RSPCA cautions against guinea pigs as a child's first pet
Parents are being urged to consider carefully what might be a suitable first pet for their children after a sudden increase in the number of guinea pigs being abandoned.
The RSPCA says that since the start of this year more than 300 guinea pigs have been abandoned and consequently rescued by its officers, compared to just 112 for the whole of 2016.
The charity believes one of the major causes of guinea pigs being neglected is a misconception that they are easy to look after or that they can be a child’s first pet.
Dr Jane Tyson, RSPCA’s scientific officer for companion animals, said: “Just because these animals are small in size does not mean that they are any less of a commitment.
"They have their own specialist needs and require lots of care and attention."
Guinea pigs need access to secure shelter and an exercise area to run around and play in. They also benefit from regular handling which a parent would need to regularly support younger children with.
They also like company from other guinea pigs - which may not always make them a perfect first pet for children if families are reluctant to take on more than one.
Dr Tyson added: “Guinea pigs are highly social animals and in the wild live in close family groups of up to ten individuals.
"As pets they prefer to be with at least one other piggy and can develop abnormal behaviours if they are left without company."
The RSPCA says before any family embarks on a new pet it is worth considering that all family members are on board, who in the family can be be responsible for such a commitment as well as the age of the children wanting an animal. It is also, says the charity, important to visit pet shops and/or breeders to learn more about the animal you may want to take home and the needs it may have before making a final decision.
For more information on how to look after guinea pigs before taking them on as pets, as well as guides to the needs of other family pets, you can click here.