Do guinea pigs get cold?
Guinea pigs are a small, tailless species of rodents domesticated more than 3000 years ago and today live only in captivity, depending on their owners for survival.
There are several breeds of them, varying mostly in coat texture and hair length or lack thereof, but all have shorter legs and larger bodies (compared to other rodents).
Feeding either on natural vegetation or dry food, they can live up to 8 years, depending on the level of care they receive.
They are very social animals and can somewhat adapt to human daylight schedules, unlike other pet rodents that are strictly nocturnal creatures.
Since they breed quite well in captivity, guinea pigs are not only a popular choice for pets but are common subjects for animal research studies as well.
Although guinea pigs are frequently considered child friendly, they can be sensitive animals, and caring for them could require specific actions.
Table of Contents
- Do Guinea Pigs Get Cold?
- How Do Guinea Pigs Get Cold?
- How to Keep Guinea Pigs Warm Enough?
- Final Thoughts
Do Guinea Pigs Get Cold?
The ideal temperature for guinea pigs to live in is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Although they can tolerate a temperature drop of 10 degrees better than increasing temperatures, extreme changes can be dangerous for their health.
So, to answer the question, yes, if the environment they live in and their body cools down too quickly, guinea pigs will get cold.
Another way for them to get cold is if they are kept in unhygienic conditions and their grooming and checkups are neglected.
Some sure signs of your guinea pigs getting cold is that they are shivering, curling into a ball, and have cold ears.
How Do Guinea Pigs Get Cold?
Unstable Living Conditions
As mentioned earlier, extreme temperature changes can cause these animals a lot of stress, leading to serious health issues and even death.
It usually occurs if the guinea pigs live outside all year round and experience dramatic temperature drops during the winter months.
They can also get cold if you suddenly move them from a warm environment to a much colder room inside a house.
Even if you put them in a warmed room, if you put their cage directly on the chilly floor, they will get cold.
Not to mention putting them next to an open window or door on a windy day.
Humidity Inside and Outside Their Cage
There is one room inside your house where you can’t keep your guinea pigs, and that is the bathroom.
It is not only a place where drastic temperature changes occur at least once a day.
The humidity in your bathroom contributes to the growth of bacteria and fungi, some of which are pathogenic.
Their levels might not be pathogenic to you, but your pets have smaller bodies and weaker immunity.
If your guinea pigs get sick and vulnerable from contacting pathogens, they will be more sensitive to getting cold and have a shorter lifespan.
They can also grow cold or get an infection if their house is not aired and cleaned frequently enough as they go to the bathroom and spill food or water many times a day.
Lack of Sunshine
Like many other mammals, including us humans, guinea pigs also benefit majorly from the Sun.
Although they can’t tolerate direct sunlight, they do need some exposure to sunshine.
It is most important for them during the winter months when even the smallest amount of indirect sunshine can be helpful.
One of the things that your guinea pig gets from sunlight is vitamin D in its most natural form.
This vitamin is essential to keeping them healthy and happy, and unfortunately, their bodies can’t make it.
Another reason the sunlight is beneficial for your guinea pigs is that it helps them have a daytime routine.
Guinea pigs can be active during the day and sleep at night (and only part of the day) precisely because of sunlight.
The lack of sunlight can make them feel cold, vulnerable, and sick, especially if they are growing or are pregnant.
Guinea pigs can survive on commercial dry food, with the addition of freshwater daily.
However, they can get far more nutrients from natural foods, like fresh vegetables, fruits, roots, and even branches.
Commercial sugary treats can cause indigestion problems that can make your pets feel unconformable.
A healthy, vitamin-rich diet will keep your guinea pigs far less sensitive to cold, as well as prevent them from getting scurvy.
Besides vitamin D, the other must in their diet is vitamin C, which they also can’t produce or store.
Wood shaving and synthetic materials aren’t suitable as roughage as they are full of toxic substances, and their ingestion can lead to the death of your pets.
Guinea pigs are very active creatures thus their body creates a lot of thermal energy to keep them warm.
Unfortunately, a lot of owners don’t give them enough space to run and jump around freely.
It might be because of the limited space people usually have in their houses or apartments for animal cages.
Or simply because of their lack of knowledge, they buy commercial cages that are way too small even for one guinea pig, let alone more.
However, if they can’t exercise enough due to the small space they are kept in, they will feel cold even if the room temperature is right.
Lack of Hygiene
Guinea pigs are clean animals, and they usually take care of themselves, unless they are unwell or are too cold.
With ungroomed nails and hair, they can’t do this, especially the breeds with longer hair that tends to mat together in lumps if it’s wet.
The hairless breeds also require special attention as they need to be kept dry.
Both the hairless and the longhair breeds are more likely to get cold if left damp.
