What's cuter than the happy squeaks of a warm, content guinea pig? Emphasis on warm, though – guinea pigs may be warm-blooded, but at night, on cold days, or during winter months, they may need some extra help.
How to keep guinea pigs warm? Whether they're indoors or outdoors, here are some good methods – plus a couple of tips.
Ideal Guinea Pig Conditions
For guinea pigs, the ideal temperature is between 18–23ºC. They thrive in cooler temperatures – but freezing-cold weather is bad for them. You'll need to keep a guinea pig warm if the temp drops to around 15ºC
Outdoor Guinea Pigs
If your guinea pigs live in an outdoor hutch, it's very important to keep them warm. But how do you keep guinea pigs warm outside in winter or at night? Here are some ways!
1. Cover for water bottles
Keep their water from freezing over by covering them with a thick layer of cloth (like a sock). Guinea pigs drink a lot, so they need a consistent supply of fresh, water.
2. Hutch covers
These help keep a guinea pig warm in the absence of natural light. You can purchase one from a pet store, or use an old blanket. A fleece blanket is ideal since it's thick and comfortable.
Hutch covers also help shield your guinea pigs from the weather, especially when it's windy!
3. No nighttime exercise
Guinea pigs need exercise, but let them out during the warmer hours, such as mid-morning or mid-afternoon. Keep your guinea pig out of direct sunlight, though – they may get heat stroke.
4. Bring them indoors in colder weather
Move your guinea pig or hutch indoors if the temperature starts dropping below 15ºC. Extreme temperatures or colder months are bad for piggies.
If you can't bring them into the house, place them in a shed with insulating material. If they must go in the garage, make sure they have a hutch cover and that there's no car. Exhaust fumes are dangerous for cavies.
5. Extra hay or cage blankets
Hay isn't just for playing and munching! Extra hay means extra warmth in the winter, so you can stuff their tunnels, bed areas, and other hiding places with hay so they can burrow in.
Old towels or clothes can serve the same purpose. Crumple one up and place it near their bedding or treats. Think about how cosy it feels when you're bundled up in a fluffy doona – your guinea pig will feel the same!
Guinea Pigs Indoors
You'll mostly follow the same principles for outdoor guinea pigs! They should be in a well-insulated and warm room – but try not to go warmer than 24ºC.
You likely won't need a hutch cover, but other heat sources such as a heat pad, shredded paper, and other insulating material will be welcome.
Signs of Respiratory Infections
Your furry piggies are vulnerable to many respiratory infections, including colds (and yes, they can catch human colds!). Watch for these symptoms:
- Coughing or wheezing
- Trouble breathing
- Runny nose or watery eyes
- Changes in behaviour such as eating or drinking habits
- Soft poop
If your guinea pig may be sick, consult a vet immediately.
Tips for Keeping Guinea Pigs Warm
Whether you're keeping guinea pigs warm in winter or just have a drafty house, here are some tips for managing your furry friends.
1. Avoid drafty areas
Choose the location for your guinea pig's cage carefully so it's not anywhere drafty or chilly. Exposure to both can cause upper respiratory infections in guinea pigs, including pneumonia – which can be fatal.
Keep guinea pig cages away from:
- Exterior doors
- Basements and garages
Ideally, your guinea pigs' cage is somewhere central, at a stable temperature away from cold air.
2. Keep a guinea pig cage elevated
As the adage goes – warm air rises, cold air sinks! Floors can also absorb the cold, especially if they're made of ceramic tile. As a guinea pig owner, keep your cavies' cage off the floor so they can stay warm.
(Also – put them somewhere sturdy where they can't get knocked over!)
3. Give them cage mates
Guinea pigs are social creatures, so friendly ones love snuggling! Having more than one guinea pig means they can share body heat to keep a hutch warm. Small animals huddle together naturally, especially in cold temperatures, so extra friends mean extra warmth.
4. Keep dry bedding
You wouldn't like wet bedding and neither would your pet! In the chilly winter months, it's more important than ever for your pets to have dry, warm material to sleep on.
5. No clothing
It may feel tempting because the idea of a guinea pig in a sweater is super cute – but you gotta resist. Clothing can restrict your guinea pigs' movements and make them uncomfortable. It also prevents them from grooming themselves or eating cecal poop, both important for their health.
Your guinea pig could also eat the fibres, which could lead to fatal intestinal blockages.
Keep Your Guinea Pig Warm
The weather outside may be frightful, but your guinea pig will feel delightful so long as it's snug and warm. How to keep guinea pigs warm is simple enough! Keep your fluffy friend happy with these methods and they'll be squeaking away, cosy at home.