Monday, 5 December 2016

Quietly fighting for survival: Bobby

Our latest guest blog post by our branch manager Susie Hughes:

Some of you may recall Bobby from our blog earlier in the year. He defied the odds to recover from one of the most horrific cases of ignorance and neglect we had seen in a while. Alas, since then more animals have come into the care of RSPCA Manchester and Salford Branch that have equally distressed and dumbfounded us but all the while Bobby has been quietly fighting for survival all over again.

Bobby when he first came into our care with terrible injuries

When Bobby was well enough for rehoming we shared his story of recovery with you all, but little did we know his journey had only just begun. Bobby quickly disappeared from the adoption pages and commenced a 4 month period of uncertainty as he battled a liver infection.

We learnt that liver infections are more common in juvenile rabbits than most people know and because the liver regenerates most owners won't ever 'see' any symptoms in their baby bunny much more than drinking too much. But how many of us really know how much is too much? The juvenile bunny typically repairs themselves without any of us knowing there was ever a problem in the first instance, but in Bobby's case his water consumption was unmissable. Blood tests confirmed it was his liver function causing the problem so he began a long course of treatment.

Weeks went by and Bobby hit puberty with gusto. This meant he had the overwhelming urge to mark his territory (something normally we can stop with neutering!). It was not his fault, he had become a slave to his hormones but he could not be neutered due to the risk of the anaesthetic effecting his liver further and hampering his recovery. His water consumption  was upwards of half a litre a day and this hormonally charge mini-beast was unable to stop himself from peeing everywhere but in a litter tray. Months ensued of mopping and cursing and filling his home with as many litter trays as was humanly possible but it still did not deter him. It wasn't just me that became fed up with the mess, my own rabbits became fed up living alongside him being so offensive.  Normally tolerant of any lodgers, Reenie and Donk decided to fight back with their own wee wars, driving me to distraction! After 3 months of wading through wee in my house I was at breaking point and there was no sign of pending recovery.

Of course I couldn't give anyone else the burden of looking after him and we couldn't afford to board him where the bunnies are kept.  I had no choice but to continue but had by now lost all hope of him ever recovering. The exotic rabbit specialist vet, however, was certain Bobby had a positive future ahead of him and whilst he was growing and thriving in all other respects I confess to having deliberately stopped myself from forming an attachment with him. To be honest this wasn't hard because he was just so dirty! By now not a single wee or poo landed in a litter tray and my floor was ruined. Admittedly a small price to pay for saving a life, but I would have been a millionaire by now had I got shares in kitchen roll!

At the end of a long summer and when another blood test revealed no improvement in his liver I felt so disheartened. I just couldn't see any hope and began to fear for his future. And one day it popped out. "I love you Bobby". As soon as I had said it I caught my breath in shock. But he then did a massive wee on the floor and I went back to grumbling again!

What came of Bobby's frequent medicating actually surprised me. You would have thought he'd be opposed to being  picked up given the amount of injections and oral medication he had but quiet the opposite occurred.  Now don't get me wrong, he's evasive of capture, but once in your arms he is relaxed and easy to handle. This was in massive contrast to how he was as a baby, but who could blame him given how sore he must've been to the touch. Bobby had also grown in confidence, seemingly helped by his testosterone and he no longer was scared of people, the resident dog or other bunnies. The latter was my greatest source of happiness because I never thought he would be able to be paired with a companion after the horrific attacks he endured as a baby. But now I could see there was real hope that this lad would want a lady rabbit friend to explore and enjoy life with.

I went away for 2 weeks in October and so Bobby boarded at the vets (in the holiday  section). I returned to the news that his water consumption had begun to drop and over the following 2 weeks at home I continued with the daily routine of measuring how much he was drinking. After a month of being off medication and a decline in his drinking we repeated the blood test. Finally we had the results we had been waiting for: Bobby's liver function was stable, there was no more progression in the disease and he could be neutered! My joy was palpable!

Within 3 weeks of being neutered Bobby had stopped peeing everywhere and my rabbits had lessened their own wee retaliation. My little fighter, who had become part of the furniture, was finally ready for rehoming. So it is with a huge sense of relief, albeit tinged with a heavy heart, that we now search for a special home for this extraordinary bunny. He is without doubt one of the RSPCA Manchester and Salford Branch's greatest triumphs this year and after 6 months and roughly £460 of veterinary costs it is my wish this Christmas that he finds a home as a cherished house rabbit.

So why adopt Bobby? To give him the chance to blossom into the cheeky adventurer he is desperate to be. So he can wrap you round his paws to get extra veggies from you. To give a true survivor the outcome he deserves, and to save me from myself! But above all to support the work of the RSPCA M&S and enable us to help many more animals in desperate need like Bobby. 

Without your help, through adoption, donations and gifts for the animals, we could not continue to do what we do. Sadly there are many more animals like Bobby who need us. You can make a difference to his life and so many others and be reassured that we are there for them. 