Some guinea pigs are more inclined to spill food and water if kept in bowls, so it is less hygienic than the hanging bottle method.
Wet bedding will also make them cold and potentially ill.
How to Keep Guinea Pigs Warm Enough?
Make Sure Their Environment is Sufficiently Warm And Draft-free
It’s nice if you have space to keep your guinea pigs outside for the warmer months of the year.
But when winter comes, it is recommended to move them indoors, unless you don’t have enough space or are allergic to them.
Whether you choose to place your pigs inside or not, always add an extra amount of hay for insulation and put most of it in the place where they sleep.
During the winter months, it’s customary to use space heaters or a central heating system.
Your guinea pigs will be fine with them if you don’t put their cage too close to the heat source.
This way, they will be warm enough (but not too warm, which they hate), and their cage won’t become a fire hazard.
If you don’t have heated floors, you will need to elevate their little house so they wouldn’t feel the cold from the floor.
A single blanket, a wooden board, or even a couple of old books could do the trick.
You also don’t want to put them near an open window or door, or if you must, protect their cage from a draft with a blanket.
A covering blanket can not only protect them from the elements.
It can also be beneficial if you have a half-open guinea pig habitat and have other pets too.
It’s unlikely for the guinea pigs to jump outside, but your other pets may get inside or close enough to scare your pigs.
When Necessary, Use Extra Measures to Keep Them Warm
One of the popular materials used in animal cages is hay because it’s natural, the animals love to snack on it, and it’s an excellent insulator.
Another material often used as bedding for guinea pigs is fleece since it’s always available at craft stores, and once it gets dirty, you can wash it in the washing machine and reuse it.
You can also find (or make) other types of beddings made from natural materials, such as paper.
Experts say you should avoid keeping synthetic and fibrous materials in your cages.
Synthetic materials will not only not keep your guinea pigs warm but can also cause serious health issues.
The same is true for materials such as cotton or cedarwood shavings.
If swallowed, their particles will cause gastrointestinal problems.
Since they are most likely to get cold when they are sleeping, give them a little bed or house to sleep in.
If you make sure it’s big enough and insulate it with hay, it will become their little paradise.
In addition to houses, you can buy a wide variety of soft bags, snuggle blankets and snuggle pads that can keep your guinea pigs warm, or you can even make your own.
Even a simple sock filled with rice and warmed up in a microwave could make them happy.
Or use a hot water bottle, like you would use it to warm yourself.
Just make sure to wrap it in a blanket so it wouldn’t be too hot for your guinea pigs.
The last two heated objects are also a great solution if you need to leave your house for a couple of hours and plan to turn your heating down.
Their water should always be room temperature, as cold water will make them shiver, and they will be less likely to drink enough of it.
If you must keep your pets outside during winter, you might need to replace their water multiple times a day so it won’t freeze.
Keep Your Guinea Pigs Active
The more things your pets have in their cage, the more they will have to get around.
That could be a positive thing if it makes them exercise enough to keep them from getting cold.
To achieve this, you will need a larger cage with more accessories like bunkers and such.
Your guinea pigs will need space to run, hide and jump around freely.
They are naturally prone to these activities, but you can also teach them some tricks.
Learning will not only help keep them warm but will also be a good bonding experience too.
Not to mention that it’s always good to have more than one guinea pig.
As a social creature, your guinea pig will appreciate the company of other guinea pigs.
As most commercially sold habitats are barely enough for one guinea pig to roam, you may need to get creative.
In this case, you will essentially have two options, depending on your skills and time.
Option one is to buy a home meant for slightly larger animals with similar needs, such as rabbits.
Your guinea pig habitat will need to be at least 10 inches high and about 100 square inches per one adult animal.
It can be a good option for you if you need a ready-made option, or you can always opt to custom-build your cage at home.
You will have a wide variety of options for materials to choose from, be as creative as you want to be, and give as much space for your pets as they need.
From buying corrugated plastic to make the grids to recycling swimming pools, the only limit is safety.
Fortunately, guinea pigs have short legs and larger bodies, so they are not prone to jump out of their cage.
In any case, if you want to make sure they stay inside, you can always build them a large home in a vertical form, which can save a lot of space too.
Make Sure Your Guinea Pig Diet Is Healthy
The best approach to prevent your pigs from feeling uncomfortable in any way is to keep them healthy.
For that, you will need to make sure you give your guinea pigs plenty of fresh veggies and fruit all year.
If you must give them dry food, make sure you also provide plenty of fresh water that’s warm enough.
There are plenty of feeder and bottle options available to help keep your pigs provided with the necessary nutrients.
It will keep their digestion healthy and their mode to exercise up.
In addition to that, during the winter months, your pet will need additional vitamin sources.
