\\\ Winter Rabbit Care
\\\ updated November 2021
Winter Pet Care
“All the snow drifted into the hutch and my pet rabbit was visibly shivering and shaking”.
Keeping Your Pet Rabbit Warm In Winter
You may be one of the million or more new UK pet owners that haven’t experienced a winter with your pet. Just like humans, your pet rabbit needs to stay warm in winter to avoid possible hyperthermia.
There are nearly one million pet rabbits residing in the UK with about two-thirds living outside in hutches.
Rabbit hutches come in all shapes and sizes, many with exercise pens but fundamentally they have an enclosed sleeping area and a front door that opens straight into the living area. Most hutches now are sold with exercise pens.
Hutches should be watertight and secure, and early autumn is a good time to have made any necessary repairs needed before bad weather, including siting it off the ground and ensuring there’s a strong, secure bolt lock that foxes cannot tamper with.
Adding carefully an extra layer of defence, such as additional mesh, attached from the outside to their living quarters can be important for older worn-out mesh doors or a sheet of perspex which will allow your pet to see out but help insulate inside.
Your pet rabbit needs to be kept warm like all our pets during lower temperatures.
Bad weather arrives and it’s essential to have turned the hutch around so that the new position doesn’t allow driving rain, sleet and snow into the hutch causing your pet rabbit to suffer even lower temperatures and discomfort, particularly dampness.
Old duvets are a perfect solution to putting over the rabbit hutch to provide extra insulation covered by waterproof tarpaulin, but allowing a little air circulation. These shouldn’t be put inside the hutch or exercise area, your pet rabbit will nibble these and become very ill swallowing the contents and suffer from internal blockages.
Better still, if there’s an opportunity to bring the rabbit hutch into a warmer area then this will help your pet’s health and welfare, such as a shed, sheltered space, conservatory, or garage that isn’t being used.
During colder times, more newspapers can be used to provide more comfort with bedding hay placed on top. Pet rabbits need to have much more clean, quality bedding hay to snuggle into during the winter months.
It’s important that bedding and hay do not get damp because pet rabbits are prone to pneumonia, which can be difficult to treat and lead to fatality. Senior rabbits are prone to arthritis which can be made worse by damp conditions and cold weather.
Cleaning out the hutch is even more important where rabbits are urinating and excreting all day in the hay and onto the underlying newspapers that become urine-soaked, not leaving them to sit on this for a long period of time.
Our natural instincts tell us to put blankets into the hutch to help keep our pet rabbits warm, but unfortunately, just like duvets, they have a tendency to nibble on these, and it shouldn’t be done.
Provide enough fresh quality hay and pellets to eat, making sure they keep their body fat high. Food levels and weight can always be adjusted when the weather starts to improve.
Your pet rabbit needs to have a constant supply of fresh water and more checks should be made that it hasn’t frozen over.
Pet rabbits are sociable animals and like the company of another rabbit. They become depressed easily when living on their own so it is very important to interact with your pet rabbit more regularly during winter even though it’s cold outside for owners, giving your pet exercise in a safe place letting it stretch and move freely around.
In The home
If you bring your pet rabbit indoors in their hutch during winter then they need a secure area to themselves, as they may feel frightened and threatened until they get used to a change in their living conditions. If you have any other pets in the home such as cats or dogs, this is a must.
An area like a home study, for example, could be a perfect location for their hutch, where other pets aren’t residing, a safe area to exercise out of the cage during the day with a closed door to the office, and where your pet rabbit could sleep in comfort without much disturbance.
If pet rabbits are bought into the home, then all rules apply with giving them an area to exercise daily safely, a floor space free from human-made obstacles and rubbish.
Pet rabbits can reach up and stretch, so raising items may also be necessary out of their way. Check the room before any accidental ingestion occurs.
The rabbit hutch shouldn’t be placed near heat sources such as radiators to avoid heat-stroke, but an ambient temperature between 10-20 centigrade is generally comfortable for pet rabbits.
To allow them to get used to later illuminated evenings in the home, gently switch off electrical lights in their room building up the switch-off time becoming accustomed to human lifestyles.
Pet rabbits can carry parasites like tapeworm and roundworm, however, their waste is considered not to be known to transmit any diseases to humans. They poop more than a hundred pellets daily, where one of two types of pellets excreted contain many nutrients they re-digest and actually need to help them with their difficult ingestion of their hay and pellet diet. So cleaning up in the home, straight after your rabbit has pooped isn’t always the best idea and why sitting them in a safe area which they can use frequently during the day to themselves is best.
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