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Owning small pets and (my) guilt when you fail to love them - a warning

(71 Posts)
Jules2 Thu 09-Feb-17 18:44:33

This is not so much a discussion thread as a confession and warning to those of you out there on the verge of getting a guinea pig or similar small pet for your child(ren). We bought 2 GPs (brothers) for our daughter when she was 7 and the novelty wore off within weeks - she soon stopped even cuddling them. The cleaning, playing and cuddling fell to her Dad and me. It wasn't so bad as the boys were company for each other but then the smaller one (John) died and Edward was left alone. We didn't want to get another one so we tried to re-home him - asking various small animal farms, friends and advertising online. It seems there are plenty of unwanted GPs out there so we didn't have much chance. Edward got lonelier and sadder, and we did try to play with him daily but we were just too busy and forgot - we also have an elderly and now sickly) cat who - quite honestly - I love(d) much more. We moved house in March 2016 and brought both pets with us naturally. Edward had always lived in a hutch outside but now he was further from the house and we had builders in, blocking the easy way out to the back garden. Aside from feeding and cleaning him out, we neglected Edward emotionally and he died in November - alone and unloved - during the night at some point. I won't lie and say I miss him but I am still filled with remorse for having left an animal to become so lonely and, I'm sure, very depressed. Poor Edward died without having a cuddle for maybe 2 or more weeks. And I call myself an animal lover. We didn't do nearly enough to solve the problem of his being alone and, with the benefit of hindsight, I would not have bought the GPs in the first place. SO - please take heed of my experience and if you have even the slightest inkling that you won't be able to commit fully to loving and caring (emotionally) for your pet, just don't get one.

neonrainbow Thu 09-Feb-17 18:49:01

You should have had it put to sleep if you couldn't rehome it rather than neglect it. They're very social animals. Don't get any more pets.

Fingalswave Thu 09-Feb-17 18:58:25

Bravo op for being so honest about this. Your GP's life did not end in ideal circumstances -and to be fair to you it is not always easy to get older animals to bond once they have lost their long term partner - this (and the fact that RL sometimes gets in the way ie family illness or building works) is the reality of keeping small pets in many circumstances. For similar reasons, I am also reassessing the ethics of keeping small furries for our own benefit.

One thing I would say though is that a seven yr old would never be responsible enough to care for a pet alone; in fact, even in a house with teens, it is always going to be the responsibility of the adult.

70isaLimitNotaTarget Thu 09-Feb-17 19:04:24

When DD was 9yo and wanted A Pet we got our GP1/GP2 (I'd had piggies as a child-teenager).
I said that they were ultimately my responsibilty because I'm the adult. I signed those Adoption papers.
Legally,morally,financially - mine.

Now we have GP4/GP6/GP7/GP8 - only GP8 is mine. But they are all my responsibilty.
DD has always done her share .

I make it my mission in places like Petshops to tell parents exactly what they're letting themselves in for.
Those tiny piggies in the small perspex cages don't stay like that.
They are messy.
They are a commitment.
We love ours , the bones of them.

They shouldn't be bought as a childs pet, a child cannot be responsible.
Family Pet. Even my DH will muck in and look after them if we're away. He'll pick up veg on the way home.

You will have no idea what that poor little soul died of either.
All my guineas are rescues.

Dumped. Unwanted. Guineas who were badly bred from. A breeder who "didn't like guinea-pigs" . Rehomed due to lack of space.

There are Rescues who would've taken him. He would have been rehomed or had the company he needed.
Very sad

Jules2 Thu 09-Feb-17 19:05:50

Yes, true about the responsibility of caring for them. Dad and I knew we'd do the lion's share of cleaning and feeding but our DD lost interest in the best bit - the cuddling - very quickly. I suppose an indoor pet, e.g. a hamster or the cat, is so much harder to ignore. It was a big life lesson.

lemonzest123 Thu 09-Feb-17 19:07:41

I warn everyone I know off getting small pets on a whim. I adore my house rabbits but my god they're a responsibility!

