Adopt and Care for Small Animals and Turtles

Many of the small pets up for adoption in the SPCA are victims of the same sad story: bought as pets for children, then surrendered when the kids lose interest and parents do not want to care for the pets any more. Ironically, many parents acquire pets for children to "teach" them responsibility.

Many families do not realise the true amount of work and resources that are required to keep these animals happy and healthy. With the exception of hamsters, rabbits and other small furries have life spans of 8 to 10 years. Turtles can live for 30 to 40 years!

These pets need a forever home with loving owners, who are truly prepared
to meet all their needs for the rest of their lives.

Everything you need to consider before adopting a small pet for life

  • Guinea Pig, Rabbit, Chinchilla
  • Hamster
  • Turtle
Commitment of 8-15 years

Rabbits and Guinea Pigs can live between 8 to 12 years; Chinchillas can live up to 15 years.

The correct diet and access to clean water

Diet has a huge impact on the health of these small furries. Aside from commercial rabbit, guinea pig or chinchilla pellets, their body size in fresh hay should be provided for them to munch throughout the day with a constant supply of clean water. A few handfuls of leafy vegetables can be given but the bulk of the diet should be hay, with a small amount of a good brand of suitable pellets. Fruits (and carrots!) should be avoided as they contain a lot of sugar and will cause gut problems.

The most common health problems seen by our vets are diet related - gut (e.g. bloat, constipation) and mouth (e.g. overgrown teeth, mouth infections) problems are often painful and sometimes fatal conditions.


The enclosure must have a solid floor where every animal has space to lie down fully extended and move freely. Feeding areas, hiding places, sleeping spaces and toilet areas should not be too close together. Animals kept long term on wire floors will develop painful foot problems. Chinchillas also require vertical space to jump up on such as platforms or sturdy branches.

Sufficient interaction and activity
  • Chinchilla enjoying a tickle.Chinchilla enjoying a tickle.They need daily exercise and should not be kept in a cage all day. 
  • Like dogs and cats, they can be housetrained to pee and poo in specific areas!
  • Playing with your pet in a safe environment is a great way to spend time with it!  This will prevent pressure sores and other painful conditions from inactivity. By spending more time with your pet and getting it used to gentle handling, you will also be able to check it regularly for any teeth or health problems.
  • You should also provide it with suitable items to chew, interesting toys to play with and opprtunities to dig or burrow. Read up on fun ideas to keep your pet occupied and happy, to prevent boredom, aggression and stress.

Rabbits, Chinchillas and Guinea Pigs should be desexed to avoid accidental births as they can breed rapidly. Desexing also greatly reduces mating related aggression.

Download Care Sheet for a Guinea Pig

Download Care Sheet for a Rabbit

Download Care Sheet for a Chinchilla

A Golden HamsterA Golden Hamster


Hamsters live upto 2 to 3 years.

Correct diet and access to clean water

A good hamster pellet diet. Seed diets and seed mixes are not recommended as they are high in fat and lack sufficient nutritients. When fed seed mixes, hamsters will only pick out their favourite bits!

Appropriate substrate

A thick layer of pet grade sawdust to dig and burrow in to feel safe. Hamsters usually have a preferred toilet area and the sawdust in that area should be changed more frequently.

Safe and sufficient space

A Dwarf HamsterA Dwarf HamsterA predator proof cage where sleeping spaces, feeding areas and toilet areas are not too close together. The cage should also be located away from dogs and cats.

Sufficient interaction and activity
  • Provide a hamster wheel where they can run off energy. You can also provide lots of fun hiding places such as small cardboard boxes, tunnels and toilet rolls, where you can hide seed treats for your hamster to find!
  • Regular, gentle stroking and handling will help your tiny pet be more comfortable when caught by you (a giant scary hand!).

Hamsters are mostly nocturnal and will spend many happy hours
running in their hamster wheel at night.

Be kept individually

Hamsters do fine without companions.

If you wish to keep more than one hamster, we recommend they be kept separately as they can have more than 50 babies in a year!  Hamsters can be very aggressive and may fight to the death.

Download Care Sheet for a Hamster

Commitment of 20+ years!

A Red-eared SliderA Red-eared SliderLonger lived than cats and dogs, turtles can live up to 20 years or more.

Turtles have complex needs - Be ready to research

There are many species of aquatic turtle, most of them can grow to several times their size. Each one is suited to a different habitat and have different environmental and dietary needs which need to be met. Good owners do research before acquiring a turtle.

HK's most common turtle: the Red eared Slider

The most common pet turtle is the Red-eared Slider. Originally from North America, this feisty terrapin can grow up to 12 inches in length. They are fascinating animals to watch, but sadly, the majority of pet owners are not aware of their needs and keep them in poor conditions.

The number one cause of poor health, suffering and eventual death in many pet terrapins is poor living conditions and wrong diet.

Sufficient tank space for the turtle as it grows & grows & grows & grows!

As your turtle grows, so will its need for space. Usually sold as an inch long hatchling, red-eared sliders can reach a maximum shell length of 12 inches.

We suggest a minimum tank space per turtle of 4 to 5 times its length, a width of 2 to 3 times the turtle's length and a water depth of 1.5 to twice its length (approximately 60 inches x 36 inches wide x 36 inches high) with sufficient space to swim, bask and hide.

The tank should also be escape proof - tanks should either have a secure lid or have walls high enough to prevent escape. Turtles are good climbers and have been known to climb out of their tanks, fall, crack their shells and die.

Basking area

One third of the tank should be a dry basking area. It should have heat from an artificial source, such as a heat lamp, or natural sunlight.

NOTE: Turtles need both warm and cool areas in their living area - different temperatures regulate a lot of body processes such as digestion and even behaviour.

Hiding spaces

Turtles can see and hear very well. In the wild, turtles will find places to hide and feel secure under plants or under logs or rocks. Good tank decoration enables your turtle to display a wide variety of normal behaviours such as hiding, digging and basking. Consult books and the internet for ideas.

UVB light

This is vital for bone health. UVB is plentiful in natural sunlight or can come from a UVB lamp. Placing a tank next to a window is insufficient as glass and plastic will filter out UVB.

Good water quality

Unless you are prepared to change water daily, filtration is essential. Even with filtration, water still has to be changed regularly to prevent the build up of dissolved waste. Many skin, eye and other health problems are a result of poor water quality. In the wild, turtle waste is carried away by rivers. Unless water is changed regularly, your pet will end up swimming in its own waste.

Proper diet

They should be fed a good brand of turtle pellets. Poor quality turtle pellets may contain high protein foods such as shrimp and meat, resulting in health problems. Red-eared sliders are omnivorous and eat a lot of plant material in the wild. A good brand of turtle pellets will provide a balanced diet, with the right amounts of fibre, essential minerals and vitamins. You can supplement this with additional vegetable material.

Group of Red-eared SlidersGroup of Red-eared Sliders

Many people abandon Red-eared Sliders in country parks, where they compete with the native turtles for food and nesting sites.
Hong Kong's Reeve's terrapins have greatly declined in numbers due to widespread abandonment of the Slider.
Red-eared Sliders are now the most common turtle found in the wild in Hong Kong.

Download Care Sheet for a Red eared Slider

If you are attracted to these lovely animals, please read carefully about their needs as outlined above. Just because they are small, does not mean that they do not have complex and very specific requirements in order to live happy, healthy lives.