Surge in small pets being dumped prompts RSPCA warning to owners

The RSPCA says people need to think carefully before taking on ownership of small pets after a recent spate of abandonments.

The animal charity has seen a surge in the numbers of guinea pigs and other small furries coming into its centres this year, and many are now packed out with animals looking for new homes.

While the rise in the cost of living is a big factor, a lack of knowledge of how much commitment is required to look after small pets could also be a factor in owners giving up or abandoning their animals.

Up to the end of August there was a 37% increase in the numbers of guinea pigs taken into RSPCA animal centres compared to the same period in 2022. There were even bigger rises in the number of rodents arriving with a massive 193% rise in the intake of rats and 191% of mice over the same period.

Among the latest cases of abandonments attended by RSPCA officers were two female guinea pigs left in a cage under the stairwell of a flat at Stradbroke Road in Sheffield, South Yorkshire on Sunday, November 12. The animals (pictured) were found by a resident next to a bag of belongings, including sawdust, hay and vegetables.

Animal rescue officer Kate Hetherington took the young female guinea pigs to RSPCA Manchester and Salford Branch, where staff have named them Momo and Rosie and will find new homes for them in due course.

“Fortunately both guinea pigs were both healthy despite their ordeal. There wasn’t any CCTV in the area, but someone may recognise the cage that they were left in,” said Katie.

Two other female guinea pigs were fortunate to be spotted in a layby on the A10 near the Hoddesdon Junction in Hertfordshire by a passerby, who contacted the RSPCA on Saturday, October 21.

The pair were left in an uncovered cage without food and water during a spell of poor weather and their coats were wet through.

Animal rescue officer Nick Jonas picked the guinea pigs up from the caller’s address and took them to RSPCA Southridge Animal Centre where staff have named them Spook and Pumpkin. They will be rehomed after it has been established whether either female is pregnant.

“Obviously, whoever left them in that location had no thought for their safety. There are also concerns that a male guinea pig may still be at the property from where these two came from,” said the animal rescue officer.

“People need to think seriously about taking care of small furries, they’re not as easy to look after as people think and they do require some specialist knowledge.”

RSPCA Inspector Lindsey Avery collected seven ferrets, mostly males, who were left loose on a farm field at Ponteland, Northumberland, on Thursday, October 12. They were taken to be looked after at the charity’s centres at RSPCA Great Ayton Animal Centre and Hull.

“Fortunately, they were in good condition and we managed to round them up. They were fairly tame and friendly, so it was sad to see they’d been left like this. We are seeing more small animals being abandoned as people cut back.

“Sometimes landlords are telling tenants they can’t keep them in their properties.  Then some people just think it is easy to just get rid of pets like these in such a cruel way,” said Lindsey.

The RSPCA has information on its website about how to care for guinea pigs and ferrets.

Anyone considering rehoming a rescued animal from the charity can find plenty of  information here, while the Manchester and Salford Branch also have a family of guinea pigs looking for new owners.