Cats and dogs are not the only animals that get surrendered or go stray. The Seattle Animal Shelter (SAS) also takes in what they affectionately call “critters.” This critter crew includes everything from rabbits and guinea pigs to chickens and small animals like rats, gerbils and hamsters, birds and reptiles. There was even Terry the tarantula.

The critter program is the brainchild of a volunteer who realized the need for the shelter to play a role in the growth of critters as companion animals. More and more critters were being surrendered, abandoned, lost and abused and they needed the same care as cats and dogs. The purpose of the critter program is to save one life at a time, to educate the public about the care required for a critter and to encourage adoption of these animals.

The critter program functions like the cat and dog programs. The animals arrive at the shelter, get medical care if necessary, some are placed in foster homes and they are featured for adoption on Petango and at adoption events. There are shelter volunteers, trained and experienced in the art of critters, who work with and socialize the animals as well.

SAS has the largest critter program in the Seattle area. The program works very closely with partner organizations such as the Pacific Herpetological Society, Special Bunny and Washington Ferret Rescue. They also assist with other government shelters that are at capacity and would have to put the animals down due to space issues. The most common reasons for surrender to the shelter are moving, too many animals or allergies. Unfortunately, there is a rise in rabbit surrenders after Easter because people are given bunnies as gifts and are not aware of the care it takes to keep a rabbit.


This year, the critter program has its own event that focuses exclusively on the critters. It is called Creeptacular and the primary goal of the event is to engage and educate the community about the animals and their adoption availability. Also to introduce critters as companion animals for those who aren’t aware of their wonderful attributes. At the event, members of the public will have a chance to engage with the animals. There will be a photo booth and an opportunity to handle some of the animals. The public can learn about the kind of habitat, food, enrichment and life expectancies the critters need and have. The event is Saturday, October 28, 2017 from 12-3pm at SAS.

Pyg & Flori

When asked about a critter success story, Anne, the coordinator of the critter program, told the story of Piglet Pyg. Pyg is a guinea pig who was taken in by SAS from a hoarding situation. Despite infrequent attention during her time in the hoarding household, she was loving and outgoing. Adopted by her foster parents, Pyg is now a princess. Every morning she stands on her hind legs and chews on her cage until she gets her greens. In the evening, she looks forward to snuggle time and a lap to nap on. She gives kissed and in return just asks for chin scratches and an arm to lay on. Pyg welcomed a foster hospice guinea pig into her home and keeps her happy and engaged. Pyg is an inspiration to those around her about embracing life and making it through whatever comes your way.

Ann shared a second story of Flori an almost 2-year-old rabbit who is still looking for her forever home. She is a great rabbit with a distinctive personality. According to her foster mom, she is a feisty girl. She likes pets, and is like a cat where it needs to be on her terms. She is fun to watch and she “binkies” or jumps in the air and twists her head and body in the opposite direction, constantly, especially during the late evening hours when rabbits are typically active. This behavior is her way of showing how happy she is.

For more information on adopting Flori, go to