RSPCA sees 37 per cent rise in unwanted guinea pigs, leaving resources at 'breaking point'
RSPCA resources are at a "breaking point" after seeing a 37 per cent rise in unwanted guinea pigs this year, with the charity rescuing 15 guinea pigs from a Black Country park during the heatwave.
The animal charity says its centres are "jam-packed" with unwanted guinea pigs, who have been given up by their owners or cruelly abandoned.
Next week marks Guinea Pig Awareness Week, and the RSPCA is striving to educate the public about the small animal's welfare needs.
15 of the animals were lucky to survive after being dumped in two crisp boxes amid searing temperatures at a park in Oldbury earlier this month.
A member of the public spotted the animals at Barnford Park as temperatures in the region reached 30C (86F).
Among the 15 guinea pigs were five babies, who ranged in age from approximately three to 16 weeks old.
The nine females – some of whom were possibly pregnant – and six males had been left without water and were said to be extremely hot in cramped conditions.
The finder took the abandoned pets to the RSPCA’s Birmingham Animal Centre where they were given a veterinary check up and fed and watered. They are now being cared for in several foster homes.
RSPCA: "We're at breaking point"
Overbreeding of guinea pigs and the ongoing impact of the cost of living crisis, as well as a lack of knowledge about the species by inexperienced owners, is hitting the small creatures hard - leaving RSPCA resources at breaking point.
The latest figures from the animal charity shows there has been a 37 percent increase in the numbers of guinea pigs taken in by its animal centres during the first eight months of this year compared to the same period in 2022.
237 guinea pigs arrived into the care of the charity up to August, which is already almost as many as were taken in during the whole of 2022.
This worrying trend seems well established - with last year’s intake of 253 marking a 77 per cent rise on the previous year, mirroring a rise in the numbers of rabbits and other small furry animals that the charity has been left to care for and rehome - including massive rises in the numbers of rats (193 per cent) and mice (191 per cent) over the same period.
As it aims to deal with the crisis, the RSPCA is backing Guinea Pig Awareness Week, which runs from September 25 to 29.
This year’s theme for GPAW is ‘Rescue and Rehome’ with the focus also on finding forever homes for the thousands of guinea pigs who are being cared for at animal centres across the country, with both RSPCA and those run by other animal welfare organisations.
Dr Jane Tyson, the RSPCA’s small animals welfare expert, said: “Pet ownership rose significantly during the pandemic and people often think that guinea pigs will make good starter pets for their children.
“But, like other small animals, they actually have complex needs and they are not easy or cheap to care for well. Owners don't always correctly sex small animals either, so a pair can quickly spiral into double figures and beyond.”
Guinea pigs are sociable animals and owners are advised to keep two or more together. But that can lead to unwanted litters if there are unneutered males and females.
Breeding can soon get out of control - and mothers can get pregnant again within hours of giving birth with pregnancies lasting only nine to 10 weeks.
For guidance on looking after guinea pigs, go to rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/rodents/guineapigs.