Pip & Roo

January 2016

Our two degus snuggled in their fluffy hammock

More degus!

It’s the same old story I’m afraid, yesterday morning we popped into the pet store for supplies and there were two super cute little Degus putting on a show for us. How could we resist? Well actually we had to as we’d gone on our bicycles, not very practical for transporting little animals, so we walked away empty handed. Once home we had a big talk about adding more degus to our family. To be honest cage wise we are a bit full, but because some of my rats are a bit old and don’t want to come out and play as much I have a lot of time on my hands and I love caring for small animals. Plus our first degu, Max is all on his own. Degus are very social animals and even though introducing degus can be a long and tricky process, we thought it only fair to give Max a chance to have some degu brothers in his life. And so it was decided and later in the afternoon we popped back to the pet store in our car and came home with two new additions for our family.

Roo behind Pip enjoying a snack

Roo behind Pip enjoying a snack

At the moment the boys are living in our office, on Derek’s desk in front of his computer of all places! When they are more settled we will move them downstairs, and we can begin the process of introducing them to Max. Compared to Max they are very chattery little guys. Where Max took a good week before he started chattering at us, these two are constantly wittering at each other when they think no one is around. In fact that is how Pip got his name. Last night he woke us up in the middle of the night squeaking his little head off. We rushed to check on him, but everything was fine, in fact our rats and gerbils, who also live in the office, were fast asleep until we woke them all up. Fortunately Pip’s squeaking didn’t go on for too long and we were all able to go back to sleep, but in the morning Derek said how the pattern of Pip’s squeaking had reminded him of the pips our smoke alarm does when it’s battery is getting low and that is how little Pip earned his name. Roo is named after a character from the Winnie the Pooh stories, I thought it fitted nicely with Pip.

For now the boys are playful, but a bit nervous when we get too close. It’s all been a big change for them so we are happy to give them time to settle in and feel safe.

Slow-motion degus

One of the first things I learnt about degus is how much they love running wheels, and Max proved this to be true. So, when I got the boys I again made sure I got them a nice large wheel. Derek got this great slow motion footage of Roo running in his wheel, and Pip makes a guess appearance to show how much degus like jumping too.

The trouble with degus!

When we got Max we read a lot about what social animals degus were, so wanting only the best for our new arrival, Pip and Roo soon joined out family. Our intention was with a lot of patience we’d introduce Max and the new arrivals and they’d live in a happy bunch just like we’d read about.

Pip and Roo in their new cage before they fell out

Pip and Roo in their new cage before they fell out

This no longer appears to be the case…

Pip and Roo have fallen out. When I say fallen out I mean, little Roo was getting attacked so badly that we found him covered in blood and not looking very happy at all. We separated him as soon as we realised what was happening and though we never actually saw Pip attack Roo, both degus are looking much better for being on their own.

We’d noticed a few scabs on Roo’s back, but were wondering if it was mites as we’d seen no signs of violence between them. Then one morning we found Roo covered in blood looking very distressed. This video was taken of Roo a few days after we separated him from Pip, you can see some of his scabs and the poor state of his fur, though he was looking a lot better by this time.

After nearly a month on his own the change in Roo is amazing. Not only is his skin healing, also his once squinty eyes (which we thought this was just part of his features) are now open and round and he never shuts up chattering at us.

Even Pip has improved since being separated. His fur is now looking in really good condition, he’s much sleeker and generally very handsome. When he comes out to play Pip now does little happy binkies, while running around.

Right now we don’t know what is going to happen, our plan was to have three degus in one cage, or at worst two degu cages, but certainly not three separate cages! Of course we are committed to our little guys and will do whatever they need to keep them safe and happy, but right now we are questioning the wisdom of the advice that all degus need a companion.

Pip (left) and Roo after being separated

Pip (left) and Roo after being separated

Getting to know you, Pip and Roo

Since being apart Pip and Roo have both settled down really well, and their little degu personalities have really begun to shine. Whereas Max, our first degu, is quite bossy and screeches at us as his primary way of communication, Pip and Roo are much more melodic.

