Degupdate: Lady Grace of the Lost Toes

You know that we’ve been having lots of worries with our newest degu, Gracie. A new degu needs to be integrated into a group carefully, as they are very territorial. If you just put a new degu into a habitat, the result will often be a dead degu, so we separated Candy and Estelle from Gracie by means of a fence between their part of the habitat and Gracie’s. That way they can see, smell and hear each other and get used to each other.

A couple of days after Grace moved in, I found her foot bleeding with what we thought was a torn claw. Our breeder assured us that this was a common injury acquired while playing and no need for worries. A few days later another foot was hurt and I thought “hmmm, maybe the fence has an unsafe place?” and yes, since everything there is made from leftover material, the new fence wasn’t sitting plain, which created a narrowing gap where she could get stuck with her feet. I fixed that by adding another piece of wood in front, and it looked like it worked, but then came another injury. I was both worried as well as puzzled. Was there yet another gap where she could injure herself? Did she maybe hurt herself because she was still not integrated into the group, like we may bite nails? I contacted our breeder again and she didn’t have any more ideas either. I was about to go out and buy another cage and possibly another degu to start a second group for poor Gracie when I finally found out what happened: Whenever her feet had mostly healed, Grace would go to the fence that separates them and climb there. Then Candy would come and bite her feet, and because those incisors are sharp as hell, she’d take off the first knuckle. That way poor Gracie lost several toes. But at least now we knew what was happening and I put up another fence on the other side so Candy cannot reach Grace at all. Whenever Candy and Estelle are out, we have to put a piece of wood in front of Gracie’s door so Candy cannot reach her there.

It looks like Grace is finally healing, and I still love Candy to death (can’t blame a degu for being a degu), but I really could do with some good developments here. I’m still keeping them separated until Grace has fully healed and then we’ll have to see. Currently there seem to be two possibilities: Either they do finally get used to each other, or I’ll have to start a second group. I will also probably have to make the habitat more accessible for Gracie, because I don’t think she’ll be able to climb as well as the others with basically half a front paw missing. I feel bad about her having lost those toes while under our care, but I swear to the Great Degu, I always did my best. Anyway, she’s cute, and active, and curious. She grows and her fur is shiny and sleek, so I think she will grow up a strong degu.

©Giliell, all rights reserved
Gracie, being sneaky

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved She’s pretty trusting with us, but the pea chips were not enough to lure her closer

©Giliell, all rights reserved But she found a nut. You can see the missing toe on the hind paw pretty well here. She can still use her front paws to hold food, obviously, and doesn’t seem very bothered by her injuries.


Estelle, btw, is an absolutely chill degu by now. I think she has realised that she has a warm, safe home, always enough food, and doesn’t care at all about her place in the pecking order. Here’s her and Candy running in the running wheel.


  1. says

    I had never heard of a degu! Thanks so much for educating me. I’m sure you’ve probably talked about them before, but I not good at reading all the posts (a particular problem with affinity b/c with multiple authors it’s easy for me to miss a post and have it be buried behind 3-4 others before I have a chance to notice it).

    Good luck with your degu-socializing. I hope it works out a little better over the long term. Is it possible that having Estelle go back & forth between the colonies might create more tolerance between them? Or will it simply put Estelle at risk even if she’s not pushing for any particular place in the hierarchy?

  2. kestrel says

    Oh the poor thing -- losing her toes. :-( No wonder she was getting blood all over the place. Sometimes you want animals to get along and it just takes a while but sometimes it does not go well. I hope you can successfully integrate Gracie in with the other two, but it sounds like you’ve got expert advice and hopefully that can happen. In the meantime that is so cool how the other two race in the wheel like that! They certainly are cute.

  3. says

    I never heard of degus before the little one decided we were getting some, either. If you’re interested in our degu adventures, there’s a label for them. We will enlist Estelle, who seems more inclined to just live and let live. She and Candy are very good together. They sometimes quarrel, but only the “soft” fights: They get up on their hind legs like kangaroos and push and shove.

    Yeah. The internet says that sometimes, there will be degus that just don’t get along. I hope we don’t have that kind and can get them to get along, but if they don’t get along at all we’ll have to start a second group, but that will mean a major overhaul of our guestroom.

  4. voyager says

    I’m glad poor, wee Gracie is so easy going. I hope her gentle personality will eventually win Candy over.

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