Throughout December we will be sharing our animals' (past and present) wishes to Santa on Facebook & Twitter! Be sure to follow the hashtag #rspcasantawish and see if you can help make any of their wishes come true this Christmas!

If you would like to make a donation so we can help more rescued animals this festive period please TEXT WISH27 £1/2/3/4/5 or £10 to 70070
Alternatively, you can donate online via Just Giving

You can also see our animals Santa Wish Lists here!

Monday, 14 November 2016

News Round-Up: Autumn 2016 Issue 3

Breaking records & a late Baby Boom

Since our last news round-up in Spring we have continued to be extremely busy bees! From 1st April to 31st October we have rehomed 412 animals; unbelievably in October we actually smashed our record for monthly adoptions when we rehomed 68 animals! 

You may remember that earlier in the year we took in dozens of rats who had been abandoned in the street. At the time of writing we can report that only 1 rat is left looking for a forever home! We are so very grateful to all the adopters who came forward to give fresh starts to our special little critters.

Sadly, we have continued to see large numbers of cats & rabbits coming into our care via the National RSPCA inspectors. It seems that the seasonal peak of the ‘baby boom’ was late this year and took place in August-September time for reasons unknown! We’ve had many litters of kittens & rabbits from a myriad of circumstances but the story that sticks out for us is Anita the rabbit. 

Anita was found on a  market stall were she was being sold for £1 for meat.  A member of the public spotted her and couldn’t just walk by, she paid £2 and brought Anita home. Not long afterwards the lady found she had a litter of babies to deal with as Anita must have been heavily pregnant. She contacted the National RSPCA who stepped in to assist and bought the bunny family to us. Thankfully, Anita and her babies are now happy, healthy and ready for adoption! 

At the moment we are averaging 40 rabbits in our care per month (normally we have 20-25) with demand continuing, due to amongst other factors, some local branches in the region being closed to rabbits. We hope our adoption success continues so we can help as many rabbits as possible.

Talking shop

Didsbury Shop Manager Tom Hammersley shares his Summer of fun fundraising for the animals.

What a summer it’s been! From sales to donations, the support from our customers has been absolutely incredible and I’d like to offer my sincere thanks to all of you for contributing to the rehabilitation and rehoming of over 340 animals through 2016 so far. We’ve been given many wonderful, exciting and downright bizarre donations, and I’d like to list some of my personal favourites:

« A Charles Darwin book published in the late 1800s (£120)

« A Planet of the Apes audiobook on vinyl (£5)

« 30+ Troll dolls! (£2.99 - £10 each)

« A collectable Hendricks gin tea set (£70)

« Crazy Cat Lady action figure (£10)

« A strand of Elvis Presley’s hair! Now, this is a tricky one. The certification says it’s legitimate, but this is very hard to prove without the use of police DNA testing equipment (and they won’t return my e-mails). So keep your eyes peeled as we will be holding a silent auction for this item very soon.

People assume that, as well as support from customers, the success of the shop this year is down to mine and assistant manager Richard’s amazing management skills, and in many ways they are absolutely correct. However, I can not understate what an enormous contribution our dedicated, hard-working volunteers make to the running of the RSPCA Didsbury shop. Give ‘em a high five next time you’re in.

What’s The Itch?

Just like us, many of the animals that come into our care suffer from allergies or sensitivities which sadly massively increases their time waiting for a forever home. Many people don’t want the hassle of sourcing the special diets or the extra costs which are sometimes involved so pass up the offer of meeting our ‘special needs’ cats. These cats are just as adorable, affectionate and deserving as the other cats in our care, and just as healthy if kept on the right diet, but it is a struggle to rehome them.

The most common complaints are food and flea allergies, and in Camille’s case it’s both. Camille came into our care at the start of July after being found stray and bald with no sign of an owner. Her bald back and bum were classic signs of flea dermatitis which is when a cat is left with a bad flea infestation so becomes allergic to fleas and loses the hair on the lower part of the body. She was also red and balding on her face and around her eyes which is often linked to food allergies; sadly allergy testing isn’t very clear in cats so rather than waste precious resources we decided to eliminate different allergens from her diet to see what worked for her. 

Camille at the point of rescue

We quickly discovered what suited Camille; monthly prescription flea treatments (which we recommend for all cats) along with a high meat content diet without all the added bulk of wheat and grain that is added to most commercial pet foods. Such a simple remedy considering the terrible state she was in when we found her. We order her food online and it costs us 90p a day, not a big ask when most people pay 60p a day for 2 sachets of Felix plus whatever the accompanying dry food costs. Camille is now healthy and hairy but after 4 months she is still waiting for someone to see past her slight affliction. 

