Sometimes, current circumstances make it impossible to keep your degus with you. Whether it’s a surprise litter, the result of poor sexing, or a change in personal circumstances, it’s always difficult to entrust your pet to a new family. In this article you’ll find a number of tips to help you make the best of the situation.
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In this article, we won't use the word abandonment very often. Why not? Because, according to the French Ministry of Agriculture's definition, abandonment is: "[...] the fact of leaving a pet animal without care, without the possibility of feeding or drinking1". In reality, this applies to very few degus. The majority of owner changes are considered as transfers or sales. It is quite possible to give an animal to an association (legal entity), in which case most associations use the term "abandonment" to mean the surrender of the animal. Abandonment has a very negative connotation, but sometimes, for the well-being of all concerned, it's necessary to abandon an animal. So it's worth considering the meaning of this word and its implications for animal welfare. Abandonment is considered an act of mistreatment and is punishable by law. The majority of European countries have laws and definitions of abandonment close to French law2 3 4.
Why entrust your degus to a new family?
Before getting to the heart of the matter, it’s worth taking stock of the various reasons that can lead to the surrender of an animal. Some are linked to critical situations, while others could have been avoided with more knowledge on the subject. However, having to surrender an animal is not always linked to poor management of the animal in question. The reasons that lead to abandonment are varied and complex. That’s why it’s important not to rush into judging requests to take in or abandon animals.
Here are just a few of the reasons why a degus is given:
- Illness/allergies: like all biological beings, human beings can be affected by pathologies and sometimes no longer be able to care for their pets, temporarily or otherwise. Unfortunately, this factor cannot be foreseen and is often a heartbreaker for the owner.
Changes in personal circumstances: many owners will experience changes in their personal circumstances over the course of their lives, which may lead to the disposal of an animal, as certain factors will prevent the animals from being properly maintained on a day-to-day basis.
- Moving house: many pets are abandoned when they move, mainly because their owners have not taken into account their place in the new home, or have not properly organized their transport. It should also be noted that some owners or agencies refuse to accept pets. However, this reason for abandonment is easily avoidable with all the tools available today (pet transport, information on moving pets, planning, etc.).
- Death of the owner: sometimes, when the owner dies, no one is able to take back the animals, which then have to find a new home.
- Cost of living: when the cost of living rises, some people can no longer afford to take care of their pets’ needs. The cost of bedding and feed can be significant, but it’s primarily veterinary interventions that drive up costs. It’s worth noting that the phenomenon of mass abandonment seems to have begun during the global financial crisis of 20075 and was amplified in the United States of America during the subprime crisis, which forced many people to move into homes where pets were forbidden6.
- Climatic disasters: climatic disasters can also lead to the more or less voluntary abandonment of pets. During fires, floods or storms, the displacement of populations means it’s not always possible to take pets with you, especially if they’re in cages.
- The “gift” animal: offered to someone who can’t keep it, or doesn’t want to. The animal itself should not be a gift, or it should be discussed at length beforehand, with all the implications that this entails.
- Other: many other reasons can be given. These include war, which may seem remote in some countries, but can still affect many people.
- Misunderstanding of the animal’s needs: the majority of abandonments, particularly of rabbits and rodents, are linked to a misunderstanding of the species. Many rodents are bought by families for their children, without taking into account the space requirements, behavior and physiological needs of the species they own. In the case of degus, for example, we note that they bite easily when handled, but also that they need cages as large as those for ferrets. What’s more, the degus is not necessarily a cuddly animal, and needs its own peace and quiet as well as an active social life with its fellow. The stress generated by forced handling and excessive noise can lead to serious behavioral problems.
- Behavioral problems / noise pollution: behavioral problems are recurrent in degus and can lead to significant noise pollution. Indeed, one of the most widespread stereotypies in degus is the sometimes incessant biting of the bars, which can occur both day and night. If the cage is placed in a living area or close to a bedroom, this can quickly become a major nuisance.
- Dangerousness of the animal: this situation is rare in the case of the degus, but it sometimes happens that the dangerousness of an animal leads to its abandonment, particularly in the case of repeated bites, for example.
Surprise litters: one of the most common causes of surprise litters in degus is incorrect sexing of individuals at the time of purchase, or the purchase of a pregnant female. This leads to one or more surprise litters, which need to be managed quickly to avoid uncontrolled reproduction.
- Uncontrolled reproduction: this is a fairly common phenomenon in cats, rabbits and rodents, due to their short gestation period. Since the degus has a long gestation period, it is more difficult to end up with an out-of-control group. However, we’re starting to see more and more rescues of 10 or even 20 degus from the same household. This can also be seen in people with Noah’s Syndrome7.
- Death of a degus: finally, one of the most common causes of death in degus is the myth of systematic depression following the loss of a companion. It should be noted that this is false, and that the vast majority of animals survive the loss of their companion very well. For more on this subject: Can we have a lonely degus ?
How to rehome your degus, and where ?
Once the decision has been taken, it’s important to take several parameters into account for the well-being of your degus. You can’t just hand over your degus to the first person you meet, as there’s a risk that they’ll fall in with a family who knows little or nothing about the species, and be abandoned again within a few months. What’s more, finding new owners can be a lengthy process. Some situations have to be dealt with as a matter of urgency, and to avoid the animal being released back into the wild, you need to speak to the right people.
If you wish to give up one or more animals, particularly if you find yourself in an urgent situation, we advise you to turn to shelters and associations before looking for private owners.
Giving at a shelter or association
Shelters and associations are in the front line when it comes to reclaiming animals. If you wish to give your degus, please note that some organizations charge a fee for the surrender of animals.
Finding a new home
If, after contacting several shelters and associations in your area, you still haven’t managed to place your animals, you can try to place them with private owners. However, you need to pay particular attention to the future owners. Here are a few tips to ensure that the transfer goes as smoothly as possible.
- Set a minimum price: even if you prefer to donate, this will keep reptile owners and reclaimers away.
- Ask for a photo of the future cage: to make sure it’s adapted to the animals’ needs.
- Check their knowledge of degus: care, feeding, reproduction, etc….
- Check if they have other pets at home: if so, avoid any contact between potential predators (dogs, cats, ferrets, etc.) and the degus.
If people know the species and seem responsible, then this should work well. Note, however, that it’s always possible to come across a nasty surprise. Unfortunately, this is a risk that arises with every adoption. Note also that the new owners are within their rights not to give you any news if you go through private owners.
There are several ways to post your ads:
- Local groups/networks: your local Facebook group, your town hall’s ads, ….
- Veterinary practices: some veterinary practices list donation offers.
- Online classified ads: beware of the increased risk of scams / reptile owners.
- Ads: to be placed in shops.
- Animal donation groups: many groups (Facebook, among others) offer online adoption ads.
- La lutte contre l’abandon des animaux de compagnie – France
- Loi du 27 juin 2018 sur la protection des animaux. – Luxembourg
- Loi relative à la protection et au bien-être des animaux – Belgique
- Loi fédérale sur la protection des animaux (LPA) – Suisse
- Animal welfare crisis unfolds in Germany as refuges deluged
- Foreclosures slam doors on pets, too
- Syndrome de Noé ou collectionneurs d’animaux