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How to Keep Guinea Pigs Warm in Winter

Whether you house your guinea pigs indoors or outdoors, you will need to make sure they are kept warm enough during the winter months. If it is too cold, they can become ill and may not survive, especially if they’re kept outdoors.

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What is the ideal temperature for guinea pigs?

Guinea pigs do not like temperatures that are too hot or too cold, and the ideal temperature for guinea pigs to feel comfortable is between 17°C and 20°C. If the temperature falls below 15°C,  they can become too cold.

Because a guinea pig’s temperature preference is so similar to our own, you can be sure that if you feel chilly, your guinea pigs are also going to feel chilly.

long haired Silkie guinea pig in an indoor cage next to a tunnel filled with hay
Guinea pig in an indoor cage

Even indoor guinea pigs may feel cold during the winter if the heating is not switched on, particularly if they are kept in a room that is not well insulated such as a conservatory, a room that faces north, or one that is draughty or single glazed. 

An unheated home will become even colder at night, so it is a good idea to take precautions to ensure your guinea pigs are kept at a temperature that is safe and comfortable. 

There are several ways you can keep your guinea pigs warm during the winter, and I recommend using the different methods in combination with each other for maximum warmth.

Using guinea pig heat pads 

Microwavable heat pads that are specifically made for small pets are a really good way to help keep your guinea pigs warm.

To maximise the warmth for your guinea pig, place the heat pad inside a hideout. This will make their house more cosy. The heat usually lasts several hours, depending on how cold the room is, so it should keep most of its heat throughout the night.

We recommend the Snugglesafe microwavable and wireless warming heat pads which can be used indoors and outdoors and are pet safe. 

Guinea pig on a heat  pad inside a hideout
Guinea pig using a heat pad inside a wooden hideout

These heating pads usually come with a fleece cover. But if yours doesn’t have one, you could cover it with  a piece of fleece or towel. You may find it useful to buy extra covers so you can change it when it gets dirty, and swap it out for a clean one while the other is in the wash.

If you use disposable bedding, you might find that covering the heat pad with bedding will help it keep warm for longer. This isn’t an alternative to using the pad’s fleece cover though, you should use that too.

Providing a well insulated hideout

There are many different kinds of hideouts that are suitable for guinea pigs, but when it is cold, you need to use the hideouts that offer the most warmth.

Plastic hideouts aren’t very well insulated with plastic being quite thin and cold to the touch, whereas a solid wooden hideout will give better protection and feel much more cosy.

The best hideouts I’ve bought for our guinea pigs are from the Resch brand and these are the ones I recommend.  They are very solidly built from safe wood, with many different designs to choose from. 

A hideaway with just a single opening would be best for the winter as it will reduce the amount of draughts and keep the heat in much more effectively.

Guinea Pig Care Sheets - Printable PDF Download - Checklists, Logs and Information Sheets

For warmth, I recommend the corner house and the single entrance house in the larger size, which are actually designed for rabbits. The reason I suggest this size is that they will be big enough to fit the heat pad inside and will also have plenty of room for larger guinea pigs.

If you’re not using a heat pad and want a smaller hideout, you could use the smaller guinea pig corner house or the guinea pig single entrance house

Fleece hideouts are also good, but I only recommend these for indoor guinea pigs, as they can become damp and cold if used outside. 

Some of the better fleece hideouts which are more enclosed are the Haypigs Hidey Hut and the Cosy Cubes by The Hoghouse on Etsy. Bear in mind that a heat pad may not fit inside these, so if you’re trying to maximise the heat inside their hideout, a wooden house may be better.

Providing bedding hay for warmth

If you keep indoor guinea pigs, you may not ordinarily use bedding hay.  But hay is really good for extra insulation when used inside a hideout, particularly when used in combination with a heat pad.

Wooden Guinea Pig Hideout filled with Hay for Warmth
Fill a wooden hideout with hay for extra warmth

Consider buying some bedding hay for the winter to make sure your guinea pigs are comfortably warm on colder days.

If you keep guinea pigs outside, you must have hay in abundance in the sleeping quarters of the hutch, as well as in a hideout, otherwise they won’t be warm enough.

When using hay in this way, it is far more economical to buy in bulk, rather than buying in smaller quantities from the pet shop, so I recommend organic farm hay which you can buy online. This is also a good feeding hay so you can use it for both purposes.

Another reason why guinea pigs need a friend

Guinea pigs don’t always like to snuggle up together, but they may choose to cuddle up more when the weather is cold. I always recommend having a pair of guinea pigs for companionship, rather than just one guinea pig, but a pair will also help keep each other warm on colder days.

How to keep guinea pigs warm outside

If you keep your guinea pigs outdoors, I strongly recommend getting an indoor cage and bringing your them into your home for the winter, because of the extremely cold temperatures during this period. 

In the UK, it can be very cold during the day on some winter days and is often freezing cold at night, particularly in the northern parts of the country and in places that are more exposed, such as by the coast or in hilly areas.

