Well, not quite.
The truth is that wild guinea pigs live in countries such as Argentina, Peru, Brazil, and Uruguay. What is the one thing these places have in common? A warm temperature almost all year round.
Can guinea pigs get cold, if you keep them outside? Yes, guinea pigs can get cold if you keep them outside. Moreover, sometimes guinea pigs can get cold even inside a house if the heating is not appropriate during the winter. Keeping your beloved guinea pig warm is extremely important for its overall health.
With that said, guinea pigs can spend winters outside, if there is no other possible choice. In case their cage is fully equipped with all the necessary equipment (we will talk about that later), then there shouldn’t be any problems.
In this article, we are going to talk about what temperature suits guinea pigs and if you are planning to keep them outside or somewhere cold how you should prepare their cage. Let’s begin.
What Are the Normal Living Conditions for a Guinea Pig?
Before finding out how exactly you can help your guinea pig survive the winter, we have to find out what conditions are considered to be ‘normal’ for these cute creatures.
1. Cage with Proper Dimensions
The cage or wherever your guinea pig lives should be big enough. Your pet has to be able to stand up on its back legs without hitting the top of the cage. Moreover, there should be enough space for the guinea pig to play and run around. If you have more than one guinea pig, then the dimensions of the cage have to be bigger, if you want to avoid any conflicts between the animals.
2. Create a Safe Place in the Cage
The cage has to have ‘a safe place’. That’s usually a shelter where guinea pigs can hide if they feel nervous or stressed out. Certainly, the entire cage has to be well ventilated. Make sure that everything inside the cage is dry. If the guinea pig trips over the water bowl by accident, try to remove the excess fluid as fast as possible. A dirty and damp environment is the perfect place for bacteria.
3. Adequate Cage Location
If your guinea pig is kept inside, you have to make sure that the cage is not situated close to windows, radiators, any heat sources. If you have decided to place your guinea pig outside, put the cage away from direct sunlight and find the place that is not windy.
The place where you have decided to put your guinea pig’s cage has to be safe and as quiet as possible. These tiny creatures can easily be stressed out by any types of noise.
Temperatures around 62°F to 68°F (17 to 20 degrees Celsius) are considered to be ideal for guinea pigs. However, temperatures a little higher or lower than these are tolerable. If it is below 15 degrees, the poor guinea pig can get chilled.
It is recommended to place the pet indoors, once the temperature outside starts to fall below 59°F. High temperatures can also be dangerous. Guinea pigs can’t sweat. That means that temperatures above around 78 degrees can easily cause heatstroke.
5. Fresh Food, Water and a Clean Cage
How to Help Your Guinea Pig to Survive the Cold?
Of course, it is always better to keep your guinea pig inside, once the temperature falls below 59°F (15 degrees Celsius). But there can be situations when it is simply impossible to move your pet indoors.
Don’t worry. Your guinea pig will be able to survive even during temperatures below zero, but there are a few things that you have to take care of.
Step 1 – Place the Cage in Another Building or a Place That Has a Cover
If there is such a possibility, place the cage in a shed or another building. In such a way, you will be making sure that no wind or rain will affect the poor guinea pig.
Step 2 – Find a Location That Is Not Windy
As we have already mentioned above, the cage of your guinea pig has to be put in a place that is not windy. It can be behind your house, for example. Low temperatures are not that dangerous when the air is still.
Step 3 – Cover the Cage
Cover the top and the walls of the cage with a blanket, a carpet or anything else that will help insulate the guinea pig’s home. Always make sure to leave a little space for ventilation. You can nail the blanket or carpet so that it doesn’t fall.
Step 4 – Raise the Cage About the Ground
Do not put your pet on the ground. It doesn’t matter whether the cage is on grass or concrete. There has to be something between the ground and the guinea pig. Just hay is not enough. So think about placing another carpet or blanket on the floor of the cage.
Step 5 – Give Them More Hay When the Temperatures Are Low
Even in warm environments guinea pigs need a lot of fresh hay daily. If the poor guinea pigs are exposed to low temperatures, then they would need even more hay. Your pet has to have something that it can snuggle into. Adding a box full of hay is a great idea.