Pip enjoying some oats

Pip enjoying some oats

Firstly Pip, he is a warbler. He makes wonderful little squeaks and whistles, particularly when he is excited. Along with his binkying, he makes the sweetest noises. Compared to Roo and Max his volume is pretty low, but they are such happy noises you can’t help but laugh which just gets him more excited. If we are feeding Pip oats he will make little whines, like he’s begging, unlike Max who will squawk if you don’t feed him fast enough.

Pip is the only one of our degus who loves a flying saucer wheel. The plastic wheel was originally Max’s but he never used it, so when Pip and Roo came along they had it. Again Roo wasn’t interested, but Pip loved it. Now everyone has a fancy metal wheel, and Pip loves his, but he still uses his flying saucer on a daily basis. Pip’s favourite game in his big metal wheel is to run really, really fast and then jump out, wait a few seconds and then jump back in the wheel while its still spinning.

As he has got older, Pip has also turned into a little fuss pot. It just started one day, no long ago. He would let Derek tickle his cheek while he was eating oats, but that was it once he’d finished eating he was off, but gradually it increased. Now he expects a good chin tickle and tummy rub every time he is out. We rather enjoy it too.

Roo enjoying a well earned rest

Roo enjoying a well earned rest

Compared to Pip and Max, Roo is rather bonkers. While Max and Pip are more vocal when the are out, Roo sings his heart out in his cage. From running in his wheel, to eating and even pooping (which all degus love to do) Roo has a song for everything! He is a wonderfully happy little guy, which is amazing compared to how he behaved when he lived with Pip. Roo lives in the smallest cage out of our degus, and while we planned to get him a larger home, he really seems to love where he is. He is very good at letting us know what he wants, especially when he’s ready to go back in his home. It doesn’t matter if Roo can get to his cage by himself or not, he loves us to put him in.

Roo was the first of our degus to get a metal wheel, after he broke his plastic one, and he loves it. As is fitting with Roo’s personality he has the craziest running styles, sometimes he almost runs sideways in the wheel, kind of galumphing along sideways, other times he’s jumping up the side and letting the wheels momentum carry him. He can run normally too when the mood takes him. It’s quite a sight to see, especially if he’s singing at the same time.

Compared to Pip, Roo is now the bigger of the two. He’s a very stocky chap, out of everyone Roo spends most time playing in his wheel, while out playing he will often pop back in to play on his wheel. Though unlike Pip or Max he doesn’t like fuss, or any kind of contact. He will jump onto the palm of our hands to be put back in his cage, or sit on our knees to get oats, but we can’t touch him at all.

We are pretty sure all three degus are happy, they love to come out and play at least four times a day for as long as they like, they don’t overeat and they are very good natured guys, well with the exception of the odd chomp at the furniture. It is a wonderful learning experience getting to know them, and while they are not my rats I love them all very much.

Poorly Pip

Oh my goodness our little Pip is having a rough time at the moment. It started a week ago, I came down in the morning and could hear a degu complaining. I knew it was Pip, we can just tell their little voices now, and he sounded very upset. I went to see him and found that he’d hurt his back leg. It was nothing serious at first look. There was a very small graze on his left hip and it wasn’t bleeding. Pip can always be quite dramatic about things, so we didn’t panic and cleaned his wound with salt water, which he DID NOT appreciate, but it had to be done.

At first things seemed fine. He was messing with the wound, but we were keeping it clean so it seemed like everything would be okay. Then on Thursday, two days after he hurt himself, it was clean out day. We do all three degus in a row, and we missed cleaning his leg that day. Unfortunately we also had a workman in on the Friday, and that involved a lot of banging around. This got little Pip very worked up and when we came to get him to clean his leg he bit Derek!

We also saw that he had been playing with is wound and made a right mess of it. While it wasn’t dripping blood there were a few drops of blood around his cage. First thing Saturday morning we called the vet and got Pip booked in. Poor little chap was terrified, not only was he in pain, but he’s never left the house before. To make things harder on him, we had to leave him with the vet so she could give him a little bit of gas, to calm him down, and get a good look at his leg.

