Rescue centre forced to turn guinea pigs away
A Filton couple who started a rescue centre for guinea pigs are now being swamped with the popular pets.
Fi and Matt Cantillon, who live in Station Road, opened their sanctuary in June because they both like the animals so much.
But, since then, the number of rejected guinea pigs have been increasing – so much so that the couple have been forced to turn some away.
Fi, 32, said: "Once we opened the rescue centre people started coming to us with their guinea pigs as their children had grown up and they no longer wanted the responsibility.
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"We only have space for 30 in our garden and after that the guinea pigs have to go on a waiting list or I direct them to an online guinea pig forum."
At the moment, the couple have 23, four of which – Misty, Tessapig, Nutmeg and Cinnamon – are their own pets.
The couple developed an interest in the animals after they got their first guinea pigs in 2003.
They bought two, Tessapig and Bessie, and loved the creatures so much that within six months they bought Mollypig and Jessica.
Matt, 29, an IT manager, said: "We spent many hours reading books, looking at forums, looking at pictures and finding out how to build suitable hutches for them."
In 2004, an acquintance of Fi asked her to take on two guinea pigs that a family member couldn't look after any more.
At first the couple weren't sure, but after visiting them and seeing them looking neglected, they decided to take home the two females, Tizer and Stout.
Matt said: "When we got them they were hardly moving and their hair was falling out and they were in a bit of a state. Within about four months of us feeding them and playing with them and looking after them they were running around with the others.
"It was really satisfying to see."
Fi said: "Then we started getting requests from people with unwanted guinea pigs. Just people we knew or friends of friends but we only took on females.
"Matt wanted to get a boy guinea pig but we couldn't because of all the girls we had so I got him a rescue bunny. It wasn't until we got a second rescue bunny from Cottontails in Westbury, Wiltshire that we decided to do the rescue sanctuary properly.
"One of the staff there knew we were guinea pig mad and she helped us set it all up."
The rescue centre, Cavy Rescue and Retreat, has now had to take on a local volunteer to help out with the grooming and feeding which can take up to two hours a day. For anyone wanting to adopt a guinea pig, Matt and Fi also carry out home visits after collection, to check that the animals are being looked after properly.
Guinea pigs are also known as cavy after the creatures' Latin name, Cavia porcellus.
They are mammals which belong to the rodent family and are native to South America where they live in burrows in mountain and grassland areas.
Their lifespan is around four to seven years and they have large incisor teeth that continuously grow, which they have to file down through gnawing things.
Full grown guinea pigs reach a length of between 25 and 36cm and males tend to be larger than females.
Their heads are broad and short and their bodies are compact with no tail.
They mainly eat hay or grass but also like fresh fruit and vegetables.
Matt and Fi are holding two fundraising events to raise money for medical treatment and upkeep of the guinea pigs at the rescue centre.
The first event is a stall at St Ursula's School Christmas fair on Saturday.
The second fundraiser is a chocolate evening at That Agency on Gloucester Road, on December 3, with drinks and chocolate treats on offer as well as a raffle.
For more information about Cavy Rescue and Retreat or details about the fundraising events call 0845 644 3229.