Are you thinking about getting a guinea pig? Or perhaps you want to change your current cavy’s living arrangements? If you have answered yes to one or both of these, then you are probably wondering what temperatures are suitable for your guinea pigs to live outside.
Guinea pigs are similar to humans in that they prefer moderate temperatures. The ideal temperature range is between 18°C and 23°C, but they are definitely more partial to cooler conditions than temperatures that are too high. So how do you make sure your pocket pet is comfortable living outdoors in our not so moderate climate?
Can You Leave Guinea Pigs Outside?
We are often asked if it’s safe to leave guinea pigs outside throughout the year, and the answer is yes. However, because the UK summer and winter temperatures can be quite extreme, you do need to take special precautions to keep your cavy happy, healthy and thriving, regardless of the season.
And, depending on where you live, it’s not just the weather you need to worry about. If your guinea pigs live outside, you need to make sure their hutch is predator-proof, that there aren’t any toxic plants or flowers close by and that they aren’t exposed to any weedicides or insecticides.
7 Tips To Keep Your Cavy Cool in Summer
There is no denying our summers are getting increasingly warmer, and because guinea pigs don’t sweat or pant, they have no way of controlling their body temperature. So it’s up to you, their ‘hooman’ to keep them cool and comfortable when the temperature soars.
Take a look at our top tips on how to keep your piggy cool.
1. Location, location, location
When it comes to where to position your guinea pig’s hutch, location is everything. Never place it in direct sunlight; a shaded area is best. If your garden is particularly sunny, a shade cover for the hutch is the best option, or you can put up a garden umbrella. Always make sure your guinea pig has enough shaded spots inside its hutch.
2. Water is key
During the hot summer months, it’s essential that your guinea pigs have access to clean and freshwater all the time. Cavies don’t like warm or lukewarm water, so make sure the water bottles or bowls are in the shade. Better still, use a water bottle snug cover to keep your piggies’ water cool, even on the hottest of days.
3. Keep your cavy cool with an ice pack
When it gets really hot, you can cool your cavy down with an ice pod from H&R, or if you prefer you can make your own ice pack. Simply freeze a bottle or an ice pack, wrap it in a towel and place it in a cool spot in your guinea pig’s hutch.
4. Don’t put your guinea pig hutch in a shed or garage
Whatever you do, don’t put the hutch inside a shed, garage or conservatory. Typically, these buildings absorb a lot of heat and don’t provide enough ventilation. However, if you have a stone outhouse, it’ll be cooler and offer the perfect accommodation for your pocket pets.
The other option is to convert a shed into a home for your guinea pigs. Just s plenty of ventilation, and that your cavies have access to a safe and secure outdoor area.
5. Give your long-haired guinea pig a trim
Long-haired guinea pigs are more susceptible to heatstroke compared to their smooth-coat counterparts, which is why it’s a good idea to trim their coats when it gets hot.
6. Shoo, flystrike
During the summer months, there are typically more flies around. And unfortunately, these winged pests can make your guinea pig seriously ill with flystrike. This potentially fatal condition is caused when flies lay their eggs on your pet piggy, and the hatched maggots start eating away at its flesh. Always keep an eye on your piggies, ensure they’re safe, know what the symptoms are and how best to treat it.
7. Keep your guinea pig cool indoors
If you’re battling to keep cool outside, chances are your guinea pig is too. On particularly hot days, it’s better to bring your cavy indoors, where it’s typically cooler. An indoor hutch is ideal for when your guinea pig needs short-term accommodation.
7 Ways To Keep Your Guinea Pig Warm in Winter
Winters in the UK can be wet and extremely cold, especially if you live up north or in Scotland. And like us, guinea pigs are prone to all sorts of winter-related illnesses, including pneumonia.
As temperatures begin to drop, you need to winter-proof your guinea pigs’ hutch so that they stay warm and cosy. Here are 7 ways to keep your guinea pigs warm in winter.
1. Get a good quality hutch
When getting a guinea pig, it’s a good idea to get a good quality hutch. It should be raised off the floor and have a sloped roof with an overhang on all sides. Check out our range of hutches. They are rated no.1 across Europe and in the UK and are manufactured with extreme weather conditions in mind.
2. Keep your guinea pig warm with plenty of bedding
Another easy but effective way to keep your guinea pig is warm is with lots of extra bedding. Hay is always a good option, especially if it’s stuffed in a pigloo or there’s plenty of it for your piggy to burrow in and snuggle up. There are some other great bedding choices, but whatever you use, remember to replace it regularly so that your cavy isn’t sleeping on wet or damp bedding.
3. Keep your guinea pigs dry with a rain cover
Hutch covers are an excellent way of keeping your cavies dry during the rainy season. Just remember to check that there enough air circulating to stop condensation inside the hutch.
4. The more, the merrier
When it comes to guinea pigs, it’s definitely a case of the more, the merrier. Not only are they social animals and need companionship, but they also rely on each other to stay warm. Cavies are at their happiest when they can snuggle up to a friend when it gets icy.
