The Sleeping Habits of Degus: Are Degus Nocturnal?

Degus are active creatures that love to run and play. They might be the perfect pet for you! When you’re choosing a pet you’ve got to consider if it’s suitable for your lifestyle. A lot of rodents are nocturnal or crepuscular. This means that they’re active at night or at twilight. It’s important to know if degus are nocturnal before choosing one.

If you have a busy schedule during the day you won’t mind having a nocturnal or crepuscular pet. But if you need a good night’s sleep or don’t have time in the evening to play and take care of your pet, a pet that’s diurnal, which means active during the day, is more suitable.

Are degus nocturnal? Degus are crepuscular, which means that they are more active during twilight periods. They will sleep for short periods during the day and night and will be more active during dusk and dawn. However, these little creatures are also known to easily adapt their sleeping habits.

A lot of sites claim that the degu is a diurnal pet, so a pet that is active during the day. This is partially true. Degus are naturally crepuscular creatures that will come out of their burrows at dawn and will begin foraging. In the middle of the day, they will be far less active. It’s only at dusk that they’ll become again more active. During the night they will sleep in their burrows but also will have periods of activity.

Degus are fantastic creatures that can adapt their sleeping behavior to their new environment. In this article you’ll be learning everything there is to know about the sleeping habits of your degus. I’ll also give you some tips and tricks to not disturb your degu while it’s sleeping.

Why Are Degus Crepuscular?

Degus in the wild are neither nocturnal nor diurnal. They will sleep short periods during the day and will sleep during the night. Although also active during large parts of the day, they’ll be more active at twilight periods (dawn and dusk).

But why is a degu crepuscular?

If you don’t know a lot about the sleeping habits of animals, let me give you an intro. There are a lot of different sleeping patterns but basically a pet can show diurnal, nocturnal or crepuscular behavior:

  • diurnal: active during the day, for example, humans
  • crepuscular: active at twilight, for example, the crested gecko
  • nocturnal: active during the night, for example, owls

The sleeping behavior of an animal depends on a number of factors but the most important ones are the environment of the animal and their status as predator or prey animal.

Environment of degus

A lot of animals adapt their sleeping behavior to their environment and its climate.

In hot climates, an animal will often sleep during the day to conserve energy. At twilight or during the night they’ll become active and look for food. In cooler climates, most animals will be active during the day and will sleep at night.

Degus originate from South America in a mountainous environment. The temperatures in their natural environment vary from very hot during the day to cold in the night. Degus don’t like cold or hot temperatures and will stay inside their burrow when it’s too cold or too hot.

Degus are happiest at normal room temperatures. In the mountainous Andes region, this kind of temperature will occur at twilight, so at dawn and dusk. At these times it’s not too hot and not too cold for the degus.

Degus are prey animals

Predators and prey adapt their sleeping habits to each other. Predators will be awake at times when they’re prey is available. Prey, on the other hand, will try to avoid the times when their primary predators are out hunting.

You probably guessed that degus aren’t predatory in nature and are a so-called prey animal. The degus’ main predators are birds of prey like owls and eagles, and cupleo foxes.

Needless to say that degus will try to avoid to be outside when their predators are awake. Most of their predators are nocturnal and it’s natural that they adapted to being awake at the moment when their predators are not yet awake or just waking up. If degus would also be nocturnal they would be awake and looking for food at the same time their predators are. This would be an extremely bad idea for the degu.

What Are the Consequences of Being Crepuscular?

There are some consequences of the crepuscular behavior of degus. It’s important to be aware of these consequences:

  • degus will be awake during the day and night
  • they sleep in short intervals (cycles)
  • degus will become more active at dawn and dusk

For most people, this will be no problem. If you’re at for work or school during the day your degus will be playing or cuddling with each other. This is why it’s important to keep at least a pair of degus. When you come home in the evening your degus will already be awake. You should spend some time bonding with your degus, by playing or cuddling with them.

