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Pets in cold weather- Rabbits and Guinea pigs

It’s cold outside so how can we help our furry friends stay warm this winter? Below is some information and tips from the National RSPCA on keeping your rabbits and guinea pigs warm and snug in the coming months.

Wild and most domestic breeds of rabbits have warm fur coats and most breeds have thick fur pads on the bottoms of their feet; these are natural adaptations to help them survive cold conditions. Wild rabbits live in underground burrows, where the temperature is kept relatively constant. However, domestic rabbits kept outside do not have the protection of a burrow, so are exposed to low temperatures, rain, wind, snow and draughts. In addition to climatic conditions, winter poses a number of challenges for domestic rabbits including less readily available grass and leafy greens to eat, potentially less human contact, less access to an exercise area and changes to their routine.

 

Rabbits and guinea pigs, need extra bedding, such as dust-free hay in winter months. Make sure their home is protected from adverse weather by using blankets or covers which can be purchased to help insulate hutches in the winter months, but care must be taken to ensure there is adequate ventilation. To help them from wet weather the indoor area of their enclosure should have a sloped roof to allow water to drain away and be raised off the ground by at least four inches, and be placed in a sheltered position, facing away from wind and rain.

If the temperature drops to below 15 you may want to consider moving their enclosure into an outhouse shed or unused garage. If you decide to bring your rabbits or guinea pigs indoors they’ll need plenty of time and room to exercise in a safe and secure environment.

It is important to keep your rabbits’ home clean, as your rabbits are likely to spend longer in their hutch/cage during the winter months. Also be aware that wet bedding will freeze on cold nights, which could lead to your rabbits becoming ill. Therefore clean the toilet area daily and clean your rabbits’ whole home regularly, at least once a week. Replacing a small amount of used, un-soiled bedding in your rabbits’ home will help maintain your rabbits’ familiar scent and reduce stress.

 

WINTER CHECKLIST

To help you ensure your rabbits are prepared for the winter, consider the answers to
these questions.

  • Has your rabbits’ housing been checked and any necessary repairs or modifications made? Is the housing waterproof, draught-proof, damp proof? Is it escape-proof and predator-proof?
  • Consider the age and health status of your rabbit – this may affect where your rabbit should be housed and how he/she should be cared for during the winter.
  • Has your rabbit had a recent health check with the vet? (i.e. in the last year, or more recently if he/she is old, ill or under/overweight?)
  • Is your rabbit eating and drinking normally? Is he/her producing normal looking droppings regularly? Is your rabbit behaving normally? If the answer to any of these questions is no, seek veterinary advice urgently as your rabbit could be seriously ill.
  • Is water always available? Is the supply checked at least twice a day? Have steps been taken to ensure the water supply does not freeze?
  • Are fresh hay and leafy greens provided every day? Are all leafy greens washed, safe for rabbits to eat and free from frost?
  • Is sufficient bedding provided? Could a heat pad be provided?

 

For more information and to download the RSPCA Factsheet, click here

                    

EmmaPets in cold weather- Rabbits and Guinea pigs