Chinchilla or Degu – Which Makes The Best Pet?

Degu or Chinchilla

If you’re looking for a small pet rodent then you must have come across both the chinchilla and the degu, after all, they both originate from South America. You’ve probably wondered which makes the best pet, in this post we will compare them both to help you with your decision.

What is a Chinchilla?

Chinchillas are small rodents that originate from the mountainous region of South America, usually found in the Andes Mountains of northern Chile. They have soft, dense fur and for this reason, they have often been hunted to make fur coats.

Chinchillas are normally happier in pairs as with most rodents.


Chinchillas are available in a range of different colours; grey, beige, black velvet, brown, white, violet. These are the main colours however there are many different shades within these colours.


The average weight for an adult male chinchilla is 400g – 800g (0.9 – 1.7 lbs). The average weight for an adult female chinchilla is 400g – 600g (0.9 – 1.3 lb).

Life Expectancy

Chinchillas have a very long lifespan in captivity for a relevantly small rodent, the average lifespan is 12-20 years. This is quite a big range but a good average would be 15 years for a pet chinchilla.

Wild chinchillas live to 10 years approximately, obviously, in the wild, they face many dangers, and being hunted by humans for their fur is a significant threat.

Dietary requirements

Chinchillas have very specific dietary requirements which consist predominantly of fresh hay but they can also eat small amounts of pellets that are specifically designed for chinchillas and contain seeds, grass and corn. Small amounts of dried fruit mixture are also good if used as a snack.

You will need to ensure that your chinchilla has a fresh supply of water.

Health Issues

Most rodents have various health issues that they can suffer from and chinchillas are no different, the main health issues tend to be teeth related or skin conditions such as fungal infections. Chinchillas are also susceptible to heatstroke if they’re kept in warmer conditions.


Chinchillas or “chins” as they’re often referred to certainly aren’t the easiest rodent to look after and many people don’t fully understand what chinchilla ownership entails until they actually buy a chinchilla. They have specific dietary requirements and need to be kept in a cool temperature of around 60F-70F (15.5c-21.5c).

If you’re looking to buy your first pet then I would advise against a chinchilla, however, if you’re an experienced pet owner a chinchilla may be a good pet for you. Be prepared to work quite hard though, these are far from a “hands-off breed” due to their complex needs.

If you’re looking into Chinchilla ownership you may find my post helpful 5 Things to Consider Before Buying a Chinchilla.

What is a Degu?

The degu is a small caviomorph rodent that originates from Chile. They’re a distant relative of the chinchilla and guinea pig. Degus are said to be a social animal, thus making them the ideal pet for your home. Degus often prefer to live in pairs as they will be most happy with a cage mate.


Degus come in a range of different colours which are; agouti (brown colour), blue, white, cream, black. There are of course slightly different shades and variants of these colours.


An adult degu weighs between 170g – 400g (0.37 – 0.9lbs).

Life Expectancy

Degus are said to be able to live up to 13 years although this is less common due to poor genetics or the breeding gene pool. A typical degu kept in captivity will live between 6- 8 years.

Dietary requirements

Degus are herbivorous and in the wild, they will eat grass and seeds. They require a high fibre diet and should never be fed any dietary sugar.

Degus kept as pets can eat hay, guinea pig food or specific food designed for degus.

Clean fresh water should always be available for your degu.


Degus are quite a rare breed of rodent and not as common as say a hamster or guinea pig but this shouldn’t put you off them.

They are fairly easy to look after but you will need to do your research on the breed first before buying one. Degus are active and like to run around so you will need a cage with an exercise wheel and plenty of space as they can grow up to 12 inches (including their tail which can be 6 inches long).

How does a Degu differ from a Chinchilla?

The first thing that springs to mind is life expectancy, a chinchilla can live up to 20 years in the right environment whereas a degu will live up to 13 years (although 6-8 years is typical).

Degus require a lot of exercise, this could come from out of cage time or running on their exercise wheel, so expect some noise from them. They are a very social animal and quite daring.

Degus are smaller than chinchillas and not as well known by some vets. It’s important to check with your local vet that they have the understanding and experience to deal with a degu.

Do degus have any health issues?

Degus aren’t immune from health issues and they suffer from a range of different problems:

  • Diabetes
  • Bumblefoot
  • Dental problems
  • Eye infections

It’s advised that your degu has annual health checks to make sure none of these issues crop up unexpectedly.

Which makes the best pet?

Ultimately this will come down to personal preference if you have lots of time on your hands and want a rodent that can give you many years of joy then the chinchilla is hard to beat.

If you want a rodent that is very lively and requires (slightly) less work and investment then a degu could be the right animal for you.

It’s worth noting that both animals live happier in pairs so this is something to factor in before you buy your pet.

Whichever animal you choose they will both bring joy to your life.

I’d love to know which you choose, leave me a comment below stating which you choose and why.

2 thoughts on “Chinchilla or Degu – Which Makes The Best Pet?”

  1. I have 2 Degus and their name are Cinnamon and Cocoa! They are both females and are absolutely adorable as well as playful and active. I have had Chinchillas in the past, but I personally think that Degus are a slighty better pet.

  2. I didn’t even realize that people kept degus as pets! It sounds like they make lovely companions. Unfortunately, I suspect that they’re not legal to keep where I live (along with ferrets, hedgehogs, gerbils, and others), though I’d have to double-check on that. I’ve never seen/heard of anyone having them in my area.


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