infection and some sugar, but nothing that pointed to why he was so poorly. We got him straight onto strong painkillers, antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory, all in the hopes of making Max feel better. Sadly they didn’t help and Max passed away at home.

He was so poorly he was refusing to eat, and didn’t want to move around even in his cage, never mind coming out to play. We moved him into a pet carrier, padded with towels to keep him warm and safe. Poor sweet Max was so poorly he didn’t care. Alongside his medication, I was trying to syringe him water and mushed up food, but Max didn’t really want any of it. We had an appointment to take him to the vet the day he passed, but he slipped away quietly. I was beside his box for most of the day, wanting to be there if he needed me, but Max wanted to be left alone. He was weak, but peaceful at the end, and both Derek and I can only hope he knew just how much we loved him.

Our little Max loved to tell us just how he liked things, and cleaning out time was no different. He loved to make sure I was doing everything right…