If you house your guinea pigs outdoors, you will need to make sure they don’t become too cold during the cooler months of the year.
Guinea pigs are similar to humans when it comes to the ideal temperature. Unlike some other pets, they like the same temperatures as us. Cold weather is extremely dangerous for guinea pigs. If the weather feels cold to you then it will feel cold to your guinea pig and it’s important to take the necessary steps to protect them from this potential killer and keep them safe.
Should you move your guinea pigs indoors for winter?
Many people choose to bring their guinea pigs indoors over the colder months which is the option we would recommend. If you do choose this route then you'll need to make sure you have a suitable cage unless you can bring their outdoor hutch into your home.
However, housing your guinea pigs in your home may not be possible for you if you don’t have the space, if someone in the house is allergic to guinea pigs or for other reasons.
If you can’t bring your guinea pigs indoors, you need to make sure they are protected from the cold weather or they could get very ill.
Extra hay for added insulation
Filling the sleeping quarters of a hutch with hay is a really good way to help insulate their home. And adding additional hay during colder weather will give them a warmer place to snuggle down.
Make sure the hay is fresh and also soft so that they don’t get any hay pokes.
Buying large quantities of farm hay works out much cheaper than buying smaller packs. You can buy organic hay bales for less than £20 on Amazon. And you can also purchase these as half bales too. This hay comes loosely packed in a cardboard box so is easy to store.
It is important that any damp or soiled hay is removed regularly because the dampness is unhealthy and dangerous for your guinea pigs. And make sure all the hay is replaced on a regular basis.
Wooden house for sleeping quarters
Giving your guinea pigs a house within their hutch will give added protection from draughts and if you fill it with good bedding hay then it will help keep them much warmer. We prefer the wooden houses to plastic pigloos as they offer better insulation.
Here are some of the wooden houses that we recommend and would work well in your guinea pig’s sleeping quarters:
- Large corner house
- Small corner house
- Small wooden house with 2 entrances (2 entrances prevents one piggy getting cornered by a more domineering piggy!)
- Large wooden house with 1 entrance
Heat pads offer additional warmth
Heat pads are not expensive and will make a huge difference to the comfort of your guinea pig when the weather is cold. They are especially designed for small pets and these pads can keep their warmth for up to 10 hours. However, this will depend on how cold it is. They will obviously cool down much faster in very cold weather.
Snugglesafe heat pads are microwaveable and come with a washable cover so they are very easy to use.
For ultimate warmth in cold weather we recommend filling a wooden hidey with soft hay and placing a heat pad inside. This will keep this little sleeping area much more cosy and the heat pad will stay warmer for longer with the insulation of the hay and the wooden house.
Hutch covers and snuggles
During the winter it is essential you have a hutch cover to provide protection for your guinea pigs from all weathers and this includes the cold, wind and rain.
A rain cover (hutch hugger) will protect from wind and rain but this doesn’t help that much with keeping them warm. For warmth you’ll need a hutch snuggle.
Hutch snuggles are made from an insulating material that helps keep the hutch warm during winter but will also have benefits during warmer months in keeping the hutch cooler and keeping out flies which will help prevent fly strike.
Scratch & Newton have a good variety of hutch huggers and snuggles in many sizes.
A hutch cover and snuggle is always the best option but if you can’t get hold of these then a thick heavy blanket will be a good second option. Damp air is very bad for guinea pigs so make sure there is airflow to prevent condensation building up inside the hutch.
Piggies keep each other warm
We always recommend having a pair of guinea pigs rather than a solitary one. But having a pair is even more important for outdoor piggies. They not only need company but a pair of piggies can snuggle down together and keep each other warm.
However, most piggies, and especially males, also like their own space so either have 2 wooden hideys or one that is large enough for them both to fit with a bit of space in between so that they have the option of having somewhere warm to go on their own if they need to.
Moving the hutch to a shed
Putting the hutch into a suitably sized shed or garage for the winter would give your guinea pigs the best protection if they are staying outdoors providing the shed is suitable.
The shed or garage MUST have a window so they get plenty of natural light and they should never be kept in a darkened shed or garage.
If you’re thinking of putting their hutch in a garage, it must not be one that is used for a car, motorbike or motor vehicle. Fumes from these vehicles are toxic and can kill guinea pigs. Any shed or garage must also not contain anything that may endanger your guinea pig’s life and should be as clean and dust-free as possible.
Although a shed will protect them from wind and rain, you will still need to make sure they are warm enough so use our tips above to provide enough protection from the cold .
Some guinea pig owners install a shed specifically for their guinea pigs and this also works as a great place to store all your guinea pig supplies. Do bear in mind that a shed gets extremely hot on sunny, warm days so is not suitable for those weather conditions.
Guinea pigs in very cold climates
Depending on where you live, it can sometimes simply be too cold for guinea pigs to be outside and even if you take measures to keep them warmer they would still not be warm enough. If you happen to live in a climate like this, you will need to bring your guinea pigs indoors.