The bowl has become an almost indispensable accessory in the design of a cage for degu. However, it is interesting to ask the question of its interest, especially in captivity.
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The feeding bowl
The bowl is an accessory, often of round shape, which allows to contain the food of the degu. This one can be more or less deep and allows the animal to find a food source at a given place. In some cases, it also allows to avoid that the animal soils its food, notably with urine.
Limitations of the use of the bowl in degus
The bowl is not essential for the degu, its use is not even adapted to the species. Indeed, the degu spends in the wild about 45% 1 of its active time (i.e. outside the burrow) to search for food. This represents a total of almost 3h20 per day moving and foraging for food. In captivity, the food bowl does not allow the reproduction of the foraging pattern.
Moreover, the use of the food bowl, as well as the fixed feeding time, tends to exacerbate the stereotyped behaviors and the stress induced by the distribution of food 2.
Finally, the food bowl can be a source of conflict in a group of degus. The rodents have to defend a food item that is often very rich, which can cause violent fights.
Do not use a bowl anymore
It is quite possible not to use a bowl anymore. It is even beneficial for the degu and will allow him to occupy himself longer during the day. It is an interesting enrichment, which can be coupled with the use of puzzles to make the food search even more complex.
The question of hygiene is however essential to manage when deciding to do without bowls. Indeed, by distributing the food in all the cage, this one can be soiled for the degus. However, by limiting the quantity of distributed food (the degu needs to eat only 20g per day, except hay), it allows the degu to finish its ration. And thus, not to leave uneaten food which could be soiled. Finally, as regards the fresh food, this one must be withdrawn within 12 to 24 hours after the distribution.
Removing the bowl from the degu allows to put back in place a food seeking behavior, which occupies the majority of the time of the degus in the wild. It also allows to limit some stereotyped behaviors, or even to stop them completely, as for the “barbering” (hair pulling).
The bowl is not an essential accessory, it is even an accessory which can create troubles or problems of understanding within the groups of Octodon degus.
- Seasonal Changes in the Time Budget of Degus, Octodon degus
- Stereotypies in captive bred animals: a literature review