How to know if my guinea pig is cold ?
When your guinea pig is cold it will spend more time in its shelter or burrowing in the hay, you will even see it shiver and curl up on itself to warm up, this usually happens when the temperature in the house goes below 60/65°F (15°C).
65° F is the ideal temperature for a Cavy, you’ll know your piggy’s cold if he stops moving around too much, he’ll go into his shelter, huddle up, shiver with cold, you can even hear him purring and only get out of bed when he’s really hungry, It will slow down its metabolism if it is cold, drink less water and spend more time sleeping, start growing hay in a corner and huddle in it, use it as a shelter, because hay is a good thermal insulator.
The ambient temperature of the cage of your guinea pig must never fall below 50° F, your guinea pig will be very cold and must not rise above 77° F if not, your guinea pig will begin to suffer from sunstroke especially if its water is also warmed up.
What precautions should I take with my piggy when it is cold?
As soon as the temperatures start to drop, wild guinea pigs start to stay longer in their burrows where they have stored hay and seeds for the winter.
I will give you some advice to protect your guinea pig from the cold, it is October and the thermometer here in the United States will soon drop, so here is how to prepare your cavy so that it will spend a pleasant and warm winter.
1-How to protect a guinea pig living inside the house from the cold
Install the Cavy’s cage in the right place in the house
The first reflex to have is to move the cage of the guinea pig and to install it in a constantly heated place (around 20°C), it is necessary to avoid the entrance hall, the corridors where there are draughts, the kitchen which can become too heated during the preparation of the meals, not in front of the chimney nor too close to the front door.
Cover the Cavy’s cage to prevent him from catching cold
The second thing to be taken care of to keep your guinea pig warm during the winter and especially to avoid him from getting cold and the flu, is to never open the windows to ventilate the room once you have well covered the cage of your guinea pig.
If the temperature of the room where the cavy cage is exposed drops suddenly, you will risk giving your pet a severe flu.
You can turn on the heater at 22 °C and cover half of your guinea pig’s cage with a blanket to keep it warm enough during the night .
Change the bedding and often the litter of your guinea pig
The guinea pig must keep its body temperature between 37.2°C (98.96° F) and 39.5°C (103.1° F) and since temperatures can drop during the night and your house will also cool down a little early in the morning, it is advisable to install bedding and a fleece blanket for your guinea pig so that it can regulate its temperature and stay warm during the night.
You will also have to line the floor of the cage with a lot of hay and pack it down, or line the blankets if that’s what you use.
If your guinea pig is not trained to use the litter box, you must be very careful to change its litter before it even starts to wet itself with its urine, it must be said that when it is cold, guinea pigs tend to produce a little more urine.
Add a little more hay than usual in the cage of your guinea pig, and especially make sure that the hay and their bed remains dry, intervene quickly if your Cavy urinates on it by accident. Your animal must never get wet.
Also cover with blankets the place where you usually take your guinea pig out, and if you want to take it outside, wait until the sun is high in the sky, and the ground warms up a bit, otherwise your guinea pig might catch cold walking on frozen ground or simply too cold.
If you took your guinea pig out of its cage and it suddenly stopped moving, put it back in its bed right away after you warm it up a little in your arms.
If you are in the North, in Alaska for example, and you are heating with wood, you can get a heating pad (not electric but those that heat in the microwave), this will avoid you bad surprises if the fire goes out in the middle of the night !!
If you want to put it back under the bed of your guinea pig, you just have to warm up the cushion and put it back under the bed of your guinea pig.
A quality food during the winter for your guinea pig
To avoid that your guinea pig suffers from the cold, it is necessary to feed it well, with a good quality hay and in sufficient quantity, vegetables which have consistency like carrots, celery and fennel and to avoid lettuce and cucumber which are likely to cause diarrhoeas to him when it is cold.
During the winter your guinea pig will need more calories, so you can add some to its daily ration of pellets and you can even give it a small piece of fruit each day.
Vitamin C is primordial and vital for your guinea pig during the winter, never forget it, it is also necessary to do your calculation and avoid overdose in vitamin C especially if you increase the ration of vegetables and fruits of your guinea pig.
I therefore repeat the daily doses of vitamin C for the guinea pig
- 20mg/Kg for adult guinea pigs every day.
- 60mg/kg For pregnant females and small growing cavities.
2-How to protect a guinea pig living outside the house from the cold?
