Seasonal Care

Guinea pigs are very sensitive to climate changes and particular types of weather and we need to keep on top of their comfort, especially during times of extreme weather conditions, to maintain a healthy environment.

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Spring and Summer

During the spring you can begin to allow your guinea pigs to play outside on the grass for limited periods of time. Grass may still be damp and the air is usually fresh, which means they need dry areas to sit on and somewhere to shelter. You should also prepare their play area to remove weeds and other debris that may have grown and collected over the winter before allowing your guinea pigs out to play.

If you have an outdoor run with a lid I would recommend placing a large towel or plastic sheet over one side to form an area protected from the breeze, and in here I would place a shelter such as a cardboard box filled with hay. To sit on they should have some dry towels, however if the ground is too soggy or freshly rained on I would not recommend putting them out to play at this time.

As the summer rolls around the air becomes warm and the ground becomes dry, an ideal situation for allowing your guinea pigs to enjoy the great outdoors. However, you must provide adequate protection from the sun as heatstroke can and does kill guinea pigs when shelter has not been provided. You should also provide a cardboard box filled with hay for a comfortable and shaded indoor area.

In order to avoid heatstroke, place some towels over the run to provide some shaded areas and remember that the shade moves with the sun, so be prepared to make regular checks to move the towels and ensure shade is always available.

How do I prepare their hutches for summer?

Guinea pigs in hutches tend to get very warm during the summer so fleece beddings such as Vetbed can be stored and replaced with something light and airy such as hay and newspaper. Always ensure your pets have a constant supply of fresh water to drink.

If you do not have a shed, place your hutch in a shady area of the garden during the hottest months to prevent the sun beating straight down onto the top of the hutch. If there is no shady area suitable in your garden, then bringing your guinea pigs indoors and placing them in a cool area of the house is preferable. Remember, hutches can get hot and stuffy, and therefore bringing your guinea pigs into the house during extremely hot weather is sometimes the best and only option. Imagine being in a hot car with the windows up or partially open!

How do I prepare their outdoor play area for summer?

When your guinea pigs are outside on the grass you must provide them with shade to prevent heatstroke. Cover a section of the run with a towel or large cloth to create shade and put their favourite hiding place (e.g. fiddlesticks, cardboard box, igloo, etc) in the shady area. This will reduce instances of heatstroke and ensure your guinea pig has a shady area to retreat to.

Remember that shade moves with the time of day, so you may have to check regularly to ensure the hiding place is still in a shady area and move it accordingly.

If your grass is not occupied by guinea pigs all year round you should remove weeds that have grown over the winter and other debris (e.g. leaves and twigs) before allowing your guinea pigs out to play.

How do I regulate the temperature?

If you have a shed and if your shed has electricity you can invest in a fan to keep the shed cool during the hotter parts of the day - don't direct the fan straight at your guinea pigs though!

Is there anything else I should know?

Hairless guinea pigs should have sunblock applied before they are allowed to play in the sun! Guinea pigs with pink ears may also benefit from having sunblock rubbed onto their ears. High factor sunblock used for humans is suitable to use, gently rub into the body and ears, and remember to avoid eyes when applying.

In addition to their regular diet, guinea pigs enjoy watery treats during the summer such as cucumber and a rare piece of seedless melon. As with all watery and surgary foods, give these sparingly and only as a treat.

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How do I prepare their hutches for winter?

Guinea pigs can be kept outside during the winter. You can make this a comfortable experience for your pet firstly by placing your hutch against the wall of your house in an area where the hutch will be sheltered from the wind and rain.

Plenty of extra hay on top of their usual bedding will help to keep guinea pigs warm, and fleece bedding such as Vetbed can be used for a very cosy bedding alternative.

Some pet suppliers sell waterproof hutch covers in multiple sizes that can be zipped up around the hutch for insulation against the cold. Alternatively you can fix your own waterproof plastic covering to the outside of your hutch (leaving the wire doors uncovered so your guinea pigs can see out!) to do the same job. Water bottles can also be kept warm with water bottle covers that can be sourced from some larger pet suppliers and are ideal for preventing water from icing over.

How do I prepare their outdoor play area for winter?

It may not always be possible to let them out in winter. Beware of allowing your guinea pigs out to play in the cold weather, the rain or the wind. Guinea pigs are very fragile in a draughty environment and cold weather can be just as harmful to guinea pigs as the heat in summertime.

If the weather is fair you can put your guinea pigs out to play on the grass. Put a towel down on the grass under their hiding place so they have somewhere warm and dry to sit. You can cover their run with a plastic covering to keep them sheltered, keeping one side uncovered to allow light in. Allow them out for just a short time in winter weather and bring them in if the weather gets worse.

How do I regulate the temperature?

A certified electric heater is useful to keep your shed warm. Electric heaters are preferable to oil heaters because they don't smell. The best electric heater you can get is one that has a temperature setting and an automatic cut-off when the desired temperature has been reached. Make sure that your electric heater is in good working order before using around your animals and always check it at regular intervals. Never direct a heater straight onto your pets.

Is there anything else I should know?

If the weather is really awful (snow, gales, extremely heavy rain, bitterly cold weather) then you should consider bringing your pets into the house for a few days until the weather clears up again.


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