Guinea pigs are popular pets all around the world. In some regions, they are thought of as an indoor pet, but people in other areas tend to keep their guinea pigs in outdoor cages for some or all of the year.
No matter where you keep your, it is important to make sure that they stay comfortable. Monitoring the temperature so that they don’t get too hot or cold is an important part of that.
How Do I Know If My Guinea Pigs Are Cold?
You should always monitor the conditions in the area where their cage is located. Science has determined the ideal temperature and the acceptable range for guinea pigs.
Whenever temperatures fall outside that range, you can either take immediate action or look for behavioral signs that your pigs are chilly.
Anyone who keep pets needs to know the points at which they will become too hot or cold to be comfortable.
Unfortunately, the signs that a guinea pig is uncomfortable are much easier to catch when they are too hot than when they are too cold.
Still, it’s worth knowing that guinea pigs typically do better when they are too cold than too hot. And if you outfit their cage with the right features, guinea pigs can keep warm even when temperatures fall outside their range.
What You Need to Know to Keep Your Guinea Pigs Comfortable
Australian scientists at the Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science of Australia determined that the ideal temperature range for guinea pigs is between 18-22C (which is 65 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit).
They went on to say that guinea pigs do best when the relative humidity is between 45 and 70% and in a 12-16-hour light/day cycle.
It’s worth noting that the scientists concluded that guinea pigs who live in groups and are provided with bedding are capable of withstanding colder temperatures.
There are exceptions to the rules of thumb that the Australian scientists provided.
They noted that neonates are particularly susceptible to temperatures below 17 degrees C. They also cautioned that pregnant sows have trouble tolerating temperatures above 30C.
When you know what temperatures work best for guinea pigs, you’re able to keep an eye on the thermometer and nip problems in the bud before things get to a point where your pets are uncomfortable.
Of course, you might still want to let the pigs use what you’ve provided to them to stay warm when the temperature dips outside the ideal range.
If guinea pigs have each other to snuggle with and plenty of bedding to nestle in, they can keep their body temperature within the ideal range even if ambient temperatures drop outside of the optimum range.
Even then, you’ll have to keep an eye on them and be prepared to offer them some help if they appear to be struggling with the colder temperatures.
How do I know if my guinea pig is cold?
There are some fairly straightforward signs that your guinea pigs are cold. Whether you keep them indoors or outdoors, you should keep your eyes peeled for these signs anytime the temperature in the area where you keep their cage drops outside of the optimum range.
The more tools that you provide them to keep themselves warm, the better they’ll do in temperatures below that range.
But even with plenty of company and plenty of warm bedding, there is only so much that the pigs can do on their own.
When it reaches a point where they aren’t able to keep themselves warm, you’ll need to take steps to make sure that they have the extra help that they need. If you see any of the following signs, you’ll know that it’s time to step in:
- Shivering: If your guinea pigs are shivering, that is a good sign that they are too cold. Just like we shiver when we are cold, guinea pigs will experience involuntary muscle contractions that are designed to help the body generate warmth.
- Huddling: If your guinea pig curls up in a ball, that is another good sign that they are cold. Think about how you cuddle up under a blanket when you are chilly. The guinea pig equivalent is a sure sign that you need to do something to help them keep warm.
- Cold Ears: People check their temperatures by placing a thermometer under the tongue or feeling the forehead. On guinea pigs, the best place to check is their ears. It’s not an exact science, so you’ll need to pay attention to how their ears feel when they’re “normal.” If you feel their ears and they feel colder than usual, that is one more sign that they are too cold and need help.
Do Guinea Pigs Prefer Hot or Cold?
Although neither extreme is going to be safe for your guinea pigs, we tend to feel that cold temperatures are slightly easier to handle for a guinea pig than extreme heat. Guinea pigs have the ability to survive winters with their coats and burrowing ability.
They need to be protected from the elements like rain and wind. This means they shouldn’t be getting wet and remaining that way or by being exposed to direct cooling or heating from vents pointed at them.
- Damp hutches should be avoided.
- Wooden boxes are helpful.
- Tunnels provide shelter and warmth as well.
- Snuggle pads are meant to keep guinea pigs comfortable.
- Guinea pigs in groups will help each other.
It is much harder for a guinea to find a solution to extreme heat other than seeking out shade. If all areas get too warm, there is no other option other than stress and possible sickness or eventual death.
What Temperature Is Too Cold for Guinea Pigs?
It is easy for a guinea pig in captivity to become too cold and find no way of escaping it if we don’t provide options for warmth. Temperatures that fall below 15 degrees Celsius or 60 degrees Fahrenheit may lead to your guinea pig becoming ill from the cold.