Step 6 – Pay Close Attention to the Water as It Can Freeze
The guinea pig’s water supply is the thing that would need the most of your attention. It goes without saying, that animals need a constant supply of fresh and clean water. But during the winter months, water can freeze, and that can become a big problem.
Make sure to check on the bowl or bottle at least a couple of times during the day. Add fresh water every time the old supply freezes. There are various bottle covers that you can buy to ensure that the liquid does not freeze.
Step 7 – Daily Remove Anything Wet from the Cage
Anything wet inside the cage can potentially be dangerous for the guinea pig’s health. Especially, during the colder months. You have to try to clean the wet place as fast as you can. Otherwise, the area can attract dangerous insects.
Moreover, if your guinea pig becomes wet as well, it can catch a cold. And the overall area can become dangerous after it freezes.
Step 8 – Snuggle Pads
There are such things as snuggle pads. Guinea pigs love them. You can place the pad into a microwave for a few seconds to make it warm. Then put the snuggle pad into the cage, it will help keep your guinea pig warm.
- Safe and soothing warmth
- Non-electrical; simply heat up in your microwave
- Plate-size pad easily fits under your pet's bed
- Provides up to 10 hours of safe and soothing warmth
- Non-toxic thermapol compound
This guide is suitable not only for outdoor pets. If it tends to get cold in your house, then you can surely use the same tricks mentioned above to ensure that your guinea pig is feeling warm and cozy.
Can Guinea Pigs Get a Cold?
Guinea pigs really can get a cold, but it certainly is a little different from the type of disease that we, humans, tend to get. Every time there is something bothering a guinea pig (health-related) it will act the same way. A sick guinea pig doesn’t eat or drink.
Related: Can Guinea Pigs Make You Sick?
Moreover, it doesn’t feel like doing anything, and it can stay in its little house for hours or even days.
You might think that there is nothing too bad about such behavior. After all, people tend to not eat for several days when they are sick, and everything turns out fine in the end. But you have to bear in mind that guinea pigs are tiny animals. Starvation even for a short period of time can cause a lot of different problems. Or even be fatal! The same applies to dehydration.
The most vulnerable part of a guinea pig’s body is its respiratory system. After all, they live in an environment full of hay. A guinea pig can get either a bacterial or a viral respiratory infection. Especially, if it has been out in the cold for an extended period of time.
If your guinea pig is ill, it will stop moving, eating and drinking. Moreover, it may have runny and red eyes, as well as a runny nose. There is only one way out. You have to immediately see your vet if you have noticed that your guinea pig has these symptoms.
Try to encourage your beloved pet to drink or eat something. Put it in place, where the little one will feel safe and make sure to keep the other guinea pigs away from the poor sick guinea pig (if you have more of them).
Guinea pigs are incredible, but very vulnerable and gentle creatures. They can easily get stressed out even about the smallest changes in their environment. But guinea pigs are tender animals, not only in the psychological but also in the physical aspect.
Direct sunlight, wind and drastic changes of temperature can make your guinea pig ill.
At the same time, guinea pigs will be able to handle low temperatures, if there is such a need. These tiny creatures are simultaneously vulnerable and strong, tender and hardy. And, maybe, that’s the reason why we love guinea pigs so much.
Related: Do Guinea Pigs Need Vaccinations?
List of Sources
Wilber, C. G., Influence of Temperature on Performance in Guinea Pigs, American Journal of Physiology, 1957.
Sobel, H., Haberfelde, G. C., Reeves, A. E., Reversibility of endocrine changes produced in guinea pigs by exposure to cold, American Journal of Physiology, 1965.
Trillmich, F., Effects of Low Temperature and Photoperiod on Reproduction in the Female Wild Guinea Pig (Cavia Aperea), Journal of Mammalogy, 2000.
Minarikova, A., Hauptman, K., Jeklova, E., Knotek, Z., Jekl, V., Diseases in pet guinea pigs: a retrospective study in 1000 animals, Veterinary Record 177, 200, 2015.
Richardson, V., Management of skin conditions in guinea pigs, Veterinary Nursing Journal, 2012.
Takagi, S., Kihara, Y., Toyoda, F., Morita, T., Sasayama, S., Mitsuiye, T., Cold acclimation of guinea pig depressed contraction of cardiac papillary muscle, American Journal of Physiology, 1999.