The RSPCA is seeking homes for hundreds of unwanted and cruelly treated guinea pigs who have arrived at the animal charity’s centres and branches this year.
Many of those pets have been cruelly abandoned in precarious locations, while others have been given up because their owners have become overwhelmed after failing to control their breeding.
The RSPCA’s animal centres have taken in 37% more guinea pigs during the first eight months of this year compared to the same period last year with 237 guinea pigs arriving into the care of the charity up to August, which is almost as many as were taken in during the whole of 2022.
That is why the charity is supporting Guinea Pig Awareness Week (GPAW), (September 25-29) which aims to educate the public about the small animals’ welfare needs and the importance of rehoming.
Among those guinea pigs abandoned in recent months were 12 guinea pigs (pictured), including pregnant females and babies, who were found inside a taped-up box outside a shop in Leicester on July 25.
The member of the public who found them took them all to RSPCA Woodside Animal Centre, but they had to be transferred to a private boarding facility, like many of the animals the charity rescues, to add to the costs of such accommodation, which is estimated at around £26,000 a week.
RSPCA Inspector Herchy Boal, who collected the guinea pigs, said: “It was heartbreaking and shocking to think so many guinea pigs were abandoned all at once. It’s likely that this was due to accidental pregnancies and the numbers of guineas just kept growing – but leaving them all in a box with no food or water was just unacceptable.”
Three male guinea pigs were also found in a cardboard box attached to a gate at The Range homeware store in Surrey Quays, London, on June 18. They went to RSPCA Leybourne Animal Centre, where staff named them Range, Wilko and Dunelm.
The RSPCA also rescued Marzipan (pictured) and Marmite, who were dumped in a cage without food and water at St. Mark’s Church in Woodthorpe, near Nottingham, on June 30.
During the heatwave in early September, 15 guinea pigs, including five babies, were lucky to survive after they were found crammed in two crisp boxes at Barnford Park in Oldbury, West Midlands. They were taken to RSPCA’s Birmingham Animal Centre and are now being cared for in several foster homes.
Three guinea pigs found by a volunteer from a local charity at a field in Ryhope, Sunderland, on July 30 were not so lucky as they had been subjected to horrific violence. Their crushed bodies were left on the top of a pizza box and a vet examination revealed that the malnourished animals had had their skulls crushed.
The RSPCA tackles appalling cases of cruelty to guinea pigs, including those that have led to successful prosecutions. Earlier this year a teenager, who claimed animals “have no use”, was convicted of killing his step-mother’s guinea pig while under the influence of alcohol. The defendant later worked with police to help change and modify his views of animals.
Many of the guinea pigs that end up being cared for by RSPCA animal centres and branches come from homes where overbreeding has spiralled out of control. If unneutered males and females are kept together then numbers can multiply quickly as mothers can get pregnant again within hours of giving birth.
Last month RSPCA Sussex North & Brighton Branch took in over 45 guinea pigs (including those pictured), along with a large number of rabbits, from the backyard of a property in Bognor Regis, Sussex. They were all living in overcrowded conditions and the RSPCA worked with the owner to rehome the animals with 15 more guinea pigs also taken to a foster carer.
Sadly, some of the pets had a mite infestation and their health was so poor a vet decided they had to be put to sleep. The case is a stark reminder of how things can get totally out of control for owners who fail to neuter and correctly sex their animals.
RSPCA inspector Rebecca Carter said: “The numbers of guinea pigs grew because the owner’s friends left guinea pigs with her, while she was also breeding some litters. But it is much harder to rehome male guinea pigs, so she was left with so many. The conditions were wet, dirty and cramped which was not helped by the rapid escalation in animals.”
There is expert guidance for owners on how to care for guinea pigs in a downloadable digital pack as part of Guinea Pig Awareness Week (GPAW), which is also being supported by Woodgreen Pets Charity, Blue Cross and Raystede Centre for Animal Welfare.
A spokesperson for GPAW said: “Given the growing number of guinea pigs in rescues and in need of loving homes, it is really important that we educate as many owners as possible so that these wonderful creatures can live the happy life they deserve.”