Our guinea pigs have five welfare needs, which are the things that need to be met to keep them in optimum health. One of these needs is the need for a suitable environment, which needs to be met all year round, and even more so important as the seasons change. Guinea pigs are fragile little animals and can become vulnerable as the weather and temperatures change. This includes the extreme heat and extreme cold. In the summer your guinea pig may be happy to live outdoors in a large hutch and run combination, however in winter they may need moving indoors or having their outdoor enclosure adapted. So how do we do this exactly?
Moving your guinea pigs indoors for winter
After a summer in the great outdoors, it may take your guinea pigs a little time to adapt to the hustle and bustle of the busy indoor environment. To help them settle in and to do so safely, make sure your guinea pigs have a few safe places to go to hide and limit stress. You can also place their enclosure in a place in your home which is usually quieter than the main living space.
Remember guinea pigs are social animals and once settled, human interaction can be the highlight of their day, and this can also be a time where they get a treat or two!
Things to keep in mind when housing your guinea pigs inside for winter are:
- If you have a spare room, this would be a great area to utilise for your guinea pigs over winter.
- Draughts from windows and doors can be too cold for your guinea pigs, so it is recommended to keep their enclosure in a draught free area of the home.
- Make sure the enclosure you house your guinea pigs in is secure and escape proof.
- Frequently clean bedding to keep this fresh and dry.
- Be aware of chemicals and fumes from the indoor environment that may affect your guinea pigs, including wood burning fires, air fresheners and scented candles.
A big change to temperature may affect your guinea pig negatively, so when reintroducing your guinea pigs outside in the warmer weather make sure you do this when the temperature outside is right – this is often in the springtime.
Remember good nutrition is key to ensure your guinea pigs stay in optimum health during the changes in season. A well-proportioned diet of good quality feeding hay, fresh greens and Burgess Excel Guinea Pig Nuggets will help to keep them happy and healthy. Note: your guinea pigs cans be transitioned on to Burgess Excel Indoor Guinea Pig Nuggets during their time indoors.
Adapting an outdoor environment to be suitable for winter
If the space allows, move your guinea pigs into a shed or garage to protect them from the winter elements. Similarly move them into a porch or outbuilding. If this is not possible, position their outdoor enclosure in a place that is most sheltered from the wind and driving rain. Check the housing to ensure it is winter proof, a few tops tips are:
- Make sure the enclosure is watertight – check the roof and the walls are in good condition. Ensure the felt on the roof is free from holes.
- Raise the enclosure slightly from ground level to prevent rainwater or snow from entering the enclosure.
- Add a waterproof and/or thermal cover to the hutch. This can be lifted in the day and covered over on cold nights. Remember that this cover needs to protect from the cold weather but also allow ventilation.
- Provide extra insulation in their housing by adding extra bedding material (newspaper, straw, paper-based bedding, or hay), use pet safe heat matts and try and keep their run area dry – try and prevent your guinea pigs getting cold and wet
- Keep enclosure, especially their bed area, as clean and dry as possible – clean wet bedding daily and replace bedding if necessary
- Check your guinea pig’s body condition – more food may be needed over the winter months to maintain their body temperature and condition
- Keep their water source from freezing – check water bowls and bottles several times throughout the day to ensure the water is not frozen. If your guinea pigs use a bottle, check the metal spout making sure this is free from ice and the water is easily flowing from the spout – bottle insulators can be purchased to help limit the water freezing over.
Adapting to summer temperatures
Extreme cold can be a concern for guinea pigs, but so can extreme heat – extra care should be taken in the summer months. Guinea pigs find it difficult to cool down, and that is where you, their owner can help:
- For outdoor guinea pigs, where possible, move your guinea pig’s enclosure out of the direct sunlight and provide a shaded area in their run.
- For indoor guinea pigs, provide an electric fan in their room to help the air circulate and draw curtains to keep them cooler – make sure no wires are accessible to be nibbled!
- Monitor their water morning and night, changing regularly and removing an algae present. If a bottle is provided make sure the water in the spout is not over hot.
- Maintain a clean environment and clean litter areas more frequently. Remember there is a higher risk of flystrike in the summer months, maintaining a clean environment is key.
- Guinea Pig safe cool pads can be provided for your guinea pigs to lay on and keep cool.
- Guinea pigs with longer fur can hold temperature, brushing them daily can help them to cool down – when the heatwave is prolonged, it may be an idea to trim long haired guinea pigs. This can also help prevent fur becoming soiled and increasing flystrike risk.
- Maintaining your guinea pigs body condition at a healthy level will help in warm temperatures, being overweight is not only a risk to their health but will also make it harder for them to stay cool.
Blog written by Ellie Parkes – Nutritional Advisor at Burgess Pet Care
If you need support or more information, get in touch! At firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Burgess Pet Care freephone number 0800 413 696.