It has been a pretty mild winter so far for us down south. Can’t really say much for those who live in the North but I’m pretty sure it is colder up there. If you’ve been checking the news, you would be aware that the UK is in for a cold snap with predictions that it won’t end till the end of February. Are you and your pets prepared?
Anti freeze car products: This is possibly one the most important things to remember during the cold weeks. Anti freeze products like screen wash is extremely toxic and can kill your pet (or someone’s pet). Cats and dogs are attracted to the smell and will digest it and harm themselves so ensure any spillages are cleaned up thoroughly. Make sure your bottles are stored out of reach, closed tightly and not have any residues around the bottle. I am unsure if they are toxic towards rabbits, guinea pigs and other smaller pets but its good practise to keep it out of reach.
Food and other supplies: Stock up while you can as snow can prevent you from going to a pet shop. Even if you can somehow get to a shop, the shopkeeper might not be able to get to the store. Don’t leave it till last minute.
Cats or Dogs in the garden: Maybe you don’t have a cat flap and your kitty didn’t come home when you called? Or maybe your dog likes to sleep in a kennel? In snowy or cold weather, it is always preferable to have your pet indoors but when that’s not possible, it’s a good idea to have a dog house to fall back on. Placed facing a wall and little rain or snow can make it damp inside. You can use bricks to raise it off the ground and add a few blankets inside to keep it slightly warmer than the outside. A microwaveable heat pad is a good addition to create some extra warmth. Never use a hot water bottle as cats have nails that can penetrate the rubber and dogs might bite it. Scalding water can injure an animal so heat pads are safer.
Rabbit in hutches: It is not always possible to have house bunnies but you can do your best to ensure your rabbit makes it through winter in the garden. First of all, be glad to know that rabbits can take cold temperatures pretty well as long as they have been given adequate time to adjust. If you buy or adopt a bunny during winter you should keep it indoors, especially if it is a young rabbit as they would not have developed a winter coat.
It is important to check their water every day as there is a risk of freezing and water is an important part of a rabbit’s diet. You can use bottle covers or an old sock to cover water bottles but be sure to check the metal spout as water can freeze inside the metal bit. It’s a good idea to fill a heavy dish with some water just in case the spout does freeze over. Make sure it is heavy enough not to be tipped over.
Hutch covers can be used as an extra form of insulation. Even better, if you have a garage or a shed that doesn’t house a car you can stick your hutch in there. Add lots of straw into the hutch as straw is more insulating than hay. Don’t forget to put plenty of hay in there too and leave any dieting for warmer months as bunnies need the energy to keep their bodies warm.
Even though it is winter, they still need the same amount of exercise. If you are using an outdoor run, consider using roof plastic over the top to prevent rain or snow from flooding the run. It is important to place some form of shelter in the run, preferably raised off the ground with a few bricks. This is so your pet can have the option to retreat if they feel cold. Even better is if you have your run and hutch attached.
My rabbits live in the garage and if it’s too cold at night, I place a microwaveable heat pad in their cages. The Snugglesafe heat pad is pet safe and I’ve used it with no problems apart from my rabbits trying to eat the soft cover. Put this on one area of the cage so your bunny has the option to move away if it is too warm. If your rabbit is too old or ill to make the choice to move away from a heat source then they should really be indoors for the cold. Never use a hot water bottle as they may chew through the rubber or an electric heat pad as the wires pose a hazard.
Rodents: Keep them indoors and provide plenty of bedding, if your pet doesn’t feel warm enough they might try hibernation which is fatal. Your home is likely to be warm enough to not pose much of a problem as long as the cage is positioned in a draught free area. Do not keep a cage next to a radiator as that might be too warm. If you are worried, you can lean a heat pad against one side of the cage.
Finally, be sure to check on your animals regularly. As far as I know, apart from turtles, no domesticated pet should hibernate so if your animal looks like it’s heading that way, call your vet immediately! Good luck for the cold spell!