If you can’t bring your guinea pigs indoors, you will need to do everything I’ve suggested above, as well as taking additional steps to prevent your guinea pigs from becoming too cold. It is essential that you insulate their hutch as they will become too cold without this added protection.

How to insulate a guinea pig hutch

There are several ways you can insulate a hutch to make it warmer for your guinea pigs.

Foil bubble wrap

Insulation foil bubble wrap will help keep the hutch warm. Although you can buy ready made insulated hutch covers, making your own thermal cover is a cheaper way of insulating the hutch and should be just as effective if you do it properly. 

Wrap the insulating material over the top, round the sides and also over the back.  Make sure it is secured so it can’t blow off in the wind, or staple it to the hutch.

If you can’t staple the thermal sheets to the hutch, you can staple them together to make an integral hutch hugger, which you can remove when not needed.  Adding some ties to fasten the cover so that it hugs the hutch, will ensure better insulation while keeping draughts out.

Thick blanket

As well as using insulating wrap, you can hang a heavy blanket, or an old thick curtain, over the hutch, but make sure there is enough airflow to avoid condensation.

Perspex fronts

Putting clear perspex sheets over the wire grids will help keep out draughts but still allow your guinea pigs to be able to see out. You’ll need to leave a big enough gap at the top for plenty of airflow.  

You can get perspex cut to the exact size you need, or you can choose from a large range of perspex in various sizes.

Extra thick bedding

Give an extra thick layer of bedding in their hutch, for example kiln dried pine shavings, hemp bedding, as this will help insulate the base of the housing. 

guinea pig on a heat pad inside a wooden hideout
Guinea pig inside a wooden hideout

Wet bedding is not only very unhealthy and unhygienic, but is very cold to lie on. Imagine lying on a damp towel on a cold day. This is what it will feel like to your guinea pigs.  So make sure you clean out the hutch on a regular basis and remove any damp areas daily, replacing it with additional fresh and dry bedding to maintain the thickness.

Rain cover

You will also need some kind of rain cover for the hutch to keep the damp out of their housing. You can buy ready made rain covers but do check the size will fit your hutch. 

If you want a cheaper cover, I recommend using some heavy duty, clear tarpaulin. The reason I suggest using clear tarpaulin is because it will allow the guinea pigs to see out of the hutch and give them some daylight. 

Putting the hutch in an outbuilding

If you have this option, consider putting the hutch in a safe outbuilding, where your guinea pigs are more protected. Make sure you don’t put them anywhere there may be toxic fumes, such as a garage where you keep a motor vehicle, or in any outbuilding or shed that stores poisonous chemicals, weed killers, is very dusty, or contains anything with a strong odour.

Any outbuilding that houses guinea pigs shouldn’t be completely dark, and will need to have some natural light coming in from a window.

Can guinea pigs survive in the cold?

Guinea pigs will not survive a cold environment unless they have protection and somewhere that is warm in which to snuggle up. They won’t survive the cold any better than you would if you were living in their environment.

What happens if guinea pigs get too cold?

If guinea pigs get too cold they can get pneumonia or hypothermia. These are deadly conditions and ones that could very easily result in the death of your guinea pigs. This is one of the reasons why I always recommend keeping guinea pigs indoors whenever possible, as it is more temperate.

Are heat lamps safe for guinea pigs?

I don’t recommend heat lamps for guinea pigs as they are usually designed for use with reptiles and may become too hot for your guinea pigs. It is safer to use the microwavable heat pads and add insulation as described here.

Can guinea pigs use heat mats?

Heat mats are usually powered by electricity, so the ones you may buy for a cat or dog, or even a reptile, aren’t safe for guinea pigs. A guinea pig will chew through an electrical lead and, even if you try to cover it, they may still be able to reach it. We recommend using the microwavable heat pads instead.

Are self heating mats safe for guinea pigs?

Self heating mats are designed with a thermal layer inside, but are usually made with cats and dogs in mind. It is worth knowing that cats and dogs can withstand much cooler temperatures than guinea pigs.  

These self heating mats work by reflecting the pet’s heat back to the pet. On cold winter days, particularly outdoors, this is unlikely to give enough heat for a guinea pig, whereas a heated pad will be warm without having to rely on the animal’s body heat. 

If your guinea pig was to chew the outer layer of the mat and get to the inner layer, they may ingest the foil thermal part which would be really bad for them.

We don’t recommend using self heating mats as they may not be safe enough and are unlikely to keep your guinea pigs warm enough on cold days.

Can guinea pigs wear jumpers in cold weather?

Guinea pigs should not be dressed in a jumper or any type of clothing as they need to groom themselves and it is not natural for them to be dressed in this way. If you put them in a sweater, they are likely to become agitated and may even have a reaction to the fabric, or the detergent that has been used to clean the clothing. This advice also applies to hairless guinea pigs such as Skinny Pigs and Baldwins. Keep your guinea pigs warm using the methods we’ve recommended instead.

These are some of the items we recommend to help keep your guinea pigs warm in winter:

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