If you feel that you need to find a new home for your small pet, we urge you to carefully consider your options and do your very best to ensure that your pet’s new life is a safe and happy one. Here we will explore some common reasons for rehoming small pets and the main options for ways to do so.

Reason 1 – Biting/not being as friendly as hoped

What is sometimes perhaps not appreciated is that small pets have been domesticated for a relatively short time in comparison to cats and dogs. Consequently they are not naturally tame and you do need to put work in to building a bond with them. Animals purchased from pet shops will often not have been handled before purchase and will not have been selectively bred to ensure a good temperament so may require extra work. The good news is that it is a rare animal who cannot be tamed with a little work and patience. Taming a previously nervous animal is extremely rewarding and can lead to a very close relationship with that animal. We are very happy to provide advice and support with this so do please get in touch if you are experiencing this issue.

Reason 2 – Pets not allowed in current/new home

This is one of the most common reasons why small pets are handed in to rescue. Most letting agents/contracts do state no pets as a matter of course, though they are usually thinking more of cats and dogs. It is always worth checking whether there is some room for discretion for small, caged animals and you could also try offering to pay an extra deposit to insure against any damage caused (though caged pets are unlikely to cause any significant damage). Otherwise please see below for advice about the best route for rehoming your pet.

Reason 3 – Allergies

Although it is much more common to be allergic to dogs or cats than small pets, allergies to these animals certainly can develop and can range from a slight rash when handling to full blown asthma attacks. Before rehoming your pet though it is worth making sure that the allergy is actually to the pet itself. Some types of small pet bedding, for example, can cause respiratory problems especially wood shavings, sawdust and scented beddings. If the cage is currently in a bedroom, you may find that locating it in another room reduces the reaction. Otherwise please see below for advice about the best route for rehoming your pet.

Reason 4 – Unplanned pregnancies

Some small pets can be a little tricky to sex and this unfortunately means it’s not uncommon for animals to be sold pregnant or as mixed sex groups. These situations can quickly snowball as it only takes one missexed male to create havoc in a group of girls! If you find yourself in this situation please contact us as soon as possible and we will be very happy to advise. Many rescues will also offer to sex animals for you free of charge to prevent any further accidents (but do ensure you contact one of the specialist rescues on our directory to be certain that they have experience. It is not uncommon for vets or general rescues to make errors in sexing small pets). See below for advice about the best route for rehoming any babies you cannot accommodate.

Reason 5 – no time to care for the animals

It is very important that small pets receive a good standard of care – that is really the whole point of this site. But providing good care for these animals need not take up much time. We would urge you to weigh up the quality of life you can provide with the risks of rehoming your pet. Animals handed into rescue may receive less attention than you can currently give while they wait for a new home and animals rehomed privately may end up in an unsuitable home. Going to a new home can also be very stressful for small pets. We suggest the following basic checklist – can you

  • Provide a suitable sized cage
  • Clean the cage out once a week
  • Handle the animal every couple of days to maintain your bond and check their health
  • Provide time out of the cage for exercise and exploring at least once a week
  • Provide veterinary care if the animal becomes ill
  • Provide a suitable diet
  • Provide animals which live in groups with company of their own species

If so, your pet may well be better off with you than being rehomed. Otherwise please see below for advice about the best route for rehoming your pet.

Reason 6 – Kids got bored

If only I had a pound for every email I receive from someone who bought their child a pet because they had been demanding it for months but then the child had lost interest. These emails are heartbreaking, not only for the poor unwanted pet, but because of the message being sent to the child – that it’s ok to walk away from your responsibilities once they’re no longer exciting. It can be a very valuable lesson to a child to have to carry on caring for their pet even once the initial novelty has worn off. Otherwise please see below for advice about the best route for rehoming your pet.

