RSPCA warns rise of lockdown 'starter pets' could lead to increase in neglect

Buxton and Ludlow were rescued by the RSPCA in Manchester and are available to adopt. Credit: RSPCA

A rise in interest of ‘starter pets’ during lockdown could lead to an increase in neglect due to their complex needs, the RSPCA has warned.

The animal welfare charity revealed that it dealt with 832 incidents involving small furry pets, such as rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters in Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside last year.

The charity have said that people searching for small pets to buy online soared during lockdown compared to last year, with searches for rabbits alone tripling.

Across the UK nearly 240 rabbits were taken into care by the RSPCA due to cruelty, neglect or abandonment from 23 March - 31 August.

Homer the Hamster Credit: RSPCA

Dr Jane Tyson, from the RSPCA’s Companion Animals Department, said: "Small furries (hamsters, rabbits and guinea pigs) can be fantastic pets to have, however they have a reputation as a good ‘starter pet’ for children as there is a misconception that they are easy to look after, but they actually have quite complex needs.

"For example, rabbits need to live in pairs as they are sociable animals - and need a much bigger space to explore and exercise in than just a hutch.

"During lockdown there seems to have been an increase in interest for starter pets, which may be because parents were at home with their children and so thought it was a good time to bring a new pet into the family.

"While we believe many people buy a rabbit, guinea pig, hamster or other small furry with good intentions, and many will also do their research, there is a risk that not enough research is being done and we are concerned that this could lead to an increase in neglect of small furries in the months to come."

The RSPCA is encouraging people to adopt "small furries" from their local RSPCA branch to ensure that they have the right information and advice to look after their pets.