Two guinea pigs who were bought on Gumtree as a child’s birthday present have now found their loving forever homes.
Toni and Guy were rescued by the RSPCA in August last year (2021) in Surrey after they were found living in a small hamster cage inside a shed with no bedding, no water and covered in their own faeces.
Animal Rescue Officer (ARO) Chloe Wilson, who rescued the two male guinea pigs, said: “Toni and Guy had been bought as a present for a child and their care had been left to the sole responsibility of the child who had quickly become bored of their new pets and as a result sadly the pair had not been getting the care they needed.
“The pets had been bought as a birthday present on the website Gumtree and unfortunately the family hadn’t carried out any research and had little idea about the needs of guinea pigs, particularly in terms of what kind of accommodation or food they needed. Unfortunately, we do come across this scenario quite often as people assume that these animals are easy to care for and will make a great ‘starter pet’ for their children. However, like all animals, guinea pigs are complex to care for and although they can make fantastic companions for children, a child should never be the sole carer of any pet.”
Toni and Guy were taken into the care of the RSPCA Millbrook Animal Centre in Chobham and were later rehomed and have since settled in very well with their new family.
Their new owner* said: “Toni and Guy are doing really well. We decided to move them to our attached garage from outside for the winter so that they are warmer. We don’t park our car in the garage and it also means they have lots of interaction with us as there is always someone popping in and out.
“They are friendly but can still be timid at times, Guy more so than Toni. They enjoy their tunnel and they are quite vocal! My daughter has been reading up about their noises and what they might mean and they popcorn quite a lot which we understand means they are happy! I’m so proud of her and how she has been helping look after them. They are very sweet boys and we are really grateful we could adopt them.”
Dr Jane Tyson, the RSPCA’s rabbit and rodent welfare expert, said: “Small furries like guinea pigs can make great pets but they are often very misunderstood. One of the biggest issues we see with small pets such as these is people taking them on with little or no research, often buying them on impulse because their children have asked for them. This can lead to families struggling to cope once they realise the large amount of time, money and care these animals actually need.
“Pets can make wonderful companions for families and having a pet can help encourage children to be compassionate and kind towards animals and people. Not only does having a pet encourage children to develop kindness and an understanding and respect for living things but the companionship can help improve a child’s social skills with people, holding and stroking a pet can also help to reduce stress and helping to care for an animal encourages responsibility.
“Whilst adults should ultimately be responsible for pets, caring for them can involve the whole family. Children can help with things like cleaning small animal enclosures and preparing a pet’s food. There are lots of DIY toys people can make for their pets too which children can enjoy making and pets will enjoy playing with. They can also get involved when it comes to buying food and equipment for pets by thinking about what is needed and even calculating costs and accompanying parents on shopping trips!
“Helping to care for pets can encourage children to become more responsible and increase their empathy and compassion to others.”