How to keep your small pets warm in winter

Keeping your small animals warm is essential to their survival and happiness throughout the winter, despite their furry coats, your small pets still need to be surrounded by plenty of insulation to make sure they are warm and cosy in the harsh winter conditions. Whether kept outside in a hutch or inside in a cage, it’s important to regularly check that your pets are warm, happy and healthy throughout winter. Rabbits and guinea pigs that are kept outside will require extra hay and heat pads, hamsters, rats and gerbils will need extra bedding and to be kept away from draughts inside the house and all of your small pets should be given extra food to keep them satisfied and strong to fight off the cold.

All small animals will require extra-care to ensure they are kept protected from the elements this winter, from rabbits and hamsters to guinea pigs, gerbils, rats, mice and more, this blog will cover a large number of small animals that need a little extra TLC in the cold. As well as addressing you most commonly asked questions, this blog will also provide suggestions for suitable bedding, blankets and more available on the Direct4Pet website that will ensure your pets are kept warm all winter long.

How to prepare your small pets for the winter

If you are worried that your small animals may be too cold, follow these simple tips below to ensure they are kept warm and cosy throughout the winter season:

  1. Ensure they have appropriate housing - If your small animals are kept outside and there’s no way of being able to accommodate them inside through colder months, it’s vital that their hutch is waterproof and has a solid roof to ensure that they are fully protected against the harsh winter weather. Ideally, the hutch should be placed in an area where it is shielded from the wind in order to reduce draught and keep the hutch dry. However, it’s equally as important that their hutch still has good ventilation, in order to prevent any build up of moisture which may lead to potential illness.
  2. Create a warm hiding space - During the winter small animals love to hide and burrow in enclosed spaces with lots of bedding to help keep them warm. If your hutch has a small covered  section that is separate from the rest of the hutch, your pets will naturally gravitate towards hibernating in there, ensure that this area is filled with extra bedding so that they can create a cosy space to keep warm.
  3. Consider buying a heat pad - If you’re worried about your outdoor pets getting too cold in the winter then you should consider buying them a heat pad to create extra warmth. Microwaveable heat pads for small animals are a simple yet effective solution to keeping your pets warm and increasing the ambient temperature inside their hutch. However, it is important that your small animals also have the option to lie away from the heat pad if they get too hot, so we would recommend opting for a smaller sized heat pad that can keep one side of their hutch warm, while freeing up space for your pets to escape the heat freely. 
  4. Provide extra bedding and insulation - One of the easiest ways to ensure your small animals are kept warm during the winter is to provide them with extra bedding and insulation. For rabbits and guinea pigs in large wooden hutches you can purchase waterproof and insulating covers that can help keep out rain and draught. And for all other small animals, adding in extra amounts of their usual bedding such as hay, wood shavings and pellets can help give your pets more warmth throughout the colder months.

How to keep rabbits warm in the winter

Generally speaking, healthy rabbits that are well-acclimated to the outdoors are able to withstand temperatures below freezing point as long as they are given appropriate housing and good nutrition. However, rabbits that are accustomed to living indoors should never be placed outside for extended periods of time in winter. If you wish to acclimate your rabbit from indoors to outdoors during the winter season, make sure you do so gradually in the autumn so that they can slowly adapt to colder temperatures and their new, changed environment.

Be aware that wet conditions can lower a rabbit’s body temperature quicker than just cold temperatures therefore it is important that if kept outdoors, their hutch is checked frequently to ensure it is not only clean but also dry. If your rabbit is very young or very old, they may struggle to tolerate the cold winter temperatures and should therefore be moved indoors if the temperature drops dramatically. 

One of the easiest ways to keep your rabbit warm is to provide them with a microwavable heat pad or enclosed space to snuggle. If your rabbit hutch doesn’t offer a small enclosed space for your rabbit, then consider purchasing a rabbit snuggle tunnel. This soft plush tunnel is the perfect place for your small animals to hide and sleep in during the winter months, offering a warm, insulating environment to get cosy in and hide from the cold.

Rosewood Reversible Snuggle Tunnel £9.89 and SnuggleSafe Microwave Heatpad £19.09

A safer alternative to a hot water bottle, this Snugglesafe heatpad is a simple way to keep your rabbits and small animals warm during the winter. Simply heat up the pad for a few minutes in the microwave, place it in the soft, fleece cover and pop it in your pet’s hutch for up to 10 hours of warmth during the winter season.

