A DESPERATE pet owner has abandoned a litter of rodents in a back garden – after admitting being unable to cope with their constant breeding.
Animal charity workers are now seeking homes for the 18 abandoned degus after they were found by a shocked member of the public.
The animals – described as being “chinchilla-type rodents” – were found in the Hutchison area of the Capital, along with a note from the owner saying they had been “overwhelmed” by the rate at which the creatures bred.
The degu, also known as the bush-tailed rat, is a species of rodent native to Chile which has become an increasingly popular pet in recent years.
Degus are seasonal breeders and generally procreate in the autumn, with pups born in early spring. The average litter for a female degu is around six pups but can be as many as 12.
As well as an adult pair and six juveniles, the box had ten baby degus that were estimated to be around ten weeks old.
The creatures are now in the care of the Scottish SPCA at its rescue centre in Balerno, which is now seeking a home for the degus. The charity said that while it could sympathise with the owner, there was no excuse for simply dumping the creatures.
Assistant manager Kenny Sharpe said: “The person who abandoned the animals left a note with them saying they couldn’t cope any more.
“It seems they weren’t expecting the degus to breed and were left overwhelmed with the number they ended up with. Although we sympathise with the situation, there is no excuse for abandoning an animal and whoever dumped them couldn’t have been sure they would have been found safe.
“We are now looking for homes for the degus. They are active, intelligent and sociable creatures that enjoy living in pairs or small groups.
“Anyone who is interested in giving a good home to any of them should give us a call on 03000 999 999.”
Initially used primarily for scientific research, the degu has slowly grown in popularity as a household pet and can now be found in many leading pet stores.
Because they are a sociable animal, it is recommended to get more than one, and while they can live up to 13 years, the average age of a captive degu is six years.
While they can bite and will chew through everything, degus are easily trained pets – although owners are told never to pick them up by the tail as it will fall off and never grow back.
Abandoning an animal is an offence under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 and anyone found guilty of doing so can expect to be banned from keeping animals for a fixed period or life.