September is an ideal time to get ahead and make sure your pet’s home is fully equipped for the winter. The sad realisation is that many small pets are neglected during colder months, suffering in damp, draughty hutches with little bedding and no extra food. Read our autumn check-list to make sure your pets stay safe, warm and happy this winter!
Identify and prepare a suitable sheltered location in the garden to move the hutch to once the weather turns (preferably close to the back door for your own comfort). Perhaps under a roof of some sort for extra weather protection, and you must make sure the open side of the hutch is facing South, away from the wind.
2 Making repairs
Small pets hate cold and damp conditions, and it leaves them susceptible to disease and ill health. Check your pet’s hutch for damage and make any necessary repairs or replacements. Is the roof water-tight? Has it got some insulation? Can your pets feel a draft? You may need to re-coat the roof and sides of the hutch with weatherproof sealant. To prevent damp, hutches should always be raised a little off the ground. Use some bricks under each corner if your hutch does not have legs.
3 Keeping warm
Many people wrongly assume that rabbits are more hardy than other small pets but in nature they are used to burrowing and making cosy warrens deep under the frozen ground in winter, they can suffer therefore in draughty hutches. Winter rabbit care should start with giving rabbits plenty of nesting materials and buying rabbit hutch covers for winter, but be prepared to bring rabbits inside if the mercury drops too far.
Think about extra insulation for the hutch in winter and provide plenty of extra bedding in the sleeping area. Covers are available to purchase for hutches, including our Outback Classic hutch and run, or you could consider buying an insulated hutch. You can also place a blanket or tarpaulin over the top of your hutch to keep out the cold, but leave a small area open for ventilation. A Snugglesafe Heat Pad is great to have on hand for very cold nights. These pads come with a cosy cover and can be ‘re-charged’ repeatedly in a microwave and remain warm for up to 10 hours.
Outdoor rabbits will need extra food in winter as they will burn up more calories just to keep warm.
You will need to check water bowls or bottles regularly to make sure they have not frozen solid. Keep a spare bottle handy just in case your current one gets damaged or cracks due to the cold. A thermal cover or fabric wrapped around the bottle can help prevent the water freezing.
Get your pets some boredom buster toys for when the weather is so bad they can’t go outside into their run. Try feeding your pet’s dinner in a dispenser toy such as our Trixie Snacky ball for more fun (and exercise) at meal times.
If you are bringing them indoors, do you have a big enough cage ready for them? Is there a safe place indoors to let them stretch their legs for a few hours each day? Our indoor Nylon Run is a great way to let pets have some fun while protecting them from household dangers such as tempting, chewy electrical cables. For some mental stimulation, try our Interactive Toy Living World 3 in 1 which has three increasing levels of difficulty to keep your pets (and you!) entertained for hours. Cages should be located somewhere not too cold or too hot and away from noisy areas (i.e. not by the TV).
- Do not put your small pet hutch in the garage if it is used regularly for vehicles or storing paints or chemicals as the fumes can easily kill small pets if it is not properly ventilated.
- If your outdoor pet shows signs of ill health (laboured breathing, loss of appetite, discharge from the nose) they may have pneumonia and should be taken immediately to a vet.
Follow these guidelines to ensure your small pet has a snugly, warm and happy winter!!