5. Home is where the heat is
When it gets really cold, it’s a good idea to put the hutch in a shed, garage, or conservatory. While this isn’t a good idea during the summer, these outbuildings will provide your piggies with the protection they need in the heart of winter.
However, to ensure your guinea pigs stay healthy, as well as warm during winter, you must check that:
- There is enough natural light and plenty of ventilation
- The garage is not used, as the fumes from a car are toxic and could poison your guinea pigs. While loud noises, like from a motorbike, could literally scare them to death
- If you are using a greenhouse or conservatory during the winter months, be sure not to use any insecticides near your cavies
- You move the hutch out of the garage, shed or conservatory as soon as it starts warming up
6. Use a self-heating pad
Self-heating pads or microwaveable heating pads are an excellent way to keep your guinea pigs warm in winter. We prefer the self-heating option as they stay warm throughout the night, and are always at a safe temperature.
7. Stop your guinea pigs’ water bottles freezing over
While this isn’t necessarily a way of keeping your guinea pigs warm in the colder months, a water bottle cover is an excellent way to stop water from freezing over. Another option is to wrap a towel or some fleece around the bottle; however, there’s still a chance that water in the mouthpiece can freeze.
Check the water bottles daily and make sure your piggies always have access to fresh, clean water.
Keeping your guinea pig cool in summer… at a glance
Keep this list of tips handy so that your piggies are cool, even when it’s sweltering.
- Check that there is plenty of shade for your guinea pigs
- Never place them in direct sunlight
- Always have plenty of freshwater for them to drink
- Keep your piggies cool with summer treats including strawberries, watermelon and cucumber
- Clean the hutch out regularly – drinking more water means they’ll be needing to wee a lot more
- Use an ice pod to cool your guinea pig down
- Use a damp towel to wipe your guinea pigs down
- Place a cold towel over the hutch
- Use a fan to cool your guinea pigs down
- On scorching hot days, bring your guinea pig indoors
Keeping your guinea pig warm in winter… at a glance
Winters in the UK can be brutal, especially for guinea pigs living outdoors. Take a look at our top 10 ways to keep your pocket pets warm in cold conditions.
- Make sure the hutch is raised off the ground, and that the roof is sloped
- Use a hutch cover to keep your guinea pigs dry
- Add extra bedding when it gets really cold
- Provide your guinea pigs with plenty of hay so they can burrow and snuggle with their hutch mates
- On that note, never have just one guinea pig. Not only do they need the company, but they also use each other to stay warm
- Dose them up with vitamin C when the temperatures drop. Broccoli, bell peppers, parsley and kiwi fruit, are all rich in this essential vitamin
- Use self-heating blankets or microwaveable pads to keep them warm
- When it gets really cold, bring them inside or place their hutch in a shed, garage or conservatory
- Ensure your guinea pigs are not in a draft and that there is no condensation in their hutch
- Clean the bedding out daily, so they aren’t sleeping on a wet or damp surface
Other Ways to Keep Your Guinea Pigs Safe Outside
Extreme weather conditions aren’t the only thing you need to worry about if your guinea pigs live outdoors. You also need to ensure that the hutch is safe from predators and not near poisonous plants or flowers.
1. Predator-proofing your hutch
It’s not just foxes you need to worry about. Rats, owls, cats, dogs and even children can cause guinea pigs serious harm, and even death.
Foxes are intelligent creatures, and if locks and bolts aren’t very secure on your guinea pig’s hutch, they will find a way in. Our hutches and runs are predator proof and will keep your guinea pigs safe should you have uninvited guests in your garden.
2. Keep your guinea pigs in their cage at night
If your guinea pigs have a hutch-and-run combo (which we recommend), it is vital that they can’t access the run at night. Check that the hutch doors are closed at night, as well as any sliding or trap-doors. Also, guinea pigs should never be left in a run overnight, as it’s just not safe for them.
3. Keep rats away
Always keep an eye out for rats. These vermin have a way of gnawing away at the wood of the hutch, without you even noticing it. Make sure the wood of your hutch is thick enough to keep these opportunistic predators out.
4. Make sure there are no poisonous plants or flowers nearby
Certain plants and flowers are toxic to guinea pigs. Make sure you know what these are and keep your guinea pigs away from them.
5. Never leave your guinea pigs unsupervised
Over-enthusiastic dogs and children, as well as cats and some birds, can pose a serious threat to your guinea pig. Never leave them unattended in the garden or house.
6. Make sure the hutch is made using guinea pig friendly materials
You must ensure the hutch itself is guinea pig friendly. If you plan on building your own hutch, make sure you use a wood that doesn’t pose a threat to your cavies, MDF, for example, isn’t safe because of the glues that are used. And cedar woods produce an aromatic oil that can affect your pocket pets’ respiratory tracts. Hardwood is the safest option,
There you have it. You don’t only have to keep guinea pigs safe from the extreme weather conditions in the UK, you also need to protect them from potential predators and other dangers.
Let us know if you have found other ways to keep your cavies comfortable outdoors.