The RSPCA has warned that a rise in lockdown 'starter pets' could lead to an increase in neglect.

The animal rescue charity has revealed it dealt with 123 incidents involving small furry pets – including rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters – in Bucks last year.

The RSPCA rescue teams also took nearly 240 rabbits into its care during lockdown (23 March-31 August) due to cruelty, neglect and abandonment.

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The charity is releasing the stats as it shines a light on small furries during the final week of Adoptober – a rehoming drive encouraging animal lovers to “adopt, don’t shop”.

It found national figures for people searching on Google for small pets to buy during lockdown soared compared to the year before, with searches for ‘rabbits for sale’ more than tripling from 18,000 in July 2019 to 65,000 in July 2020.

Bucks Free Press:

Searches for ‘hamsters for sale’ tripled from 10,000 in July 2019 to 30,000 in July 2020 and ‘guinea pigs for sale’ doubled from 19,000 to 40,000.

Dr Jane Tyson, from the RSPCA’s Companion Animals Department, said: “Small furries 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.

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“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.

Bucks Free Press:

“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.

Bucks Free Press:

“Adopting small furries from the RSPCA, either from our national centres or any of our branches around the country, will mean you will have all the information and advice you need to ensure your new pets are happy and healthy.”