Recently we have had a huge number of small animals enter our care from people who no longer had the time to give to their pets and so had to rehome them - the Miscellaneous Area is full to capacity with hamsters, birds, rats, degus and chinchillas all looking for new homes.
At first, a small furry animal like this seems like the perfect pet as they take up little space and are deemed low-maintenance enough to be pets for children. In most cases, these turn into beloved family pets that are treated well and are provided with everything they need to live a long and happy life. However, what happens when they aren't? Hundreds of small animals arrive at our centre every year for a number of reasons, but the most common of all is 'I don't have time to care for them any more'.
Before taking on any small animal, please remember that they are complex animals with many requirements. You need to consider the amount of time they will take up; this includes time handling the animal, giving it exercise and cleaning out it's cage. Also think about their diet - they'll need a basic dry diet, but consider the cost of adding fresh food such as vegetables, as well as hay and any supplements they require to keep them healthy. Accommodation is also an essential point to think about, as a small cage may take up less space but it won't provide your pet with everything it needs to be able to move and behave normally (especially for animals that live in pairs or groups, such as degus). They need enrichment to keep them entertained when you're not around, as well as bedding, food bowls, water bottles...and these are just the basics!
So next time you are thinking about adding a small animal to your family, take a minute to really think about what you're taking on - and consider adopting a pet from the RSPCA rather than buying one from a pet shop.