With snow and gales forecast for Britain this week, owners are being reminded that small furry pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs are vulnerable to the cold and damp despite their fur coats.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and British Veterinary Zoological Society (BVZS) are asking owners with outdoor hutches and runs to be vigilant during the cold snap and make sure that their pets’ living space is well-protected from the cold and damp.

Owners should:

  • Make sure rabbits’ and guinea pigs’ homes are at least 4 inches off the ground
  • Check their pets’ homes are waterproof, draught-proof, damp-proof, dry and ventilated – as well as escape-proof and predator-proof
  • Keep the temperature of their rabbits’ and guinea pigs’ home between 5-20⁰C for rabbits (the lower temperature assumes rabbits are healthy and kept with other rabbits, with lots of bedding for warmth) and 15-20⁰C for guinea pigs, avoiding too many fluctuations in temperature change for both rabbits and guinea pigs
  • Check regularly for water marks or other signs of damage that suggests water is getting into a hutch and run
  • Check water bottles/bowls twice daily to ensure water is accessible and not frozen
  • Place your pets’ home in a sheltered position, away from wind, rain and snow
  • Make sure your rabbits and guinea pigs have extra bedding to keep warm during a cold snap
  • Line hutches with plenty of newspaper and hay and cover with an old duvet/blanket/tarpaulin
  • Consider moving outdoor pets inside to a well-ventilated space with light and room to exercise during severe weather – but never place in a garage in use as vehicle exhaust fumes are harmful to rabbits and guinea pigs
BVA president John Blackwell said: “Despite their warm fur coats, domestic rabbits and guinea pigs can be very vulnerable to extremes in weather. The cold and the wet are particularly harmful to these animals and as the cold weather hits, we are asking owners to keep an extra eye on their rabbits and guinea pigs, particularly if they are housed outside. 

“If you stop to think about it, wild rabbits live in burrows underground, where the temperature is relatively constant and the animal is well-sheltered from wind, snow and rain. We ask owners to try and make sure that their pets do not suffer unnecessarily in the cold and that the temperature and dryness of their pet’s home is kept as close to the animal’s natural environment as possible.”

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