We were very happy to be reunited with the little guy late that afternoon. The vet had cleaned his wound and gave us some painkillers and antibiotics for him. Getting medicine into Pip is not the easiest thing, but we are battling him twice a day. Pip doesn’t understand how serious it all is, but he is being a lovely boy. He can’t have a dust bath at the moment, to protect is wound, but he still wants lots of fuss and cuddles, even though we manhandle him at certain points in the day.

All we can do is persevere getting medication into Pip and hope that he will leave the wound alone long enough for it to heal and give him lots of love.

Our degu, Pip, enjoying some fuss

Fighting for Pip

Enjoying some fuss

Enjoying some fuss

Oh my goodness, Pip is going through it at the moment. Despite our best efforts the wound on his back leg is not healing. We have been forced to put a plastic collar round his neck, which isn’t nice, but it means we can apply skin healing medicine directly to his wound. Unfortunately the collar has meant we’ve had to stop his antibiotics. Pip is very highly strung, and it was all getting too much for him. The antibiotic, even though watered down, doesn’t taste nice and combined with being manhandled twice a day, the poor little chap was getting so stressed just knowing we were coming for him. Hopefully the cream will help, and I can apply it to his wound at playtime and he seems none the wiser.

He went for a check up last week, and had a biopsy of his wound and some healthy tissue to make sure there is no skin condition involved. It would explain why he isn’t healing. For now though we have to stick with the collar, just to be sure its not Pip himself preventing the wound from healing up.

Naughty Pip

I am very happy to say Pip is looking much better. His wound is all healed up and he is out of that awful collar. The skin healing cream did the trick, that and Pip not being able to mess with his wound. At the moment we are too relieved to be mad at him, the thought of his leg not healing was terrifying. Still it’s over now and hopefully we can go back to having fun with out little degu.

Jessie and Pip at playtime

Jessie and Pip at playtime

A long journey

Pip enjoying being free from his plastic collar

Pip enjoying being free from his plastic collar

Things have been very up and down with our naughty little degu, Pip. We found that Pip’s wound was self inflicted. It was a terrible shock, and we have spent most of the past year trying to find out why he was doing this to himself. Over the time Pip has been in and out of his collar, letting his wound heal and trying new treatments. We are now at the end of a very long journey and though we don’t know if we will have a happy ending we are very hopeful.

Our vet has narrowed Pip’s problem to a nerve issue with his spine. He is chewing his leg because he can’t reach the painful area. He is on medication to help with the nerve pain and all we can do is hope and give our little guy lots of attention. So far he is doing very well and while it is not easy getting his medicine in him everyday, we are working out a routine. Derek and I prepare his medicine, cut up and crush is portion of tablet, mix it with water and get it into a syringe. Have a silly stand off with our noisy little degu, while he squeaks his objections before climbing into a cardboard tube, so we can wrap him up in a towel. Derek will hold Pip while I feed him his medicine a bit at at time. Then when we’re all done Pip runs off for a bath and then enjoys some playtime. This is a daily occurrence and will be for the rest of his life, but if it keeps Pip healthy then it will all be more than worth it.

We are also concerned that Roo is suffering from the same condition. He has a habit of squeaking very loudly and spinning round in tight circle. It doesn’t last long, or happen very often, nor does it cause him lasting distress, and thankfully he does not harm himself. We can only hope his condition does not worsen, because unlike Pip, Roo would not be agreeable to being picked up and given medicine.

For now though we are looking to a long and healthy future with our little degus.

Pip cleans up

We had a little whoopsie, or rather Derek did :-), he dropped a pot of oats all over the floor!

Oh what a mess!

Luckily for us little Pip was on hand to tidy up for us.

Don’t worry we didn’t let him eat all the oats :-)

Pip's Blanket

We know how much degus love to snuggle each other at sleepy time. Unfortunately, as much as we’d love to, there is no way Pip and Roo will live tougher happily. Seeing as Pip is such a sweet and cuddly boy, who loves lots of fuss and attention. we’ve given him his own blanket to cuddle while sleeping.

