If a cold snap looks likely in your region, then it is important to think about your small pets before the worst of the weather arrives. Rabbits and guinea pigs which usually live outdoors are vulnerable to extreme weather condition. Their furry coats alone do not offer sufficient protection against the coldest temperatures.
Rabbits and Guinea Pigs Living Outdoors
Owners of small pets with outdoor hutches must remain extremely vigilante throughout the winter months and should keep an eye on the weather forecasts. Any hutches and runs must be protected from snow, frost and rain. If you don’t feel sure about the wellbeing of your pet, you should seek advice from your vet.
What You Can Do
Here’s what you can do to ensure that your rabbits or guinea pigs remain happy and healthy in freezing conditions:
- Make sure that your pets’ homes are waterproof, draught-proof, dry and adequately ventilated. Their homes should also be escape-proof and predator-proof. You must check the hutches regularly for water marks and other signs of damage which could weaken them.
- If rabbits are healthy and living with other rabbits it is acceptable for the temperature of their home to be as low as -20 degrees Celsius. Elderly and sick rabbits or animals which live alone would not be able to cope with such cold temperatures.
- Healthy guinea pigs can also cope with living in temperatures as low as -20 degrees Celsius.
- Both rabbits and guinea pigs must be given plenty of bedding for warmth. They need extra bedding in the winter and their hutches should be lined with a good supply of newspaper. It helps if you cover the hutch with an old duvet or blanket to provide extra insulation.
- Water bottles and bowls should be checked every day to ensure that the water in them hasn’t frozen.
- Try to avoid too many temperature fluctuations if at all possible.
- Your animals’ homes should be placed in a sheltered position and protected from wind, rain and snow. Hutches should be positioned at least 10cm off the ground.
- If the weather becomes really severe it is worth moving outdoor pets to an inside space which is well-ventilated. Light and room to exercise would also help. Do not house your pets in a garage that you park your car in as vehicle exhaust fumes are harmful to both rabbits and guinea pigs.
Rabbits and guinea pigs have small bodies and this makes them highly susceptible to hypothermia. If they are locked in their hutches then they are powerless to improve their own situations and they rely on their owners completely to provide a safe and warm environment.