Taking care of small pets during winter

Rabbits and guinea pigs can have a tough time during the winter months – especially when they live outdoors. They can be very susceptible to extreme weather conditions, so keeping them warm and well-fed is a must. Here at Myhills we’ve drummed up a few tips on keeping your pets happy and healthy this winter.

In extremely cold conditions, bringing pets indoors is the best way to keep pets healthy. Not only does this allow them to stay warm and out of the way of predators, it also helps stop their water from freezing and gives them adequate space to exercise. Special indoor housing can be purchased for them to live in during the winter but do bear in mind they will still need to exercise in an open space.

For some households, bringing small pets inside during the winter may not be an option. If this is the case for you, consider moving the hutch to a sheltered location, such as under some trees facing away from the prevailing wind, or in an unused garage/outbuilding. That said, do not put your pet in the same garage as one you may park your car in as the exhaust fumes are harmful.

If you need to keep your hutch outside, simply raising the hutch off the floor by attaching legs or placing it on top of bricks will help prevent ground freeze and damp from taking effect. By doing this you are also protecting your pet as well as hutch from flooding. It is also important to thoroughly check your hutch over and make any necessary repairs before any bad weather. Make sure there are no gaps where wind and rain can get through and check for rot if your hutch is wooden. Applying a pet-friendly wood protecting coating biennially will help make your hutch last longer. Re-cover the roof every few years if needed, and in winter cover it with a waterproof plastic tarpaulin, slanted at an angle, so the rain does not sit on top. You can put blankets or newspaper in between the cover and the roof for added insulation.

In terms of daily care, you need to check your pet’s water a couple of times a day to make sure it hasn’t frozen. You can purchase bottle covers to prevent this, but still check the water spout has not frozen over.

As for the bedding you use, place layers of newspaper down on the floor of the hutch and fill with lots of extra straw and hay to keep your small pets warm and cosy. In addition lining the floors and walls with blankets or fleeces gives your pet something to snuggle into during cold nights. Bedding needs to be kept clean, dry and checked daily. Sitting on wet bedding can make them ill. You’ll want to clean out the hutch on a daily basis, making sure your pet’s toilet area is clean as their urine can freeze in the cold making it very uncomfortable for them.

Myhills staff are happy to help with any queries you may have on how to best care for your pet this winter. Feel free to call one of our stores for advice or to check our stock. Alternatively pop into your local store to browse our products at your leisure.