He seems to like it…

Our Degu Pip in his fleecy hammock and under his blanket

A big shock

I am very sad and shocked to say our funny little guy Roo passed away suddenly on Thursday morning. It’s been a few days now but with the added sadness of losing two of our sweet rats we are really struggling to come to terms with everything.

About a week ago Roo did look a little off and he slipped when tying to get into the dust bath. The fall didn’t hurt him, its not that high, but he did seem a little unbalanced. It was nothing you could put your finger on. Both boys have lost a bit of weight, but they are getting on in years and not as active as they once were so it didn’t seem anything to worry about.

After his tumble Roo picked himself up and ran around the room a bit, hopped back in his cage and was more than ready for some bedtime treats. The next day he seemed okay, a bit tired but active and happy. When it comes to sensitive little animals like the degus, we don’t like to just rush them to the vet. For one there’s not always a lot they can do for small animals, and taking them out in the car can be very upsetting. So we decided to wait and see how he went and everything was almost back to normal with Roo.

Roo and Derek

Roo and Derek

That was until Thursday morning. When we saw him first thing that morning he seemed okay, but as we were having breakfast he fell out of his wheel, then he tumbled off the log platform underneath it. This is not a small platform and in his youth Roo could leap in and out of his wheel onto this platform like he was flying. It was very impressive and fun to see, but this was not Roo playing. From the platform it is quite a long drop straight down, there is a safe way to climb down, but with a fall it is a scary drop for a little animal. We rushed straight to Roo’s aid and he looked very dazed, as you’d expect, but we could also see there was something very wrong. He didn’t look like his normal alert and rather mischievous self.

Our scruffy little Roo

Our scruffy little Roo

It was still early so the first thing we did was remove all the toys and platforms from the upper section of his cage, including his wheel. Thinking if there was nothing there he wouldn’t try to climb or jump up high. Roo didn’t care what we were doing which was very upsetting.

Once his cage was done it was late enough that the vets were open, so we called them straightaway. We got him an appointment and all we could do was wait. Sadly an hour after his first fall, I heard a commotion from the dining room where the degus live. I rushed in to find Roo climbing on his wooden house and jumping off, as if to find the platforms we’d removed. My first reaction was to pick him up and stop him hurting himself, which of course was a mistake. Roo was already confused so the poor mite bit me, twice. I popped him back in his cage and rushed to get a towel from the kitchen. By the time I got back he was flat on the floor and I could see he was slipping away. Wrapping him the towel I took him upstairs to Derek, so we could both be with him in his last moments.

Honestly it was a terrible shock, and still is hard to process. Our dinning room seems so empty without his huge cage and the noise of his wheel going round. He wasn’t as vocal as Pip, but he did have moments when he’d just chirp away to himself rather quietly and if you talked to him he’d come to the bars as if to listen to you. Roo wasn’t the most active boy at playtime, usually choosing to run straight for a bath and them jump on Derek’s knee hoping for a treat for being a good boy. He didn’t like fuss either, though we did have a silly game of trying to fuss him whenever he jumped on our knees. Roo didn’t mind as long as he got his treats.

We have no idea how Roo’s absence will affect Pip. They haven’t lived together for years, but we always kept their cages close incase they ever mellowed and showed an interest in each other. It didn’t happen, but the sound of Roo playing and wittering to himself must have been an important part of Pip’s life.

Pip enjoying some fuss

Pip enjoying some fuss

So far Pip looks as content as always. He has his medicine every night, so it gives us a good opportunity to hold him, which he does not appreciate, and check him over. Having to catch Pip is a silly game he plays with us where he likes to be evasive before he’ll surrender to being picked up. Unfortunately he’s not the sort of boy to appreciate more attention from us. He doesn’t want to come out to play more than twice a day and if we pop in the dining room other than meal times or playtime he’ll usually tell us off for disturbing him. He does have four cats wandering around the house now and unlike with Derek and I he seems to enjoy their unannounced visits to the dining room.