Dozens of guinea pigs in the West Country have had to be rescued by the RSPCA this year amid a surge in ownership during the coronavirus lockdown.
Some 125 pets have been recovered by the RSPCA in 2021, with 71 in Devon and 58 in Somerset.
Nationally, Devon was ranked the county with the fourth highest number of guinea pig rescues, while Somerset was ranked eighth.
Ahead of Guinea Pig Appreciation Day on Friday 16 July, the charity is warning they are now seeing the start of repercussions from the increase in pet ownership during lockdown, when many people were at home.
RSPCA animal welfare expert Dr Jane Tyson said: “Sadly guinea pigs, along with other small companion animals like rabbits and hamsters, are very misunderstood.
“We do see instances of abandonment and neglect every year and even in 2020 and 2021, this was no exception.
“What is concerning is that before we have even reached the peak of the summer months our inspectors are already seeing hundreds of incidents involving Guinea pigs, and with many people still at home it is surprising that this is still happening already.
“There is support available for owners who feel they cannot cope, abandoning an animal or subjecting them to a life of neglect is never the answer.
"We would encourage anyone struggling to reach out to family and friends, charities and to make their vet aware that they need help.”
There was a 68% increase in visitors to the RSPCA’s ‘find a pet’ page searching for guinea pigs in 2020 compared to 2019.
But the charity say they have already dealt with 272 incidents relating to guinea pigs across the UK this year, with 66 abandoned and 153 described as 'neglected'.