In recent months there has been a worrying increase in the number of people keeping meerkats as pets.

Animal dealers have exploited the popularity of the TV commercials featuring the Russian meerkat who wears a smoking jacket, and have made meerkats a sought-after household friend.

Meerkats are highly sociable animals found only in southern African deserts, where they live in colonies of up to 30. Living alone, or even in a pair, will not provide the social stimulation these animals need. Months of boredom can eventually lead to insanity and some meerkats even self-harm by biting themselves.

They are not well suited to life in a UK living room. Meerkats like to forage, play and burrow. They have large claws and teeth and can easily destroy furniture and carpets. They can also scratch and bite, sometimes leaving their owners with nasty scars.

No matter how well you think you can look after a meerkat, or how much you might enjoy having them as a pet, you will not be able to provide them with a life equal to their natural life in the South African desert.

People concerned about this trade can sign our pledge at Fiona Galbraith, Campaigns assistant, Captive Animals’ Protection Society, Manchester.