As we start to feel the drop in temperature, it is important to not only wrap up warm ourselves, but also to ensure our pets experience warmth too. Even if your animals are used to living outside, they will still feel the cold. You can help to make their Winter a warm one by following our top tips as outlined below.

If you have outdoor pets (such as rabbits, guinea pigs, or ferrets) it is important to keep them in the environment that they are used to. Transitioning them between indoors and outdoors, especially during the Winter, can prove fatal to them as a result of the sudden changes in temperature. Instead of moving them, you can help to make them feel more comfortable by following these simple steps:

  • Try to keep their hutch out of the rain and snow. If possible, move their hutch to a sheltered area of your garden where it is protected from the weather.
  • Put a blanket or tarpaulin sheet over their hutch to help keep in the warmth.
  • Put plenty of bedding and hay inside their hutch so they have something to snuggle into. Rabbits especially like to burrow into their bedding to create a space that makes them feel warm and safe, where as ferrets tend to love fleecy blankets.
  • You can place an animal-safe heat pad under their bedding to create extra warmth. Placing this under their bedding prevents direct contact with their fur and helps to regulate a temperature that they are comfortable with.
  • Ensure that your pets still have access to water so that they don’t dehydrate. You should wrap up their water bottle to stop it freezing with the cold weather. You can buy covers designed specifically for their bottles, or alternatively can use bubble wrap or a sock.
  • Regardless of the weather, your pets need natural light and exercise. Do not place your pet directly out in the open, but instead give them access to an outdoor run so that they can go outside when they feel comfortable to.
  • If you have multiple of the same pet, consider housing them together – but only if it’s safe to do so. By keeping animals in pairs, you’ll be making them happy by providing them with company. They will also be able to cuddle up and help keep each other warm.

If you feel that you absolutely must bring your pet indoors, ensure this is done safely. This should only be done as a last resort if you think that your pet will not survive outdoors, for example in the worst weather. If temperatures drop suddenly, bring your pet indoors to an environment that isn’t too hot – such as a porch or conservatory. Ensure central heating is turned off, and place their hutch on cold floors such as tiles or laminate. Have a fan blowing cold air past their hutch, but not directly at them. Check on your pets regularly, and if you notice a sudden change in behaviour, contact a vet immediately. If you suspect that your pet is too hot, you should move them to a cooler environment where possible. You can also place a frozen water bottle in their hutch to cool the air, and offer them cold vegetables.

If you aren’t able to bring them inside your home, you can move their hutch into a shed or garage - but be careful as car fumes can be fatal to rabbits especially.

 

If your pets live indoors (such as rats, mice, gerbils, and hamsters), they may still require extra warmth. This can be achieved in a few simple steps:

  • Move their enclosure to an area away from drafts – for example, away from windows and doorways – to stop them experiencing the chills. It’s also important to make sure they aren’t too hot either, so keep them away from radiators to stop them overheating.
  • Give them extra bedding that they can snuggle into, and change it regularly to ensure their enclosure stays fresh.
  • Although we may not always notice fumes, they can prove harmful to small pets. From cars to frying pans to wood burning stoves, keep your pets away from the items that produce fumes.

 

As well as protecting our small furries, it’s also important to protect our livestock too.

  • Horses still need access to daylight and regular exercise, but they should also have access to a sheltered area, such as a barn, where they can go to escape the wind and cold. By leaving the door to their shelter open, they will be able to choose where they go dependent on where they feel most comfortable.
  • Fill their shelter with lots of hay and blankets to help keep them warm, but remove wet bedding and manure daily. You can also buy coats for your horse, which will help them to retain body heat.
  • Ensure your horses always have access to fresh water. It may be worth using heated buckets or a water de-icer to prevent the water becoming frozen.
  • Give your horse access to unlimited forage if possible. Eating foods like hay and grass will help them to create heat and regulate their body temperatures.
  • Horse hooves are prone to “iceballs” or “snowballs” during the Winter. These are essentially balls of packed ice or snow which become stuck to their hooves and make it harder for them to walk. It also increases the chances of them slipping or falling, and may put stress on tendons or joints. To prevent your horse hurting themselves as a result of unsafe hooves, pick them daily, especially after a heavy snowfall.
  • After a heavy snowfall, remove snow from your horse’s paddock to allow them easy access to feed, water and shelter.
  • Icy paddocks increase the chances of nasty slips and falls which can lead to serious injury. To increase the traction on ice, you can use sand. Or, to speed the melting of ice, you can use pure salt (in moderation).
  • Check on your horse regularly and contact a vet immediately if you are worried.

 

For further advice, you can contact your vet who will be able to offer help that is individual to your pet.