Jules2 Thu 09-Feb-17 19:12:15

I'm afraid that wasn't the case. We rang around all the rescue centres, small animal farms, etc. - even several at some distance from us. We'd have been happy to drive him to a good new home. No-one could or would take him - the suggestion was always to get another GP which would've put us in a vicious circle as, of course, they don't die at the same time. Our GPs came from a breeder and we met the father so we had a good idea of how big they would become and, indeed, the level of cleaning involved. And we consulted our vet about what kind of small pet would be best for our daughter (she wanted a rabbit) - they advised a pair of GPs. I think as pets, they can be as time-consuming as dogs - and clearly not animals that should be kept alone.

Jules2 Thu 09-Feb-17 19:16:53

Harsh! I don't expect sympathy - just wanted to point out there's more to caring for a small pet than just feeding and cleaning (which we never neglected). It's very hard to put down a healthy animal - we'd have loved to see him adopted into a new home but couldn't find one for him. Maybe we could have tried harder...

forfucksakenet Thu 09-Feb-17 19:34:24

Devastating story!

KoolKoala07 Thu 09-Feb-17 19:46:18

We had 2 family gp's. (I haven't lived at home for 5+ years, they remained with my parents) One died and the other was lonely. My mum done research and she ended up buying a small cuddly toy for her cage, which done wonders for her loneliness. She also has a big cage indoor (she permanently lives indoors) so has regular contact and chatting.
They are actually extremely simple creatures to care for.

dietcokeandwine Thu 09-Feb-17 23:08:13

Such a sad story op but I think you are very brave, and honest, to share it. I very much doubt poor Edward is alone in his experience either. At least you did care for him physically.

There is a statistic I've read somewhere -can't remember where - that 90% of DC lose interest in a new pet within the first 8 weeks, so your DD was actually pretty typical, sadly.

I think there are two things that any prospective 'what small furry shall we get for the DCs?' reader should take from your thread.

1. What do you, the adult (and especially the main carer) want? Do you actually like/love small furries yourself, or will caring for them quickly become a chore? Only ever get what you yourself want.

2. With guineas, if possible, house them inside at least some if not all of the time. They become more sociable, much easier to pay them attention even if the DC aren't cuddling them, and much easier to organise feeding and cleaning out in the comfort of the house.

We have three DC and four guineas and our children have been very similar to your DD, if I'm honest. I do the care, and all the spoiling and cuddling too. And from time to time they enthuse about other animals they would 'love' to have (ooh mummy can we have a puppy, a kitten, a parrot, a terrapin, a bearded dragon) and I always always always say no. No, no, no. No, because, no matter what you would 'really love', I don't want one.

Guineas we have, because I bloody love them, they bring me a huge amount of joy and I will probably continue to have guineas long after I've got rid of the kids grin

But nothing else, because I'm not prepared to love and look after anything else.

So yes, only get pets when you, the adult, really really want them.

RIP Edward sad

OhBlissOhJoy Thu 09-Feb-17 23:15:45

From someone who has been involved in small animal rescue - stories like yours are very common. Parents give in to kids who then get bored and parents end up looking after the animal. We NEVER rehomed to anyone who wanted a pet for their kids. It was only ever to people where the parents had their eyes open.

70isaLimitNotaTarget Thu 09-Feb-17 23:33:33

The Gumtrre adverts (stay away from Gumtrree) that give the reasons for rehoming:

moving so don't have space
kids allergic
no time for them/got a new job so can't spend the time
got a new puppy/want a new puppy/guineas are out on their ears
kids lost interest hmm
kids outgrown them.....like they're a temporary, practice pet that you can get rid of like a pair of old Converse shoes when something better comes along

dietcokeandwine Thu 09-Feb-17 23:56:31

I like this article 70 - from a rescue website and makes the point quite effectively

www.bobtailsrescue.org.uk/docs/ThinkCarefullyP.pdf

70isaLimitNotaTarget Fri 10-Feb-17 00:33:28

That is spot on diet
There's another one , the 12 requests of a Guinea Pig or something.

