Paw Prints: Pint-sized pets wait for home

When people think of the SPCA, they often think of the thousands of homeless cats and dogs awaiting new, loving homes.

by Lorie Chortyk, Contributor

When people think of the SPCA, they often think of the thousands of homeless cats and dogs awaiting new, loving homes.

But the BC SPCA’s 37 shelters around the province provide sheltering, care and protection for every type of animal imaginable – from hamsters to horses.

Small animals – sometimes referred to as “pocket pets” – are frequently left at SPCA branches when pet guardians become tired of caring for them or find themselves with unexpected litters due to lack of education about spaying and neutering.

March is Small Animal Month at the BC SPCA, and the non-profit animal welfare society is urging adopters to think of the SPCA as their “first adoption option” when bringing a small pet into their home.

While hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, rats and rabbits can all make wonderful pets, it is important to be informed about their specific needs and suitability for your family.

Did you know, for example, that while many people cringe at thought of having a rat in their home, they are actually the most social, intelligent, and interactive of all the small animals, making them an ideal pet for a child?

Animal scientists have even discovered that rats emit a happy, laughter-like sound when playing.

Rabbits, on the other hand, are prey animals who can become fearful when picked up or handled incorrectly by children, and make much better pets for adults or older children who are ready for a greater level of responsibility.

Providing the right habitat, diet and exercise regime for small animals are also important. Every animal, great or small, has specific behaviours and needs that must be met in order for them to have good welfare.

Too often small pets are housed in undersized cages with little or no enrichment because their guardians don’t understand their needs. The BC SPCA’s website has a wealth of information on pet care for small animals ( to help guardians provide just the right environment, diet and enrichment for their new pet.

If you’re thinking of adding a pint-sized pet to your family, be sure to check out your local SPCA ( or rescue group – there are hundreds of furry friends just waiting for a new home.

Lorie Chortyk is the general manager of community relations for the BC SPCA.