Whilst the cold winter months may be a refreshing change from the high temperatures in summer for your furry friends, it’s important to remember that the cold weather can bring risks to smaller animals. When the cold temperatures set in, you need to make sure you’re aware of the potential risks your guinea pig could face, from a change in their mood or behaviour, to the condition of their coats and skin.
Behaviour and Moods
During winter you want to ensure your guinea pig is happy and comfortable, as just like humans, the cold weather can have an impact on their mood and behaviour. For example, if your guinea pig is sharing a hutch with one or two other furry friends, then you want to avoid any territorial behaviour that could cause issues between them. You usually find that territorial behaviour begins when the guinea pigs are in a smaller, shared space for longer periods of time. Whilst guinea pigs are extremely sociable animals who find comfort in each other, especially through the winter, there are moments when you may experience some teeth gnawing or biting, which would indicate to you that your small animals need a little more room to live comfortably. Having your guinea pigs living in the same hutch is the best way to encourage a healthy, happy bond between your furry friends, but it’s important to remember that the more space, the happier the guinea pig!
Food and Nutrients
Feeding your guinea pig a balanced diet throughout winter is essential to ensuring they stay heathy and strong. You want to ensure they’re getting the right food, from a good quality pellet feed, to fresh vegetables such as corn on the cob, broccoli and cabbage. These are particularly good winter veggies, so it’s good to stock up on those for feeding times. It’s also important that your guinea pig is getting plenty of fresh hay in their diet, as hay should ideally be taking up 85% of their diet per day.
It’s really important to be cautious when it comes to storing your guinea pig food throughout the winter, especially when it comes to the hay. Throughout winter you will find that unwanted pests such as mice and rats will crawl into warm, dry spaces to hibernate, which is the last thing you want when hay is involved. Storing hay in a space that could have rats or mice invading could potentially cause damage to your guinea pigs health, whether that’s through diseases that have been passed through or other health conditions that could cause problems further down the line. Keep your guinea pig’s food stored in a clear, dry space where no unwanted visitors can find it.
You should also focus on replacing their water frequently, as thirsty little guinea pigs require lots of water to keep them happy and hydrated.
Bedding and Hutches
In many homes, guinea pigs are kept in outdoor hutches, which can be difficult when winter comes. For those calmer winter days, your guinea pig is okay outdoors, however, it’s very important to position their hutch away from the wind, rain or snow flow. This will ensure they’re kept dry and warm and hopefully out of the nasty wind! On the days where the weather is particularly bad, you should try to relocate the hutch to a warmer spot, whether that’s the garage, mud room or even shed. Having them in a space like this will help to keep them at a comfortable temperature, out of harms way.
Keeping your guinea pigs hutch warm and cosy, especially when your guinea pig lives outdoors, is vital. If you fail to keep them warm, then you’ll find that they become unwell or suffer from certain health issues that were caused by the cold weather. Be sure to clean their hutch frequently, refreshing their bedding to ensure it’s fresh and thick for them at all times. You want to avoid letting the hutch become wet, as this can cause damp/mould that can have huge impacts on your guinea pig’s health. One thing that is important to note is that guinea pigs love to be warm and snuggled, so investing in some heat pads and blankets is ideal for keeping them calm, content and cosy throughout the winter months.