AN animal cruelty hotline received 140 calls last year about concerns for the welfare of guinea pigs across the north west.

In Cumbria, the RSPCA took seven calls about guinea pigs in 2018. Nationally, the charity received a total of 1,337 calls last year.

Dr Jane Tyson, RSPCA’s rabbit and rodent expert, has provided some safety tips. She said: “Our cruelty line receives a lot of calls from members of the public who are concerned for the welfare of guinea pigs, perhaps because they are not getting the care they need from their owners or maybe they have been found abandoned which we see all too often.

“They are one of the UK’s most misunderstood pets and this is largely because they are seen as an ‘easy, first pet’ for children.

“Guinea pigs can make fantastic pets but like all animals they have very complex needs and should never be the sole responsibility of

a child.

“Sadly, one of the issues we see is that some guinea pigs are still kept in small cages with little chance for exercise or human contact, and possibly more importantly no contact with other guinea pigs.

“Guinea pigs are sociable, active animals.

“They need to live with at least one other friendly guinea pig and benefit from enrichment so it’s important to give them a large space where they can play and explore together.

“It can also be very fun to come up with unique ways to help your guinea pigs stay entertained and expend some energy.

“As well as being great for their wellbeing, playing with your pet piggy can also strengthen the bond between you and your pets.”