Hi there, I am very very new here so please forgive my ignorance, I have been offered a lone baby degu (6 months) that was separated from it's 'mates' due the the fact that they were apparently bullying him. He is covered in scratches/bites etc. I know they should be kept in at least pairs, but will it damage him to keep him alone. If so, how do I go about introducing him to another degu if I were to get another one? Thank u in advance for your help Debb
Hello Debbe, and welcome to the forum!! Good on ya for searching for information before you have the new little one home with you. Well done!! Yes, it will not be very healthy for him to be alone. It is the very rare degu that really prefers to be alone, and most become depressed and ill when left alone for too great a time . . . some even become neurotic and can develop very strange issues. If you are able to find another little male or two to introduce to him, it will be best for you all. I would be remiss if I didn't also tell you that another option would be to have him neutered and introduce him to a couple of young females, which can be the easier introduction.
Introductions require a great commitment to patience, determination, and time. Males to males can be the most difficult of introductions take on, but there are female to female introductions that can be just as difficult if the females involved are strong Alpha leaders. The things that are needed most are two cages, to house the different degus you are introducing side by side . . . unless you have a large cage that can be divided inside and allow for safe interactions through the mesh barrier.
I'm going to ask really quick . . . have you seen the cage size recommendations chart that we follow on our forum? Have a look here . . . deguworld.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=Cage&action=display&thread=9396 These are important recommendations as degus are animals whose nature is to be on the move all the time . . . so . . . they need lots of running surfaces (not just wheels) on which to live and move about.
Time is often the most important ingredient to introductions, but is nearly equaled by the need for patience and determination. Placing the cages next to each other is important because they need to get used to the sight, smell, and presense of the other degu(s). Often you can see them start out aggressive and gradually wind down until they are either ignoring the other(s) or sleeping next to each other through the divide. The latter result is the best one you can hope for. However this can take weeks to months to see accomplished. This is not the only thing you do though, when working to unite unfamiliar degus. You will want to be taking a handful of their soiled substrate (one from each cage/living area) and placing it over the substrate of the opposite cage. This will help them get even more familiar with the scent of the other, as well as give them a lot of information about the other which is contained in chemical cues found in their urine and feces. This is important for them to be able to have access to.
Once they have had time to accept that there are other degus around, usually about two weeks, you can begin to do face to face introductions in a neutral zone. While there you want to have a water spray bottle and a towel on hand so that you can break up severe fighting . . . which looks like a rolling fur ball. Any fighting up to that stage should be allowed to complete it's course unless you begin to see blood flow. Use the spray bottle to spray on them and surprise them apart, then toss the towel over one so that you may easily and quickly scoop it up. You need to have MANY meetings, and you want to have several very successful meetings . . . happy warbling, grooming, sitting together . . . before you venture to put them into a newly cleaned cage (but always with a couple handfuls of soiled substrate sprinkled over top the clean) together.
Now, there are other little things that can be done such as giving them access to the dust bath just prior to meetings, but as each introduction is completely unique to any other, it is most helpful if you can report your happenings here on the forum and get feedback and suggestions. It will also be of great encouragement to you.
I have to run . . . late for an appointment . . . but wanted to get this much at least put down for you. ANY questions you have, please ask, about any degu topic . . . this is a great place to find help!!