A recent article in the London Evening Standard says that it’s not only cats and dogs that get abandoned during the winter months, but also the smaller animals as well. It quotes the Scottish Society for the Protection of Animals, where animal welfare officers in the area are now caring for over 150 small pets including rabbits, guinea pigs and other ‘small furries’.
The Scottish SPCA believes that these animals often end up in their care as children begin to lose interest in them and their care is no longer prioritised. Janet Kirkpatrick, a senior animal care assistant at the charity’s centre, located in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, said ‘Mum and dad get a rabbit or guinea pig for Christmas, kids lose interest because it’s not doing things like sitting or begging, or because of the cleaning involved’. This then can lead to these domesticated pets being abandoned in the countryside or simply let loose in the street.
Ms Kirkpatrick believes that pet owners may believe that they will adapt to their new surroundings like wild rabbits, but this is not the case. Domesticated rabbits are used to living indoors, so therefore will be unaware of threats such as foxes, dogs and cats which will more than likely have fatal effects.
Traditionally thought of as a children’s pet, many more rabbits are now being owned by adults, often as ‘house rabbits’, partly perhaps as their welfare needs are quite complex, and also because of the companionship they can bring – rabbits are very sociable and can become part of the family, just like cats and dogs. Ideally, they need at least 4 hours to exercise outside their hutch a day and it’s really best to not think about having a single rabbit, as they don’t like to live alone.
If you’re thinking about welcoming a ‘small furry’ into your lives this New Year, why not think of looking at your local adoption centre first, thus giving these abandoned rabbits and other creatures a second chance.