Rodents have quite an unfortunate reputation; they are often associated with a disease or even foul smells or odors. This is not entirely fair – especially if you are keeping them as pets. But what about Degus? Are they known to smell bad, or is it something you will need to consider as an owner? Here is what you need to know.
So, do Degus smell? They do, but while noticeable, their smell is innocuous, and they smell far less than other rodents such as Hamsters. Like with all animals that are kept in cages, any foul odors often depend on the cleanliness of the cage. Diet and health conditions are other factors that can result in a Degus having a strong smell.
For the most part, if you are worried about the smells they may introduce into your harm – you needn’t worry.
That is, of course, if you are willing and able to clean out the cage frequently and often.
Nonetheless, let us now take a closer look and any natural smells these rodents possess.
We’ll also be looking more closely at what can make them smell more harshly, simple and practical ways to keep them smelling fresh – and how to clean a degu safely.
Besides, you’ll need to know this as they cannot be bathed like other animals.
So stick around to the end and keep reading. It’s very much in your interest to do so if you do intend on getting one!
Plus, I’ll clear up some misconceptions along the way.
It’s only fair.
Do Degus Smell Naturally?
Degus do have a natural smell. The males have a stronger smell than the females, as they use urine and feces to mark their territory.
Rodents, by their very nature, inevitably have a smell.
This is usually a result of and associated with the amount of urine they produce.
It is in many ways directly linked to the species.
The best way to “explain” how much Degus smells is to look at how much they urinate in relation to other rodents.
Thankfully, degus do not urinate as much as some other small animals, which is one of the main reasons why they are on the less smelly side of the spectrum.
The smell of Degu urine is often classified as “moderate.”
A Gerbil is a desert animal that drinks very little and, as a result, does not frequently urinate, making it the rodent on the least smelly end of the scale.
At the other end of this particularly stinky rainbow are Hamsters and Mice who urinate the most and whose urine smells strongest.
If you have ever had a Mouse or Hamster as a pet, you now have a ballpark idea of what to expect a Degu.
If not, it may be a good idea to visit a few pet stores and get smelling. In a subtle, reasonable way, of course!
Moving away from the topic of urine for a second, there is better news in regards to the degus.
This time, it’s in respect of their feces – it is always almost odorless!
There is some more good news: Degus tend to gravitate towards one specific area or corner in their cage to do their business.
Mice, on the other hand, will leave small amounts of urine all the way around their cage. This makes it far more likely to smell and much more challenging to clean.
And if you find your Degu is using a particular area, then you can perhaps put some odor-reducing litter in that specific area – this will minimize any smell.
What Can Cause A Degu To Smell?
The cleanliness of your Degus’ enclosure, medical problems, and diet are some of the things that may cause your Degu to smell.
A Degu’s digestive tract is unusually sensitive.
In the wild, they forage for their food.
They eat grass, bark, and a lot of vegetation.
It’s important to feed your Degu food that is comparable with what it would normally be eating if it were in the wild.
Certain vegetables such as herbs, broccoli, and asparagus, as well as fruits like apples, can cause bloating and gas if they are not used in moderation.
A wet diet can cause your Degu to defecate more frequently, so stick to specially formulated pellets if possible.
Another tip to keep in mind is to feed your Degus their vegetables outside of their enclosure.
If you feed your Degus their vegetables inside their cage, then some pieces can fall under the bedding and begin to rot, causing your degu’s enclosure to smell.
The type of bedding you use, how much bedding you put in their cage, and how often you clean it all play a role.
As mentioned above, Degus tend to prefer one corner over another to urinate in.
This is helpful, as you can then spot-clean that area every morning and evening.
At the same time, you can remove anything that is visible that looks unhygienic such as leftover food or wet bedding.
Aside from keeping the cage clean and a strict diet, certain health problems can cause a Degu to smell.
For example, parasites such as worms can accumulate in the digestive tract and cause gas, or smelly feces and dental problems could cause bad breath.
