If you have pets who usually live outside, it’s important that you make sure they are kept warm and comfortable during winter. As temperatures drop, your pets need you to take extra steps to ensure their living space is warm and dry and that they have access to unfrozen water and dry food.
You may want to bring your outdoor pets inside during the winter months, but we know that this isn’t always possible. There are plenty of things you can do though to ensure your pets stay happy and healthy while outside in the winter.
Check their water
Not only do you need to check daily to make sure they have enough clean, fresh water, you also need to make sure their water hasn’t frozen. You can help to reduce the chances of their water bottle freezing by covering it in a thermal sock or a glove, but you’ll still need to check it twice a day in cold temperatures.
Ensure access to food
Many animals will eat more to stay warm during winter, so you may need to feed your outdoor pets extra during the winter months. Ensure they always have access to food but also that you are not overfeeding them.
If food is sitting there for a long, it may be a sign that you are overfeeding. In this case, reduce their food slightly and make sure you are rotating it so your pet always has access to fresh food.
Provide extra shelter
It’s always important that your outdoor pet has a warm and dry shelter that provides a safe place to sleep, but it’s even more vital during winter. You should make sure that their hutch or enclosure is in good condition and that the shelter is watertight while still having a good level of ventilation.
It can be a good idea to wrap an old duvet or blanket around the shelter and cover this with a tarpaulin to keep it dry. This will help keep out wind and rain while also keeping the shelter warm.
You should also make sure that the shelter is raised off the ground as this will keep it warmer and dry. It should also have a sloped roof that lets water drain away. You may need to move the enclosure into a more sheltered position that stops wind and rain from getting inside.
You should also make sure you’re providing plenty of hay for rabbits and guinea pigs and suitable bedding for other animals. This should be checked regularly to make sure it’s dry and cleaned as needed.
Even with extra bedding and shelter, your pets can still feel the cold so you should check the temperature of their shelter and see if they feel cold. If they still feel a bit chilly, it can be a sign that there is a draught or that they don’t have enough shelter. This means you should check their shelter again and maybe consider moving it into a shed, outhouse or unused garage for extra protection.
Make sure they get exercise
Even with cold weather, your outdoor pets still need to get some exercise if they don’t hibernate. While they’ll likely need less exercise than in the summer months, it’s important that they still have the option.
Animals like rabbits and guinea pigs should have access to a secure run as well as shelter, so they can choose between the two. Other animals may need to be let out into a run, allowed to run around the garden or be taken for a short walk.
Make sure you keep an eye on their behaviour for signs that they are cold, as this will mean they’re ready to go back inside to their shelter.
Keep them together
Not only are rabbits, guinea pigs, birds and other animals social, they also help each other stay warm. Housing animals together will keep them active, stop them from getting lonely and bored and also mean they can huddle up and stay warm.
If they’ve not been housed together before, it can be a good idea to move their hutches or enclosure closer together so they can get used to each other. This should help avoid fighting and make sure they are happy before putting in the same hutch or enclosure.