If your guinea pig(s) live outside of the house, exposed to the elements and cold, know that the best thing to do when the winter months approach is to bring the cage of your cavities into a room where you can heat and constantly control the room temperature.
If for any reason, your guinea pigs have to stay outside in a hutch, because maybe your children or your wife is allergic to it, you don’t have enough space, you have cats that are a bit aggressive…etc,
I will try to give you a few more tips to help your guinea pigs survive the winter and withstand the cold and morning frosts, then let them be in the backyard.
The progressive acclimatization of the guinea pig
Know that you can’t install your guinea pig as soon as it arrives outside in the backyard, you have to acclimatize it to living outside and it usually starts in summer or spring.
Your guinea pig will never be able to stand the winter cold if you leave it outside even if you assure him some conditions, simply because he has not had time to get used to this environment.
A guinea pig needs its fellow guinea pigs if it is installed in the backyard, they warm each other during the night because they block each other and thus maintain their temperature.
You should also know that if you plan to install your guinea pigs outside all year round, choose long-haired guinea pigs instead, they can stand the cold better.
A heating system for your guinea pigs
Start by installing the hutch in a place sheltered from the wind and especially from the rain. Then you must insulate the hutch, avoid covering it with a plastic sheet, it will create condensation inside, the water drops will either fall into the hutch, if not become ice and cool the cage. Use instead isothermal covers, especially to cover the water bottles so that the water does not freeze and that your guinea pigs do not die of thirst !
If you only have this tarp to protect the cage from the rain, start by putting a carpet or a cloth on the cage and then put the tarp over it and hang it well so that it resists to the wind.
You can also use heat bulbs (infrared)
In order to warm up the hutch a little and raise the temperature if it has just dropped at night, you can even tinker with a thermostat that will switch on the heating bulbs as soon as the temperature approaches 15°C for example.
Use leaves from the garden to isolate the hutch from your guinea pigs
For the insulation of the cage I told you to avoid covering it completely with a tarpaulin to avoid creating humidity in the hutch, you can cover just half of the cage and cover the other half with hemp bags full of dry leaves from the garden or full of straw or hay, this will insulate the cage well and avoid heat loss during the night.
Wooden shelters for your guinea pigs
If your guinea pigs spend the winter outside, it is better to install wooden shelters for them and not plastic, these shelters must have only one entry, and you can also line them with polar wool so that they keep the heat at night.
If you have several guinea pigs, you can even install a shelter large enough to contain them all, your guinea pigs can then gather in the same shelter at night and huddle together as they do in the wild.
To keep your guinea pig warm at night, you can cover their shelters with straw or hay and even put some on the sides, it will insulate them even more.
Equip the Hutch with toys to encourage your Piggies to move and warm up
Don’t forget to put in the hutch of your guinea pigs their toys, like the ball to encourage them to get out of their shelter and do some exercise to warm up.
Give your guinea pigs a little more vitamins if it’s cold
You can add a little more vitamin C (I would say give 25mg or 30mg per Kg instead of 20mg only) to your guinea pigs when the cold sets in, this will strengthen their immunity and a surplus of vitamins, not only vitamin C, will help them to face the winter cold and fight viruses and diseases.
PS : Please ask your Vet first , speak with him about this , before giving more Vitamin C to your piggies , its Ok , but do me a favor and ask him first .
My last Tip to warm your guinea pigs during the night if they live outside
You’ll actually get the wooden shelters out of the hutch, improvise and create more natural wood stuff, pick up some stones and expose it to the sun during the day.
Put these objects back in the hutch after dark, they will keep the heat and redistribute it to the guinea pigs during most of the night, especially the stones, put them around your guinea pig’s shelter.
How do I know if my guinea pig has caught a cold (the flu)?
If, despite all your efforts, your Cavy still catches cold, the symptoms are almost the same as those of seasonal flu in humans, i.e. loss of appetite, lethargy, spitting, sneezing, wheezing, runny nose and watery eyes.
You will have to take care of your guinea pig, and a visit to the vet is welcome in this case, so think about what caused the cold so that it doesn’t happen again and your cavy doesn’t get sick again.
Let’s wrap this up:
If your guinea pigs are living in a hutch behind the house, I recommend that you at least put them in the garage for the winter. If not, you must be careful with them because these animals hide in burrows, warm when they are in the wild, but the ones we have are rather fragile and without our help and attention, they will quickly catch cold and it can even be fatal for them, so follow the instructions to keep your guinea pig healthy and warm during the winter.