HAMPSHIRE had the most calls last year regarding concerns about guinea pigs in the south east.

The RSPCA 24-hour cruelty line received 43 calls in 2018 to 2019 about concerns for the welfare of guinea pigs in Hampshire, new data has revealed.

Nationally the charity received 1,337 calls about guinea pigs.

Dr Jane Tyson, RSPCA’s rabbit and rodent expert, 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.”

She added: “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.”

There were a total of 184 calls last year regarding concerns for the welfare of guinea pigs in the south east region.

Hampshire received the most calls in the south east last year followed by Kent with 35 calls; Berkshire with 23 calls; East Sussex and Buckinghamshire with 17 calls; West Sussex with 16 calls; Surrey and Oxfordshire with 14 calls; and the Isle of Wight with five calls.

The RSPCA is the largest animal welfare charity in the UK who rescue thousands of animals every year and were the first to introduce a law to protect animals