How to rehome your pet

Option 1 – release the animal into the wild

This isn’t really an option but it’s included here purely to explain why it’s such a bad idea. Although, as mentioned above, these animals are less domesticated than some other pets, they are still too domesticated to survive in the wild. Hamsters, gerbils, chinchillas and degus are not native to the UK and the environment is totally unsuitable meaning they will very quickly perish. It might be tempting to think that rats and mice will survive since there are also rats and mice in the wild but the pet versions of these animals lack the survival instincts of their wild counterparts. Rats and mice are territorial so domesticated animals released into the territory of wild ones will likely be attacked and killed. Pet animals are also usually bred to be colours which we find interesting rather than colours which provide them with good camouflage in the wild. This means that they are especially vulnerable to being attacked by predators such as cats, foxes and birds of prey. It is illegal under several bits of legislation including the Animal Welfare Act, Wildlife and Countryside Act and Abandonment of Animals Act to release domesticated animals into the wild.

Option 2 – place an ad on gumtree/preloved/facebook etc

These sites can be very useful selling resources as it’s often possible to reach high numbers of people for little or no cost. However there are considerable risks associated with rehoming animals in this way. These sites are often trawled by people with unsavoury intentions looking for animals for cheap or free. They may be looking for meals for their snakes, for animals to breed for profit or for animals to use as bait to inspire aggression in fighting dogs for example. These are not urban legends – these are very real risks faced by animals rehomed without proper checks. Even if the person who rehomes your pet has good intentions, if they later find they no longer want or can no longer care for them, the animal faces rehoming and all the associated risks again.

If you do use this option we would advise the following to help ensure the safety of your pets

  • Never list an animal as free. Charge enough to dissuade those with ill intentions to look elsewhere even if you then give the money to charity.
  • Advertise your pet on a site which is dedicated to animals or to your pet’s specific species and which is therefore likely to attract serious and experienced owners. See our resources page.
  • Check each home offer carefully. Ask them questions about how they will care for the animal, what experience they have, whether they can afford vet bills etc. Do a homecheck and see for yourself that there is a good sized cage set up ready and that any other pets in the house appear well cared for. Check that they will care for the animals in accordance with our suggested care sheets.
  • Ask new homes to sign a rehoming agreement. This is standard practice when animals are homed by rescues or responsible breeders and can provide valuable back up in private rehomings as well. Contact us for a template you can use.
  • Keep in touch with the new home to make sure everything goes well and offer help if there are any problems.

Option 3 – Use a pet shop rehoming scheme

Some large pet shop chains now have an adoption scheme where they will take in unwanted pets and find them a new home. The advantages of this scheme include your pet being seen by large numbers of people which maximises their chance of finding a new home and new homes are asked to sign a contract promising to return the pet to them if they cannot care for it rather than rehoming it themselves. However there are also considerable disadvantages. While waiting for their new home the animals are living in a shop in often very small accommodation and in a noisy, stressful environment. Home offers are not vetted so, while it’s less likely that people looking for snake food will source animals this way, there are no guarantees that the homes will understand the needs of the animal and be able to care for them appropriately. Placing homeless animals in small housing in a shop can encourage impulse buying/rescuing. No follow up checks are done by the shop to check that the animal is being properly cared for and has not been rehomed elsewhere.

Option 4 – contact a rescue

Our view is certainly that rehoming your pet through a rescue is the best option. However there are still caveats. Rescues are often full up and you may need to wait a short while before a space becomes free. Rescues taking small pets vary from large charities whose primary focus is cats and dogs to individuals operating from their own homes. A large charity might have more supporters and be able to take in and home your pet more quickly but a small, specialist charity might have more knowledge to cope with poorly or less tame animals and be able to offer more of a home from home setting which might reduce the stress your pet experiences. For any rescue you contact we recommend asking them how they vet their home offers for small pets, whether they euthanase animals which bite or are hard to rehome, whether they ask adopters to sign a contract and whether they offer lifetime back up for any animals they rehome (i.e. will take the animals back if the new home falls through). You can find a list of rescues who may be able to help using the menu at the top left of this page.

In summary, whilst things change and there will always be a need for some animals to be rehomed, we urge you to think carefully before choosing to rehome your small pet. Like other animals they experience stress during change and rehoming can put them at considerable risk. If you do need to rehome then we strongly recommend that you do so through a rescue centre which you have checked the policies of in advance.