Hot Weather Care for Small Pets

Whilst our pets are fairly hardy animals, heat can cause them stress. As temperatures in Cornwall soar to 26°c, it’s important to make sure that our small pets are as cool and comfortable as possible. We’ve put together this guide on how to keep your small pets cool in this heatwave:

Rabbits & Guinea Pigs

Rabbits and guinea pigs can overheat in hot weather, so it’s important to take precautions to make sure they’re comfortable, especially if they live outdoors. Here are some tips to care for your rabbits and guinea pigs in hot weather:

  • Make sure they always have access to cool, clean water and check their water level multiple times a day as it can evaporate in hot weather
  • Freeze a bottle of water and place it in their cage – many rabbits and guinea pigs like to lie next to it to cool down (another option is a ceramic tile which will stay cool for them to lie on)
  • Ensure the hutch has a shaded or sheltered area incorporated into the design, and ideally make sure it’s not in direct sunlight.
  • If you have a separate run for your rabbit or guinea pig, make sure that it has a shaded area or place it out of direct sunlight.
  • Make sure there is good airflow to the hutch (eg. ensure their hutch isn’t shaded from the breeze by walls)
  • For indoor rabbits and guinea pigs, make sure your home is cool enough for them and use fans or air conditioning to make your home more comfortable
  • An ice pack wrapped in a towel will make a cool, comfy cushion for your indoor guinea pig or bunny
  • Try not to handle them too much during the afternoon, when the sun is at its hottest, as this can cause them further stress
  • Groom them regularly during summer to get rid of loose hair that could be making them even hotter

 

Hamsters & Gerbils

Hamsters are sensitive to the heat and can develop heatstroke if not cared for properly. Similarly, gerbils can also become too hot in the height of summer (despite being desert animals, wild gerbils would spend most of their time underground during the hottest part of the day). Here are some tips to make sure your hamsters and gerbils comfortable when the temperatures rise:

  • Keep their cage out of direct sunlight, especially if the cage is made of plastic or glass
  • Move the cage to a cooler part of your home if necessary
  • Use a fan or air conditioning to keep your tiny pets cool
  • Freeze a water bottle for them to sit next to, or you could try refrigerating some wooden chew toys for them to play with
  • Make sure the cage is well ventilated (metal bar cages are better than plastic enclosures for ventilation)
  • Ensure they always have plenty of cool water
  • If you regularly let your hamsters or gerbils exercise in running balls, try to reduce this when the weather is hot, as a combination of warm temperatures and exercise could cause your pet to overheat
  • Freeze their favourite treats to make them more refreshing (eg. seeds , veg and nuts)

Rats & Mice

Similarly to hamsters and gerbils, rats and mice can overheat. As nocturnal animals, they’re unable to endure excessively high temperatures. Many of the tips mentioned above for hamsters & gerbils can be applied to rats and mice too. The most important thing is to ensure their cage is out of direct sunlight, that their water is always fresh and cool, and that the room they’re in has good airflow. 15-20°c is the ideal temperature for your pet rats or mice.

Chinchillas & Degus

With their thick coats, chinchillas aren’t cut out for hot environments. Degus are also best suited to temperatures below 20°c. Ensure their enclosures are in the shade, in a cool room of your home, out of direct sunlight and well-ventilated. You may want to allow them to have more dust baths in hotter months, as a build up of grease on their fur could contribute to overheating. You can refrigerate their dust to make it more refreshing. Always ensure they have plenty of cool water and use fans or air conditioning to cool down their cage if needed.

Ferrets

Ferrets are prone to heat stroke so it’s important to make sure they are cool during hot weather. As with other caged animals in this post, you should ensure their enclosure is out of direct sunlight and well-ventilated. To help them cool down, the frozen water bottle trick mentioned previously is a great method, as is a shallow dish of cool water for them to play in. You could try running a shallow, tepid bath for your ferret – but don’t bath them too often (no more than once a month), as it can dry out their skin and coat.

Budgies

As they orignate from Australia, budgies are well-suited to hot weather and it’s unlikely that they’ll overheat in a British heatwave. However, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so make sure their cage is in a cool, shaded area and provide them with a bird bath to cool down in during hot months. Budgies have evolved to survive in the heat by keeping their activity levels down when it’s hot, panting, bathing, and fluttering their wings or ruffling their feathers to circulate cool air to their skin.

Lizards

Lizards are cold-blooded, so they’re in their element in the Summer months when they can bask in the sun. However, even lizards can become stressed from the heat, so it’s important to take precautions. In the wild, lizards can maintain their optimal temperature by burrowing and finding shade, so ideally their enclosure should have plenty of places to dig and hide, with areas away from the direct light of any heating lamps. Consider the placement of their cage – it should be in a well-ventilated part of your home that’s away from direct sunlight (or at least partially out of the sunlight). Ensure they always have cool water available, and use a thermostat on your heating lamps to prevent overheating.

Tortoises

Despite originating from desert-like environments, your tortoise can still overheat or become dehydrated in hot weather. When being housed in the garden, it’s important to make sure they have adequate shelter available out of the sun, preferably insulated to prevent the shelter from becoming too hot. One way to prevent their shelter from becoming too hot is to cover it with soil or rocks. Remember that the temperature of the ground can be much hotter than the air temperature. Tortoises like to dig and it’s a great way for them to cool down, so ideally the soil in their garden home should be easy to dig. In the wild, tortoises tend to wander around in the sun in the morning to warm up, and then seek shelter during the hottest hours of the afternoon. Make sure their home has a combination of sun and shade, so they can regulate their own body temperatures. A shallow pool will help to cool them down in hot weather also.

This blog post is a guide only. Always seek professional veterinary attention if you’re concerned about your pet.

 

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