THE RSPCA has issued a warning about so-called 'starter pets' after revealing that they are forced to rescue an average of 41rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice, ferrets, chinchillas, and hamsters a month in Dorset.

Dr Jane Tyson, the RSPCA’s rabbit and rodent welfare expert said: "Many people think the RSPCA only rescues and rehomes cats and dogs but this is not the case. We see thousands of small furries coming into our care every year and often this is as a result of owners being unable to cope with caring for these animals who they thought would be easy to look after.”

She said that small furries can make 'great pets' but can also be very misunderstood.

"One of the biggest issues we see with small pets such as these is people taking them on with little or no research, often buying them on impulse because their children have asked for them.

"This can lead to families struggling to cope once they realise the large amount of time, money and care these animals actually need.

“It used to be a common sight to see a lone rabbit in a small hutch at the bottom of the garden or a hamster in a tiny cage in the corner of a child’s bedroom but hopefully these images are consigned to the past and people realise that these complex animals need so much more than that.”

In addition to its rescues, the charity has revealed that it was called out to 108 incidents of reported cruelty to small furries in Dorset last year.

Across England and Wales the RSPCA says it's rescuing 340 small furries per month and it's urging animal lovers to think carefully before buying a small furry as a ‘starter pet’ for their children.

"Rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice, ferrets, chinchillas, hamsters are often seen as an easy, first pet for children," said Dr Tyson. "However, it’s important to remember small does not necessarily mean simple as they can have complex needs."

Last year the RSPCA rehomed 2,752 rabbits - about 340 a month. Whilst many of them are snapped up, others can languish at rescue centres much longer and the charity is always keen to hear from potential new adopters for small furries such as guinea pigs Teddy and Will, who are awaiting re-homing from Dorchester.