As we approach the colder time of year, you are no doubt making adjustments in your home. Extra layers of clothing, turning the heating up a little and switching to the thicker duvet for a start. What about your furry friends though?
Unfortunately, your pet can’t do any of those things, so it comes down to you, as its owner, to make them feel as comfortable and safe as possible. For the more common indoor pets like dogs and cats, not much changes, they benefit from your heating after all and they will always cuddle up to you if they want any additional warmth. Plus, they are in your sight where you can make adjustments as and when necessary.
What about your outdoor pet though? How can we make sure rabbits are kept warm, comfortable, and healthy when the temperature drops?
At PBS Pet Travel, we love everything about animals and with approximately 1.1million pet rabbits in the UK, we thought it would be well worth helping the owners of these fluffy little friends of ours!
What temperature is too cold for rabbits?
Rabbits look like big fluffy balls that should or could always be warm. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. When the temperature drops to 10 degrees or below, they are likely to be feeling the cold. They can cope with temperatures colder than this but it isn’t something you would want to risk. Older rabbits will also struggle with cold weather more than the younger ones. They may have joint issues that you are not aware of, and cold weather can exacerbate this condition.
If temperatures reach freezing and lower, you should consider using a shed if you have one.
How to keep rabbits warm in winter
Many of the pet rabbits in the UK are kept in hutches that are situated in a garden, with a run as an additional feature that gives them the chance for some outdoor exercise and a chance to bask in the warm weather.
When it comes to winter though, and the temperatures drop, the novelty of playing with a rabbit, cleaning it out and putting it in a run can wear off in many owners, especially children. It is important they are still treated in much the same way as when the weather is warm and perhaps, with even more attention than normal.
Having a well-insulated hutch, that is properly located is just one of the things you need to be considering but what else can you do?
Raise the hutch off the ground
As temperatures drop in the air, the ground also gets much colder. You wouldn’t want to sit on a cold floor so neither should your rabbit. Raising the hutch removes the potential for the hutch to get damp and then cause your rabbit to get ill.
Turn the hutch away from the wind
The wind and rain direction may change frequently but if you can, turn the hutch away from the elements. This will make for a more comfortable environment for the rabbit.
Consider a sloping roof
If your hutch has a flat roof, then any heavy rain may build up on the top of the hutch and could freeze when temperatures get low. This will make the hutch interior very cold! If you can apply a sloped roof, then you allow the rainwater to drain away and remove the risk of an ice block appearing on top of the hutch.
Use a waterproof cover
Adding a weatherproof cover at night will stop any rain coming in and allow a degree of protection from the lower temperatures. Just ensure there is still space for air to circulate. For additional insulation, you could add an old blanket to run under the weatherproof cover, just ensure it’s not something the rabbit can chew on.
Use straw not hay
Straw is warmer than hay so your rabbit will enjoy settling within it much more when the weather is colder. Layer the bottom with newspaper before adding your straw. Ensure it is deep so your rabbit can burrow into it if they wish.
Invest in heat pads
There are heat pads on the market that allow for extra warmth. These are simply warmed up in the microwave and then placed under the straw. Always read the guidance on these as you do not want to make anything too hot or use a product not suitable for pets.
Regularly check for leaks or damp
The cold weather often leads to dampness and if you have done many of the things we have suggested above, then your rabbit is likely to be as snug as possible. However, should leaks get through your hutch or the straw get damp, you could be on to a problem. Wet bedding will freeze and damp surroundings could make them ill.
With this in mind, up your cleaning schedule, where you may have done some tasks weekly, now consider them bi-weekly.
How can I stop the rabbits’ water bottle from freezing?
Many water bottles are located on the outside of a hutch with the spout poking through. In winter you will want to reconsider this as the water can freeze. Fast!
Instead, attach a plant pot to the inside of the hutch and put the water bottle within it. Once you have added the insulation to your hutch, whether that be the sheets covering it, heat pads within it or extra straw, the bottle has much less chance of freezing.
If you have a water bowl, lift it from the surface of the hutch and put it on a raised area where possible. If you can, place one of the safe heat pads underneath the bottle. It will not make it too hot but will stop it from freezing.
Further insulation for the water can come from covering the bottle with bubble wrap.
We hope this helps you with looking after your pet rabbit when the temperatures are dropping. We know what it is like to need to keep animals warm, as specialists in pet transport it is something we have mastered over the years. We have facilitated the transport of all types of animals to and from all corners of the globe since 1989 and are on hand to make sure that no matter your pet transport needs, we can fulfil them. So whether it is pet travel to Europe or anywhere else in the world, speak to us!
Get a free quote today and find out just how easy it is to have your rabbit, or any other pet travel safely, comfortably, and securely.