Besides vitamin D, they will also need more vitamin C to keep them healthy since they lack the enzyme to make it.
You may ask your vet for additions to their diet, or you can find them online, in the form of enriched pellets or other supplements.
Most of them will be enough if consumed alongside vitamin C-rich food.
Some guinea pigs like to chew the tablets as treats.
These tablets meant for guinea pigs contain about 50mg of vitamin C, a recommended daily dose.
But even if your pet consumes a little more, it will be easily excreted since it’s a water-soluble vitamin.
Just make sure to store it in a cool, dry place, as vitamin C tends to disintegrate faster in a warmer climate.
It’s also not recommended to put the tablets in their water because they will not drink it.
A good source of fiber, such as hay, is also an essential part of their healthy diet.
Depending on the age and development of your guinea pig, you will need different types of grass.
Avoid feeding them cereal, bread, legumes, chocolate or cookies, because it will give them indigestion.
Don’t Neglect the Hygiene in the Guinea Pig Cage
Regardless of the size of your guinea pig’s cage, you need to take good care of their sanitary conditions.
The hygienic aspect of their care will somewhat depend on the breed of your guinea pigs.
The hairless breeds will require additional attention to dryness and warmth because if some will get cold instantly, that will be them.
They are also more vulnerable to getting skin infections (mainly on their stomach and genital area) and fleas.
Guinea pig breeds with long hair face a similar problem as their coat needs a longer time to dry.
You can help them by combing through their hair at least once a week and keeping them comfortable while they dry up.
Their nails and teeth grow all their lives, and the nails sometimes require grooming.
To help trim their teeth (and to prevent mouth infections from the teeth), provide them with enough food or natural toys to chew.
Replacing the bedding and a throughout clean of the habitat is also an important task to do at least once a week, or often if you have more than two animals.
You can also try to potty train your guinea pig, so it will only wet certain areas of the bedding.
It is somewhat possible to do, and apparently, the trick is to make them go to a dark place or near their food where they feel safe.
Wipe their bowls, bottles, and chewable toys with hot water, baby wipes or, a special animal-safe disinfectant.
Don’t house together, guinea pigs or other animals such as rabbits, even if they get along and love to cuddle with them.
Not only are rabbits larger animals and can cause injuries, but they can cause infections as well.
They are more resilient to pathogens, but they can carry them to your guinea pigs.
If you notice that your piggy is neglecting its hygiene, it might be a good idea to take it to a vet for a checkup.
Make Sure They Have Company
Guinea pigs are very social pets that enjoy exploring, so feel free to play with them gently.
They might resist handling initially, but don’t be discouraged, and certainly don’t force them.
Once your guinea pigs get used to you as their new owner, they will be happy with some tender petting and cuddling, especially if they are cold.
The trick is to approach them slowly by crouching beside them and allowing them to come to you first.
Never approach them directly from above because their initial reaction is to cover predators striking from that direction, such as eagles.
When they reach you, you might pet them slightly on their back, and if they take a hunching position, that’s your signal to pick them up by putting one hand under them while supporting their back with the other one.
They are very responsive to noises from their environment and can even learn and react to repetitive commands.
They appreciate the human company, which makes them excellent pets for children above a certain age.
However, only let children handle them under adult supervision as guinea pigs can be fragile and easily frightened.
They rarely bite, but sometimes fear can make them a little aggressive.
They aren’t even bothered by the company of other animals, except predators like cats and dogs.
Of course, it’s best to keep any contact with larger animals at a minimum to ensure their safety.
What they will love most, though, is the company of other guinea pigs.
Nothing will make them happier than having a playmate to roam and play with all day long, and your guinea pig will love having a buddy to snuggle with to keep each other warm while sleeping.
They aren’t just like potato chips (meaning you can’t have just one), but interestingly enough, in some countries, it’s actually against the law to own only one guinea pig.
Guinea pigs are quite a popular choice of pets, but they should always be handled with care (and in the case of children only with adult supervision), as they sometimes require more attention than dogs.
They can be sensitive to environmental changes, and since they live in captivity, they rely heavily on humans to take care of their needs, including proper grooming.
Temperatures higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit affect them more, but their health can also suffer because of sudden temperature drops below 60 degrees.
To ensure they are warm enough (and also to keep them company), you should always buy/adopt more than one guinea pig, so they will have a buddy to cuddle.
In addition to that, you need to keep their habitat in a warm and dry space and clean it regularly to keep your pets healthy and happy.
You should avoid direct heat sources near or in their cage, but a wrapped up hot water bottle or a warmed up sock could give them a nice amount of heath.
And finally, provide them with the right amount of healthy nutrients from fresh food and supplements, in addition to giving them enough space for them to have the possibility of sufficient exercise, to prevent any instances of cold.