The RSPCA has dealt with 68 incidents of guinea pigs either being abandoned or 'neglected' in Greater Manchester so far this year, the charity has revealed.
In total, RSPCA frontline officers and inspectors across the country have already responded to 272 incidents involving guinea pigs alone in 2021.
The charity is raising awareness as part of Guinea Pig Appreciation Day on Friday (16 July), particularly after a surge in pet ownership throughout lockdown.
There was a 68 percent increase in visitors to the RSPCA’s ‘find a pet’ page searching for guinea pigs in 2020 when compared with 2019.
Between March and August 2019, there were 61,863 searches for guinea pigs and, in the same time frame when the country was in lockdown in 2020, there were 103,703 searches.
The general search term ‘guinea pigs for sale’ was used 12,000 times in January 2020, 30,000 in April 2020 and 40,000 in July 2020 an increase during the year of 233 per cent.
More than 2,000 guinea pig incidents have been recorded at the RSPCA since January 2019 with 1,147 in 2019, and 614 in 2020 when the country was largely in lockdown.
The charity now fears they may be 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.”