The crepuscular nature of the degu also has its possible downsides:

  • cage location is important: the cage should be placed in a location that experiences a normal day/night light cycle. The cage should be in a location that has full daylight during the day and has no light during the night.
  • prevent boredom: degus can get bored if they’ve got nothing to do. Since they’re awake most of the day, it’s extremely important to provide enough cage space and toys for your degus to be active and play. It’s important to get at least a pair of degus since degus are social animals that love the companionship of other degus. Also, make sure to spend each day playing and cuddling your little pets.

Degu Sleeping Habits

How long do degus sleep?

Degus sleep in short intervals of several minutes but will still have on average 9 hours of sleep each day. No one degu is the same and some might sleep a little bit more or a little bit less. Although you might not notice that your degus sleep that long, they accumulate this sleep in all of the very short sleeping intervals.

There doesn’t seem to be a preference for sleeping during the day or during the night. However, in captivity degus will adapt to their environment and will rapidly adjust their sleep to your own lifestyle.

How do degus sleep?

Unlike some rodents, like the guinea pig, degus will usually snuggle up with other degus to sleep. They do close their eyes to sleep but will still be alert for potential danger. Since they have short sleep cycles they will be awake in no time. When you have a pair or group of degus, you’ll notice that they will sleep next to each other. Another common sleeping behavior for a degu is to put its head beneath the chin of another degu.

Where do your degus sleep?

Degus will create burrows and long tunnels in the wild. In captivity, it’s not as easy to create the same burrows as they would have in the wild. Degus seem to be happy enough if they got nesting boxes or hideaways in their cage.

Nesting boxes and hideaways can be made out of plastic or unfurnished wood. Although there are store-bought nesting boxes made of plastic it’s best to buy or create a wooden house. If your degus feel the need to nibble on the nesting box, they can then do so safely. But if you provide enough chew toys, usually, the degus won’t nibble or chew on the nesting box.

The nesting box should be large enough to fit in all of your degus. They should be able to stand up in the nesting box. For your own convenience, it’s best to get a nesting box with a removable roof so you can clean and inspect the nesting box with ease.

Make sure the nesting box/hideaway is located in the darkest place in the cage. Although degus can sleep anywhere in the cage, they will often prefer a dark place to take longer naps.

Adaptive sleeping habits

Degus are crepuscular pets that show activity during the day but are more active during dawn and dusk. They are capable of changing their sleeping habits and become more diurnal or nocturnal. The sleeping rhythm of degus thus can be changed depending on your own lifestyle.

To change the sleeping habits you’ll need to have them be active during the period of your choice. The following tips can help you with this:

  • feeding time: feed your degus when you want them to become active. This means that you should feed them during the night if you want them to become nocturnal or during the day when you want them to become diurnal.
  • access to an exercise wheel: degus love to run and jump. They need to have some form of exercise and an exercise wheel is a good way to give them what they need. If you give your degus access to the wheel during the night, they will become nocturnal. However, if you give them access to the wheel during the day, your degus will become diurnal.
  • regulating the temperature: degus in the wild will be active in periods where it’s not too hot and not too cold. They like to be active at room temperatures. If you live in a region with a hot climate and want your degus to be diurnal, you’ll need to place the cage in a cool room that has a temperature of about 20 degrees Celsius.

Tips and Tricks

A healthy degu needs its sleep and it’s important that you don’t bother them too much their sleep. To help you give your funny pet the best sleep, here are some tips and tricks.

  • make sure that the cage has at least one nesting box to sleep in
  • make sure that the cage is in a room that experiences normal day/night light cycle
  • place the exercise wheel in the cage during the day
  • feed your degu in the morning or evening
  • don’t put the cage near a window, this may cause overheating of the cage fast

Related Questions

Are degus good pets?

Degus are good pets that love to play and are very curious. You should, however, be aware that degus need to be kept in pairs or groups to be happy. Degus are also rodents that have a longer lifespan. Degus are affectionate and intelligent creatures that can become your best friends.

Are degus cuddly?

Degus are curious and fascinating pets that can bond very well with their owners. You should bond with them from a very young age and interact with them regularly. Degus that have a good bond with their owner, will want to cuddle and play with you.

How long do degus live for?

Degus are rodents that have a longer lifespan than most other small rodents. They have a lifespan between 5 and 8 years in captivity. So, if you take good care of your degus, you’ll have them for a long time.

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