Chinchillas and Degus
Chinchillas are cute puffball creatures with a bushy tail and mouse-like ears. Their soft, dense coat is due to the fact that, in contrast to human hair follicles that contain only one hair, chinchilla hair follicles contain more than 50. They don’t have claws like rabbits, guinea pigs and rodents do.
Chinchillas live between 10-15 years, longer than many small furry pets. As they are nocturnal and dislike being held, they are not particularly suitable pets for children. Their nocturnal habits can also be quite noisy so you should take that into consideration when considering chinchillas as pets.
On the plus side, a pair need less human attention than a single chinchilla and in a ‘chin-proofed’ room they are great evening entertainment.
They need a large cage as they are extremely active at night. Humidity and heat are dangerous for chinchillas. They cannot pant or sweat and are prone to heat exhaustion. An air conditioning unit is recommended during heat waves.
One of the reasons they dislike being held for long periods is because they fast become overheated. Another reason for their dislike of being held for too long is their desire to explore. As prey species they often object to being picked up but will climb onto your lap willingly for a treat of the edible kind.
Degus are social creatures who live in small, cooperative, groups in the wild. They are curious, vocal and friendly, awake during the day unlike chinchillas and hamsters and like human company.
Degus are active creatures and like to be busy. Much of their time in the wild would be spent digging burrows, foraging, and establishing or maintaining their position in degu society.
In contrast to chinchillas, degus come from a relatively warm climate and do not like extreme cold. In the wild they would be able to retreat to the cool of the burrow when the weather got too hot, so make sure that they have a cool place to go to if the room they are housed in becomes too hot.
Their active nature makes it great fun to furnish their cage with ladders, ropes, toys, ledges, nest boxes and burrowing material.