Camille now!
So next time you’re looking to adopt a new furry friend we ask you to stop and think about the ones on a different diet;  we all have a food we’d rather avoid or a type of fur or dust that sets us off sneezing  but it shouldn’t keep us from having a home to call our own. If you can offer Camille a home please get in touch - give our lovely team a call on 0161 882 0680 option 4 or email

What can I do?

There are so many ways you can help us continue our work; check out our current appeals below if you would like to get involved!

« Rabbit toys & enrichment needed

Due to the large numbers of rabbits coming into our care we are desperately in need of chew toys to keep chompy mouths happy and healthy! You can buy a toy online via our Amazon Wish List   below or by dropping donations into any of our 4 charity shops listed on our website. DIY cardboard tubes stuffed with hay are also very welcome! 

« Ladies clothing needed

Our charity shops fund the vast majority of our work and we can’t help animals without a good supply of stock to sell. Ladies clothing is the most popular, so if you are having a clear out ready for Winter please consider donating to us. Shop locations and opening times here.

We would like to say a massive thank you to all our supporters this year and if you are reading our blog for the first time we hope you too will support Team RSPCA M&S in 2017 and beyond!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Baby Rat Invasion!

RSPCA Manchester & Salford Branch's Animal Welfare Assistant Michelle writes about this summer's new arrivals at the branch and what we've learned whilst they've been in our care.
Back in July RSPCA inspectors collected 53 rats that had been set loose, over 2 nights, in a park in West Yorkshire. The rats had clearly been kept together in large groups where they had sustained injuries and infections and inevitably breeding had become out of control.
Recently rescued rats
Our branch took in as many rats as we could accommodate (we had to beg borrow and steal extra cages from kindly branch supporters) and found ourselves, amongst many others, with five females, all of whom could be pregnant. As a branch we had only started rehoming rats in February and we had never cared for newborn babies, so a bit of research was in order.

The first thing we learnt was that the gestation period for a rat is 21 – 24 days, so we had to keep all the girls for 3 weeks before we would know for sure that they weren’t pregnant. We had mixed feelings about the potential of baby rats appearing: on one hand baby animals are always a delight and we love to learn about and take care of new species. One the other hand, with so many rats being rescued from the same case and being cared for by RSPCA branches in the area, there was the very real possibility that there would be so many ratties looking for homes that it would be difficult to rehome them all.

On the 30th of July the stork must have been very busy as 2 litters of babies arrived overnight. One mum (Joanna) had given birth to litter of 10, and a second (Dawn) had produced 8 babies. The number of rats in our care had almost trebled in one night!
We set up individual cages to separate the new families (up until this point our 5 girls had lived together quite happily) but as females will aggressively defend their young for several days after birth. Carefully we scooped the mums, the beds they had given birth in, and the babies in into their new, private accommodation. At this stage the babies looked like little more than large, pink sweeties, so they were nick-named the Jellybeans.

Jellybeans a few days old

The next two things were learnt was that the babies should be left well alone for the first 5 days of life and that baby rats are called pups. After a week or so it became clear why. The pups had got a bit of colour and were looking a bit like puppies - much cuter than Jellybeans! We started to handle the rats once they were a week old, to get them socialised and used to human company.

10 day old pups

A week after the first 2 litters arrived, a third was born. We were quite relieved when Edina rat only had 2 pups!

At around 2 weeks old the 18 baby rats had started to be mobile and were appearing outside their nests. They were growing very quickly! 
16 days old
So quickly, in fact, that we had a bit of an accident at 16 days old when one pup popped their head through a hole in the wooden shelter that was their nest and got firmly stuck. Presumably they’d fitted with no problem a few days before, but with a bit of a growth spurt those ears weren’t going anywhere. 
Rat: Trapped
Luckily I was cleaning out the cages when this happened and spotted the trapped rat quickly. After a failed attempt to free the rat myself, and much to mirth of Susie our branch manager, I got him to our vets for an emergency rescue operation involving sawing, oxygen and a team of nurses. They did an amazing job to free the tiny pup and within an hour it was back  with its family as if nothing had happened. Phew!

Not quite weaned
After learning that rats grow in size very quickly, we also found out that they developed rapidly too. Pups are weaned around 3 weeks and need to be separated into same-sex groups before they are 5 weeks old, as females can get pregnant aged 6 weeks. It is easy to see how breeding can quickly get out of control but it is also easy to see (to put it nicely) which are boy rats and which are girl rats, so sexing them isn’t tricky.

After 20 babies we were very pleased when our remaining two females sailed through the 3 week “pregnancy watch” without any more new arrivals. Now at 6 weeks old the babies (and their mums) are ready to be rehomed and are up for adoption. 


Next time our Branch Manager says yes to lots of rats we will know what we are letting ourselves in for! But until we find homes for lots of the ratties it will be a while until we can say 'yes' again.

If you would like to adopt baby rats take a look at our adoption page for further information. We have pairs, trios and quads!