The outdoor space that you bring your guinea pig into for colder seasons needs some form of protection from the elements. A tarp can limit or break the wind that could engulf them and get inside your guinea pig’s sensitive bones. More information on this is available in this article.
The chill can cause hypothermia. Temperatures should be set between 65°F to 75°F in the home. Anti pill fleece blanket that are hard to tear or pull threads out are a great warming solution.
Also consider snuggle pads meant for guinea pigs. It is extremely important that no dampness occurs to their bedding or enclosure. The colder temperature coupled with moisture is a seriously concerning combination that can drop your guinea pigs’ core temperature really quickly.
It is good to know how to spot hypothermia symptoms in your guinea pigs before it is too late. Time is not on your side and the sooner you react to any of the symptoms below, the better the chances that your guinea pig will survive.
Their core body temperature should not drop under 35 degrees Celsius or 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Breathing quick and shallow
- Look for hairs standing up
- Loss of appetite
- Cold to the touch
Your guinea pigs will let you if you are paying close attention to abnormalities in their physical appearance, behavior or emotions. Provide dry bedding and cover it with fleece.
Use a heating pad or snuggle pad. Some pads can be microwaved quickly for immediate relief. If these symptoms persist, it’s time for a quick trip to the vet.
Do Guinea Pigs Get Cold Easily?
Yes. Keeping guinea pigs under a safe temperature setting is one of our big jobs as their primary caregivers. When temperatures drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit or 15 degrees Celsius, you may notice your guinea pig shivering or developing other symptoms of hypothermia.
They may get very ill or die without intervention and immediate warmth. Their systems are not designed for extreme heat or cold. They can undergo stress due to sudden changes in temperature as well. This is why bringing them outdoors in the winter should be done so cautiously.
They can be wrapped up in fleece blankets at first and slowly allow them to adjust to the winter weather. Do not stay out there long with them.
They are vulnerable to infections when they fall out of the comfort temperature range which is around 60-75°F. Drafty areas like hallways or near vents and moist bedding or any dampness can cause their core temperature to suddenly drop as well.
Why Does My Guinea Pig Have Cold Ears?
I realized soon after getting my first guinea pig that they use their ears to regulate their body temperature. When their ears are hot, this keeps them cool during the summer. When they are cool, they are trying to warm up.
You might notice your guinea pigs’ ears getting colder when there is a sudden draft or change in temperature. If the ears stay cold for too long, they may develop other serious symptoms of illness such as:
- Loss of appetite
There are many blood vessels in and around the ears of guinea pigs. The network of blood vessels exchange heat throughout their body.
Preserving body heat with cool ears helps to minimize the cold they would feel in the rest of their body. This is one of the many reasons we find our cavies so fascinating!
Ways to Warm Your Guinea Pigs Up When They Are Cold
It’s important to have a plan for warming your guinea pigs up when they give you signs that they are too cold. Of course, the steps you take will depend on whether they are inside your home or in outdoor cages.
There are plenty of options, and depending on where you live, some of them might be enough to help your guinea pig make it all the way through winter in an outdoor cage.
Everything depends on where you’re at and what your set-up is like, so use common sense and keep a close eye on the signs your pets give you.
Consider some of the following options to help your guinea pigs warm up when they are cold:
- Move the cage: If you keep your pigs outdoors, then moving their cage into an outbuilding can make a big difference. If you keep your pets indoors, then moving their cage to a different room or closer to a heat source can help. Be sure that you don’t overdo it because guinea pigs have a tougher time when they are too warm than they do when they’re chilly.
- Add bedding and supplies: There are plenty of options that you can buy or make that will help your guinea pig stay warm. Since body heat will go further in a small area, giving your pets a small box or another small area that they fit inside will give them someplace warm to huddle up where their body heat won’t escape.
You can also add things like a hot water bottle, a pig-sized sleeping bag, or a microwaved sock filled with grains of rice to their cage.
This will give them something warm to snuggle on or snuggle in so that they warm up.
- Buy a buddy: Don’t underestimate the value of having body heat to share. If you have a lonely guinea pig, one of the best ways to help it keep warm during the cold seasons is to give it a warm buddy to snuggle with. Just make sure that you pay attention to the sex of the pigs that you put together unless you want to have a litter of guinea pigs scurrying around.
Pets are great, and guinea pigs are one of the most fun pets that you can own. They’re easy to care for, and they have a lot of personality.
But being a good pet owner means taking good care of your pet, and pets can’t talk to tell you what they need.
That means that you have to know what to expect and know the signs that your pet will give you when things change. Knowing what to do will help you keep your guinea pigs happy.