The degu is a lively and curious animal by nature. Their unique and sometimes wary personality may require time and patience to establish a trusting relationship. It is possible to tame even the shyest of degus, but each group will consist of a few more daring members. To create a lasting relationship based on respect for the animal, it is advisable to follow a few steps.
Get them used to your presence and the sounds near the cage
The Degu degus is a cautious herbivore, an abundant prey in its wild environment. It has developed a very keen sense of hearing and often reacts to the sounds it can hear. If you have just acquired your degus, let them gradually get used to your presence. Avoid loud noises in the hours following their arrival, such as the vacuum cleaner, and walk quietly near the cage. You can also sit nearby to observe them; they will eventually come out of hiding. Don’t rush; the more timid ones will hide at the slightest abrupt movement while alerting the others.
It is also important to talk to them, gradually getting them used to various household noises. Start, for example, by vacuuming the room farthest from their cage, then gradually move closer. You can also play music or turn on the sound of the television or radio. This will help desensitize them to various types of noises.
For the shyest cases, be consistent in your presence to establish a routine. This will allow your degus to recognize your voice and get used to your company, creating a conducive environment for a positive relationship.
Create a positive association between you and the degu
Once accustomed to your presence, use treats to create a positive association between you and your degu. Choose healthy treats suitable for their diet. Give them these treats through the bars of the cage, slowly approaching them with your hand. This will establish a positive connection as they begin to associate your presence with food that has a higher value than what is available in their cage.
Repeat this step each time you pass by the cage. You can thus distribute their daily ration to them instead of placing it in the cage. The more the degus associate you with a positive moment, the faster they will come to see you naturally. Also, speak to them naturally, tell them about your day. They will associate treats with your voice, which can help when calling them if necessary.
Give them treats
Treats become a powerful tool in the taming process. Once your degus accept treats through the bars, start giving them treats directly with your hand. Slowly extend your palm towards them, letting them take the treat themselves.
This step requires patience and consistency. Some degus may be shyer than others, so adapt to their pace. You will gradually see their unique personalities. Continue to speak naturally during this process to get them used to your voice associated with positive experiences.
Open the cage and let them come out
The next step is to open the cage and let your degus come out at their own pace. Ensure that the environment is secure by eliminating potential dangers and creating a safe play space. Open the cage door and wait patiently for them to come out on their own. Avoid making sudden movements and sit where they are used to seeing you.
Avoid forcing them out, as this could create mistrust. Simply be present, talk to them, and let them explore their environment. Let them return to the cage at their leisure, reinforcing the idea that leaving the cage is a positive experience. Do not hesitate to start offering them treats, initially by tossing them nearby, and gradually leading them to your hand so they can take them naturally.
If you want to make them come back easily, you can associate a sound or a word with the act of placing treats in the cage. Gradually, they will return on their own to eat the treats.
Get them used to coming onto the hand and handling them
When your degus are comfortable outside the cage, start getting them used to climbing onto your hand. Gently extend your hand towards them, offering a stable platform. Some degus will adapt faster than others, so be patient.
Once they climb onto your hand, start handling them gently. Avoid sudden movements that could frighten them. Handle them more and more each day, gradually increasing the duration of interactions.
Play and train your degu
Introduce interactive toys to stimulate their curiosity and strengthen the bond with you. Use positive training methods by rewarding desired behaviors with treats. Degus are intelligent and can learn simple tricks, such as turning on their hind legs or coming back on demand.
Be creative in your play sessions, using tunnels, balls, and other toys suitable for their size. Create a fun and stimulating environment that promotes their physical and mental well-being.
By carefully following these steps and adapting your approach to the individual personalities of your degus, you can establish a strong and affectionate relationship. Patience, consistency, and love are the keys to successfully taming your adorable degu companions.