Have you ever heard of the degu?
Nor had I, until we called in at the Llys Nini Animal Shelter to hand over some money from my daughter’s birthday party. We called in the small animal house to see if they had any hamsters. We haven’t had a hamster for some while and I was thinking it was about time we did something about that. So we go into the room where the hamsters are and in the cages opposite are what appear to be gerbils on steroids. “What i those?” I ask, trying to avoid looking at my wife because she’ll spot straight away that I want one.
So I was introduced to degus. They do indeed look like gerbils, only bigger - about the size of a small guinea pig (or cavy, if you’d rather). They come from Chile, live in groups and have a very cheery disposition. I was sold on them immediately, and now have three housed in a large cage upstairs. I couldn’t leave them homeless in the shelter, could I? Unfortunately, we don’t have the space (or the money) for a second cage that could accommodate their brothers so we had to leave those behind.
They’re alot like people, really. They live in groups, or else they get depressed. They need someone to talk to and someone to play with. Like us, they’ve been made to be social animals. Also like us, they don’t know how to stop eating things that are bad for them. In the wild, their diet is meagre. Seeds, gass, that sort of thing. As a result, their metabolism cannot cope with much in the way of fat or sugar. If they get too much of those things they get overweight, develop diabetes, go blind and die. Sounds familiar? (That’s how they came to be introduced as a domestic animal. They were imported into the USA in the 1950’s as a laboratory animal for diabetes experiments) But the point is, if you give them high fat and high sugar goodies (peanuts and raisins, say) they love ‘em. Thy’ll stuff their little faces! In short, they don’t know what’s good for them.
That sounds familiar too.