Its like:
treat me kindly, don't shout at me
learn my funny little ways , its easier to tell if I'm ill
don't neglect my health just because I'm old

there's more, I'll try and dig it out. I was a bit <gulp> how many of these did I fail at? "All of them" my guinea-pigs rage . Little toads.

70isaLimitNotaTarget Fri 10-Feb-17 00:35:51

Ah, its on Guinea Lynx : 12 Pleas to Guinea Pig Owners.

YouHadMeAtCake Fri 10-Feb-17 00:42:13

I'm not going to soft soap it. I agree with * Rainbow and notatarget

Awful. I hope you do feel bloody terrible because you should. It's obvious and normal ,decent people shouldn't need to be told. You should have taken him to a rescue so they could rehome him. I work in animal rescue and I'm sick of people like you, getting pets on and whim and losing interest. You are not an animal lover that's for sure. Shame on you OP.

EastMidsGPs Fri 10-Feb-17 07:13:43

I. Have. No. Words.

Skooba Fri 10-Feb-17 07:25:23

We had a hamster that lived in the kitchen.

All my son's friends' lived in the garage sad

FernieB Fri 10-Feb-17 11:28:36

It's so sad when you hear stories like this but very brave of the OP.

I have spoken to people in P@H about the realities of GP and bunny ownership. They're a huge commitment and need a lot of care and attention. No one should ever get any pet because the kids want one. Ive just been through an RSPCA homecheck and they were very interested in the ages of any children in the home, so it must be something they see a lot.

We have a rabbit because I'm slightly barmy about them (he's not so fussed about me), so he is totally mine and lives mainly in the kitchen (as do I). We have GPs because the DDs wanted them initially and that prompted me to do some research. After investigation, I succumbed and adopted a pair. I knew the care would be mine, but as I love all animals (except the neighbours cats) it was never going to be a chore for me. I do everything practical and provide cuddles and interaction. Luckily my DDs have stayed relatively interested even though they're now in sixth form, and quite often one of our fluffy brood will find itself carted off into a bedroom and forced to watch rubbish TV with them - poor thingswink

FernieB Fri 10-Feb-17 11:30:07

Also, like dietcoke, I can't really see me being without piggies now. They've totally won me over.

YouHadMeAtCake Fri 10-Feb-17 13:06:03

Brave? Hardly.

Fingalswave Fri 10-Feb-17 13:12:07

I think it is brave to own up and take responsibility for your mistakes actually, and to post about it on Mumsnet, and thereby expose yourself to criticism from posters who are very hardline and unforgiving, with the aim of preventing others making the same mistakes.

70isaLimitNotaTarget Fri 10-Feb-17 15:53:24

hardline and unforgiving ?

Well I'll wear that Badge Loud and Fecking Proud if it means I'm not someone who would basically abandon a solitary prey animal to the hutch in the garden in November without cuddling him for over two weeks.

The Internet is full of information at the click of a mouse, how to care for these animals.
They are not particularly hardy, and they need to be checked and handled daily, even a quick cuddle and once over in the morning then more at night.

Guinea pigs go downhill very quickly , I have noticed my piggies are ill just the way that they are sitting !. Then even with intervention from a Guinea-Pig vet , they still don't pull through.
This guinea-pig could've been unwell for days . They hide it.
He could've been cold.
He would've been lonely.
They need they're owner (y'know the ones who decided to go out and buy them) to read their signs.

That's neglect.
So unforgiving? You bet !

Fingalswave Fri 10-Feb-17 16:01:07

I wasn't referring to you actually 70, I thought your posts were fair

And the GP had obviously been attended to daily if they were clean, fed and watered.

I just think the op deserves some credit for her honesty. This thread could really help someone who was about to make a similar mistake.

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