If your Degu has a high glucose diet, bacteria will multiply in the gut and cause the normally inoffensive urine to smell quite pungent.
Strong smelling urine can also be a symptom of a kidney problem.
These are things to be aware of and look out for; while they will not affect very degus owner – they may be areas to investigate if you do decide to get one, and they do.
How To Keep Your Degu Smelling Fresh
Clean, clean, and clean some more. Clean the Degu, clean the cage, clean the toys, clean the bedding.
Your path to a lovely smelling Degu begins when you first choose your cage.
You need a cage that is well ventilated.
The right bedding is crucial and serves many functions, including controlling odor.
Certain bedding is easier to clean than others, such as various types of wood shavings or shredded paper.
Most importantly, you need to make sure that the type of wood you have chosen (should you choose wood shavings) is not toxic to your Degu.
The bedding must be lightweight and soft on their feet, and there should be enough to allow your Degus to burrow and root around.
Going back to the issue of smell, the bedding should be absorbent and easy to clean.
Certain types of bedding are specifically designed to control odor.
The cleaner and more hygienic your cage, the less your Degu is going to smell.
Aside from spot cleaning twice a day, you need to change the bedding regularly and give the cage a thorough clean with an appropriate type of disinfectant.
Yes, this includes all the toys, branches, ropes, wheels, and so on.
This should be done every one to two weeks but allow your nose to guide you – it will let you know when it’s time.
Naturally, the more Degus you have, the more quickly the enclosure will begin to smell and the more regularly it needs to be cleaned.
Not cleaning the cage regularly not only causes your Degu to lose its freshness but also leads to health problems, stress, and even changes in their behavior.
And one other quick thing.
A Degus’ fur produces oil.
If they don’t clean themselves or you don’t clean them regularly, their fur becomes very greasy and gives off an unpleasant odor.
Most Degus love a dust bath. However, there are some that are a little lazy in this department.
Bathing your Degu via a dust and sand bath will keep them smelling nice and fresh.
How Do You Clean A Degu
The best way to clean a Degu is to give them either a dust bath or sand bath. A dust bath dries the fur and gets rid of oils that collect in the fur.
The dust is often made up of clay and ash and can be bought from most pet stores or online from marketplaces like Amazon. This particular brand on Amazon is the kind of thing you are looking for.
To make a dust bath, put around 2 inches of dust in the bottom of a broad but shallow container.
Put your Degus in the container, and they should roll around acrobatically.
Make sure to use the correct type of sand or dust; otherwise, your Degu could end up with respiratory problems.
Remember to keep the sand clean by changing it after every two or three baths – bathing a Degu in dirty sand is rather counter-productive.
Bathing Degus is very easy to do, but you will have to be prepared to get a dust bath along with them as the dust is very fine and gets everywhere.
You can leave the bath in the cage if you like, but your Degus may use it as both a bath and a toilet.
If you find that they are using their bath for a dual purpose, you should remove it from their cage once they are done.
It is recommended to bathe your Degu at least once a week, depending on your environment.
The more humid your climate is, the more often your Degu will need a bath.
However, you need to be careful not to over-bath them, as the skin, feet, and ears can get too dry and will crack.
Another way to clean a Degu is to use a damp washcloth to gently wipe away dirt and softly dry him with a towel afterward.
NEVER use soap and water – you only use a water bath to clean Guinea Pigs, Rats, and Mice.
Using a water bath for a Degu, Hamster, Gerbil, or Chinchilla can cause health problems.
They also do not like getting wet, so a water bath can be very stressful for them.
And remember, a Degus’ fur needs to stay dry. Otherwise, it can develop fungi or mold.
The bottom line? Smell is not an issue if you take care to bathe your Degus regularly and keep their cage and bedding clean.
While some smell is natural and will be entirely impossible to eliminate, this should not be offensive.
Ultimately, good habits make for a healthy, happy, and pleasant-smelling rodent. Oh, and a nice smelling home too!
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.