How to keep guinea pigs warm in winter

The weather is turning colder now and it’s easy to underestimate the effect the change in temperature can have on your guinea pigs.

Guinea pigs have an ideal temperature of between 18 – 23 degrees. However, any temperature below 15 degrees can spell trouble for your guinea pigs. In this article, we show you how to keep guinea pigs warm in winter.

Outside guinea pigs

Guinea pigs can mostly live outside all year round thanks to some modifications and extra additions to their hutch. Similar to keeping your guinea pig cool in summer, it is possible with some adjustments that your guinea pig can stay nice and cosy inside its hutch.

A water bottle cover is essential to stop the water inside freezing. Guinea pigs drink the most out of all rodents so it’s essential they have a constant supply of fresh water available at all times.

Hutch covers are a great way to keep your guinea pigs home nice and warm. You can either purchase one or use an old blanket securely attached. This will not only help raise the temperature but will also protect your guinea pigs from rain, sleet and hail that may get blown in.

Ensure your hutch is protected from foxes and badgers as they are even hungrier during the winter months. Raising your hutch off the ground is a great way to deter them. Another point to mention is to ensure that your guinea pigs aren’t in their run when it’s going dark.

It’s important to note that if the temperature goes below 15 degrees though, its time to bring them inside. If there is absolutely no way your guinea pig can come into the house, a well-insulated shed or unused garage will also make a great place. Make sure the garage doesn’t have a car in it though as the fumes from the exhaust can kill a guinea pig.

Inside Guinea pigs

Keeping inside guinea pigs warm follows the same principals as outside guinea pigs mainly. Ensure the room they are in is away from draughts and is well insulated. If there is a warmer room available then move their cage and ensure that any windows that have been open during the day for ventilation are closed each night.

Ideally, try not to place their cage under any windows as even the newest of windows can still let a little draft in. Remember your guinea pigs don’t have eyelids so they can’t stop breezes blowing into their eyes.

Just like outdoor guinea pigs, inside piggies can benefit from a thick blanket partially covering their cage. This means they can go into the covered side to avoid any excess chills without blocking the light out of their cage.

Let them eat Hay!

It’s no surprise that guinea pigs love hay! They eat it, lie in it, play in it and roll in it. Hay isn’t just a great boredom breaker and source of nutrients for your guinea pig, it helps keep them warm. To them, it’s like a great big duvet.

Extra hay is always welcome at winter and we like to have separate good quality hay for eating placed in hay racks. We buy cheaper hay for their bedding.

Filling their hidey holes and bed areas with hay is a great way to give them extra warmth and stopping them from getting bored during the winter months.

Add in ways to get warm

We give our guinea pigs lots of extra hiding places over winter and avoid plastic ones which tend to hold onto the cold. Plush fabric beds and soft canvas hiding holes are a really great option for keeping your guinea pigs warm.

Extra blankets placed inside the cage and indoor playpens are also great options. We’ve been known to just put a crumpled up blanket on its own in there and our piggies burrow in and sleep. Blankets placed inside their favourite tunnels and near treats can also provide extra warmth.

Heat pads are also great for your guinea pigs when your away at work. Most can give up to 10 hours warmth and simply go into the microwave to heat up. Ensure you check the temperature before giving it to your guinea pigs. We usually wrap the heated pad in another blanket so that it isn’t too hot for our guinea pigs tummy.

Watch for the symptoms

Guinea pigs are vulnerable to a variety of respiratory infections including colds, pneumonia and upper respiratory infections.

Keeping your guinea pig warm and dry should be enough to prevent any illnesses caused by the cold weather. It’s important to know the symptoms of any respiratory illness as these can be fatal to guinea pigs.

Can guinea pigs catch human colds?

The answer to this is yes! Guinea pigs can catch your cold and upper respiratory infection the same way that humans pass it on to each other. It is passed via respiratory droplets, which include the liquid from sneezes and coughs. Whilst us humans are able to cope with the common cold, to guinea pigs these are fatal. Please take your guinea pig to the vet if it is showing any of the symptoms below:

Signs your guinea pig has a respiratory infection

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing
  • Trouble breathing
  • Runny nose and/or eyes

Also watch out for changes in your guinea pigs normal behaviour: changes in their eating habits, refusing to eat or drink, lethargy, changes to their bowels and crusty eyes are all telltale signs something is wrong. Giving your guinea pigs a regular health check is a great way to catch any signs of illness and stop anything becoming serious.

Prevention is the best form of medicine so try to limit your contact with your guinea pigs if you are suffering from a cold and/or respiratory disease. If left untreated your guinea pig can develop pneumonia which can be fatal to guinea pigs.

If you think your guinea pig is unwell please take them to the vet immediately. Don’t wait until it is too late!

Keep them warm and snuggly

Knowing how to keep your guinea pig warm and snuggly is an essential part of caring for your guinea pig. Its easy and straight forward once you know-how. Please feel free to ask anything if you’re unsure. We would love to hear how you keep your guinea pigs warm in winter too! Comment below or drop us an email.

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