null Are the products you're buying actually bad for your pet?

Are the products you're buying actually bad for your pet?


Animal-lovers buying these popular items for their much-loved pets could be surprised to learn some of them may not be the best option for their furry, four-legged or scaly friends.

Dr Julia Wrathall, our chief scientific officer, said:

We'd like to raise awareness about these items so that people think twice before buying or selling them. Many people are unknowingly buying these items without realising the negative impact they could have.

Pet products to avoid

Hutches with no exercise area

Grey rabbit © RSPCA

Rabbits should be housed in pairs, in a living area which provides shelter as well as exercise in order to keep rabbits happy and healthy.

Ideally, a compatible pair of medium-sized rabbits need a living area of at least three metres by two metres, and one metre high. Each rabbit needs to be able to stretch out fully without touching the sides and also stand up on their hind legs without their ears touching the roof.

Flea collars for cats

It's important to treat your cat for fleas, but be careful when shopping. Cats are natural hunters and curious explorers and enjoy pushing through tight spots. Therefore, it's imperative that any collar is designed to free the cat should they become snagged.

Many flea collars have to be cut off rather than using a safety buckle for a quick-release. Others may feature an elasticated section which can cause injury should the cat attempt to free himself or herself. Cats also risk getting their forelimb trapped in the collar.

Non-prescription collars are also not very effective at treating fleas, as often the fleas will just move towards the rear of the cat causing skin irritation. We recommend a suitable regular flea treatment instead.

Cotton wool or similar 'fluffy' bedding

Small animals, such as hamsters, need nesting materials (hay, shredded paper and paper tissues) to regulate their temperature.

Always avoid materials that separate into thin strands (such as cotton wool or similar 'fluffy' bedding products). Although these are available to buy, they nonetheless pose a serious risk to the animal. The material can be harmful if ingested, while the thin strands can cause entanglement, loss of circulation or death.

Fur dye and glitter

Some attempts to 'pamper' can be confusing and frightening for pets. They don't understand what's happening to them, or why, and some animals may find this distressing.

People may think they're treating their pets by painting their claws or dying their fur, but some of the paints, dyes, inks and glues used are toxic and harmful to animals. Even if a dye is marketed as "pet friendly", we'd strongly advise against using any, as the product may cause irritation and lead to overgrooming.

Inappropriate snacks for rabbits

Muesli-style food for rabbits is another item to leave off the shopping list. Research shows that muesli can actually cause teeth and tummy problems in rabbits.

Rabbits really need a diet that's made up primarily of hay and/or grass. Eating a bundle as big as they are each day is far more important than eating commercial foods, and helps keep rabbits happy and healthy.

Small fish tanks

Unfortunately, it's common to see small fish tanks sold as 'starter kits', or aimed at children who want to keep fish. 'Decorative' tanks like goldfish bowls, jars or children's tanks are designed primarily as ornaments, rather than with the welfare of fish in mind.

Small tanks provide limited (or no opportunity) for enrichment, shelter and company. While few provide a stable temperature - all essential for a suitable living environment.

  • Fish need company, but small tanks rarely allow space for more than one fish
  • Too many fish in a small tank affects the water quality causing stress
  • Small volumes of water can cause temperature levels to change rapidly, causing stress or death to fish
  • A low surface area of water at the top of the bowl means that not enough oxygen can be absorbed into the water
  • Most bowls/small tanks don't include an efficient filter, so waste products can't be removed.

Bigger is always better when it comes to tanks. We recommend that you buy tanks which hold at least 40 litres of water.

Ideas to treat your pets

Dr Wrathall explains:

It doesn't have to cost very much to treat our pets. Spending quality, one on one time with our pets, baking treats or making DIY toys are simple and great ways to bond with our furry friends.

We have lots of ideas for people who want to try their hand at some DIY treats and toys. Such as How To Videos for making your own dog sock toy, a puzzle feeder for cats and even whipping up some sushi for Guinea pigs.

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