Hamster vs. Degu vs. Hedgehog

So I’m researching my next hamster. Or maybe degu. Or possibly hedgehog. I haven’t decided. And I still haven’t cleaned out Maximus’s cage. ::sigh::

Hedgehog

I was fortunate enough to board a hedgehog for several days not too long ago, and she was sooo interesting. She’d huff and ball up. She licked me… then bit me. (Then my 3-year old started licking my arms and cheeks, too.) She was a lot bigger than a hamster, ate what I think was crunchy cat food, and I only saw her awake at 4:30am when I started my day for cat visits. Fluffy on the bottom, prickly on the top.

The downside is that I’d need a new cage with a hedgehog-appropriate wheel, as well as a heating lamp, fleece for hiding, and other toys. Also, the purchase price for a hedgehog is around $175-$400 if you go through a breeder; even the SPCA’s adoption fee is $75 (in contrast, a hamster is $10). Also, the set up would go where I usually put pet sitting guests needing an electrical outlet. GettingĀ  a hedgie of my own would mean no more turtle or hedgehog guests in the future.

 

Degu(s)

Another hamster-alternative would be getting a couple degus. They are 3-4 times bigger than a hamster, they live longer, and are active and affectionate pets. Getting degus would be even more expensive than getting a hedgehog, due to all the accessories. The cost of two degus (because they’re social and need a friend) is about $30 for a pair, whether you get them from a pet shop or the SPCA, but they need a large cage with several levels and toys to play with. So roughly $350+ for a decent cage, plus accessories. Degu food might be hard to come by, since they are newly domesticated, so the pet shop suggested mixing hamster and guinea pig food together (I’ll have to look into whether this a viable long-term option, or if I would need to hunt for degu-specific food). They also eat hay like rabbits and guinea pigs, fresh vegetables, and can clean themselves with chinchilla dust. They like to burrow, so some sort of bedding is recommended. And they are messy, so degu owners often recommend getting a handheld vacuum, as well.

I have to say, I’m leaning strongly towards degus right now. The average pet hamster lives around 2 years; the average pet degu lives 6-8 years. It would be nice to have a longer time with my furry little pet(s) before they die. Sorry, I guess I’m just feeling morbid right now because Maximus died just a few days ago.

Hedgehogs are neat and fun, but their active hours rarely coincide with mine, so I wouldn’t get to play with them as much. They’re still really cool, though! They eat bugs and worms!

Degus are very active and social, and in addition to needing a spacious, durable cage, they need a lot of regular play time with their humans. I have 2 cats – I might have to separate them when it comes time for play time. Also, degus have tails which can be pulled off if they are played with too roughly. Sadly, this tail does not grow back, and the degu then has to learn how to balance without their long tail. I have a 3-year old human – will she be able to interact with the degus in an appropriate manner and not pull off their tails? Will she learn how to open the degu cage and let them out to be chased by the cats? Well, only one of the cats would be chasing. But that’s still not a good scenario.

Ah, decisions, decisions. But a pet – even a small pet – is a big responsibility, and welcoming another living creature into my home isn’t taken lightly.

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