Pet Gazette March 2019 - Page 28

28 | PET GAZETTE | SMALL ANIMALS INCREASING AWARENESS Small animals are commonly seen as a ‘first pet’ for children or anyone who wants to learn how to look after and properly care for a furry companion, however the knowledge on their welfare seems overlooked by the general population leading numerous pet companies to step up and raise awareness T here is a plethora of information available regarding the proper and improper ways cat and dog owners treat their companions assisting the trade in updating its information and due to the popularity of the pets, some people may even gain residual knowledge of the correct way to look after them. However it can be argued that this isn’t the same when it comes to small animals. This is not down to a lack of trying among professionals in the sector; efforts are being consistently and continually made to help owners of these animals have a safer, healthier and happier relationship with their pets. In February, pet food manufacturer Burgess Pet Care launched the first ever guinea pig census in order to gain an understanding of how well the rodents are being taken care of and increase awareness about their welfare needs. Through this, hopefully the industry will identify where there are gaps in the population’s knowledge and continue to do their best to address these areas. With rabbits being the nation’s third favourite pet, Rabbit Awareness Week, the initiative which encourages practices to focus on their wellbeing will enter its 13th year in 2019. It was research backed by the creators of the initiative that gave the industry its substantiated confirmation on the long speculated idea that feeding muesli to rabbits could be harmful. Since, the efforts of the trade to remove the sale of muesli from stores and advise owners against it can not be applauded enough. Further to this, research published last year by the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science found that some ways of handling and holding a rabbit could potentially cause harm to the animal. The study said ‘scruffing’ - the act of holding a rabbit by the scruff of its neck - was reminiscent of how a predator might handle a bunny and induce trauma while putting it on its back could cause it to enter a trance-like state. The findings of this study was important as due to the size of the animal and the way kittens and puppies are held, it is not hard to imagine that many owners will naturally assume this is an acceptable way to handle them. Our lengthy companionship with rabbits has clearly had an impact; scientists from the University of Porto found that bunny brains had shrunk over time due to domestication as the part of the brain which caused it to sense fear had decreased meaning they no longer fear humans. The trade’s understanding of small animals will never cease and neither will its attempts to educate the nation on the best and most appropriate care for its smaller furrier friends. March 2019