What temperature is too cold for rabbits?

Rabbits are well adapted to survive the cold with their thick fur coats, however, any temperature below minus five degrees is considered to be too cold for rabbits and you should start to take some precautions to keep your furry friends warm and comfortable in these temperatures.

Since your small pet’s cannot communicate when they are cold, it's important that you take any necessary precautions to keep them in a regulated, warm environment. One way to achieve this is to buy your small pet a warm, plush bed that they can snuggle up in to stay warm throughout the winter. 

Small animal beds 

Doubling up as both a place to snuggle and an enclosed bed for your rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets and rats, this super-soft, plush “bee hive” bed from Rosewood is ideal for giving your small pets a place to stay warm in the winter. Designed with tough, durable fabrics in a fun carrot print with soft, fur lining, both the “bee hive” and carrot plush bed are made specifically to ensure your pet can relax and snooze in a well-insulated and comfortable environment during the colder months.

Rosewood 2 in 1 Beehive Small Animal Bed £21.99, Rosewood Carrot Plush Small Animal Bed £18.99 and Rabbit Bed Cushion Luxury Plush Grey Small Animal Bed £16.49 

Rosewood also offers a variety of luxury, plush cushions for small pets that are ideal for indoor rabbits or guinea pigs to relax on during the winter months. Made from hard-wearing yet soft materials, this bed cushion will fit comfortably in any cage or in a draught-free spot around the house for your pets to relax on during the winter.

How to keep hamsters warm in winter

The sudden drop in temperature during the winter season can be detrimental to your small furry friends. Dramatically cold temperatures can have a large impact on your hamster’s immune system, therefore it is vital that you are prepared with all of the essentials to keep them warm. One of the easiest ways to keep your hamster happy and warm throughout the winter is to place their cage in an area of the house that is away from any doors or windows to prevent unnecessary drafts. Place your hamster’s cage in a secluded corner of a cosy room and ensure they have extra bedding.  

Small animal bedding 

Hamster’s love to nest, dig and burrow in their bedding for ultimate comfort, especially when the cold weather starts to creep in. Using extra bedding in your hamster’s cage will help provide extra insulation and create a cosy space for your hamster to hide in during the winter months. Supreme Tiny Friends Farm offer a variety of eco-friendly bedding that is soft, absorbent and super-safe for your hamster, simply switch up your regular cleaning routine and add more bedding to their usual resting places and they are guaranteed to be warm throughout the colder months. 

Supreme Tiny Friends Farm Bedding £12.99 and Supreme Tiny Friends Tumblefresh Pet Bedding £12.59 

As a general guide to follow, your hamster’s ideal temperature should be between 20-22 degrees celsius, therefore, it is essential that you keep on top of their needs during the winter. If your hamster cage is in a draught-free location and you’ve provided extra bedding but you’re still unsure if they will be warm enough then you should consider buying a heat pad. 

As discussed previously, your hamster can also benefit from the use of a microwavable heat pad both in and around their cage. If choosing to buy a heat pad for your hamster, it is important that you place this on one side of the cage, leaving the other side cool so that they have the option to move if they desire too.

Can I put a blanket in my hamster's cage?

Yes you can! Covering the bottom of your hamster’s cage with a small blanket or piece of fabric, in addition to their usual bedding, is a great way to create extra insulation to trap heat during the winter season. You can also place small pieces of fabric in your hamster's cage that they can then use to create a comfy nest or bed that will help keep them warm.

How do I know if my hamster is too cold?

If your hamster is too cold you will notice a few unusual signs that will signify they need a little more warmth. Your hamster may start to lose interest in their food and water, seem more lethargic than usual, start to shiver or in some extreme cases, have trouble with their breathing. A tell-tale sign to look out for is if their feet, ears or nose feel cold then that’s an indicator that your hamster may be a little too chilly.

Ready to wrap up your small pets for winter?

With our top tips and product recommendations to help keep your small animals warm in winter, it’s time to get prepared to wrap up your furry friends for winter. Browse our full collection of small animal products here at Direct4Pet to make sure your pet’s have everything they need to stay happy, healthy and warm this season.