As we head into Autumn, regardless of age, the colder temperatures are a threat to guinea pigs, hamsters, and other small furry pets. However, senior pets are likely to have less fat around them and possibly stiff joints, so will suffer more in the cold.
In the UK, small furries don’t typically hibernate, although some can go into a hibernating state and all will struggle if they’re too cold. Hamsters can actually look deceased in this state, but do check if they’re breathing become concluding this!
Is my pet too cold?
If your small pet is shivering, has cold ears or paws, or has become more lethargic, sleepier, and less interested in their food, it could be time to review their housing location and contents. Some of these symptoms could also be down to illness so if you’re concerned, it’s important to get your small furry pet checked by a vet.
Protecting small mammals from the cold
Firstly, look at where your pet’s cage or hutch is located. Can you bring outdoor hutches inside when it’s chilly during Autumn and Winter, or perhaps move them into a shed and wrap their hutch in blankets? For indoor cages, make sure they’re well away from drafts and cold areas.
Be sure to avoid prolonged exposure to fireplaces, heaters, and candles as the fumes will harm your pets.
Extra care for seniors
Guinea pigs and other small furries will slow down and want to spend more time sleeping and less time exploring as they get older. Many vets believe guinea pigs enter their senior years at around 4 years old, but this isn’t set in stone and will depend on many factors. Making sure your older small furries have plush, comfortable bedding is a must, as is letting them sleep more if they want to.
Other tips for senior small furries:
- Handle with care – Older small animals may be a little more fragile, so be careful when handling and grooming them.
- Fresh food & drink – Make sure your ageing pet has access to fresh food and drink to keep them interested in these essentials.
- Reconfigure their home – Ramps and angled tunnels may pose a challenge for older pets. Try reconfiguring their housing to be just one-storey and remove any items that could exacerbate their mobility issues. Seniors may also struggle with vision loss so don’t move their things too often as they’ll feel more secure knowing where everything is.
- Check regularly for health problems – Like most pets, older guinea pigs, hamsters and other small furries can suffer from more health problems, including stiff joints and fur loss. Guinea pigs can become more impacted as muscle tone declines. Weight loss and/or a change in appetite are sure signs of something being up. If you’re concerned, get your pet checked over by a vet.
- Dental care – Hamsters teeth can become more fragile as they age which can lead to starvation. You may need to change their diet slightly and avoid harder items.
- Skin care – Guinea pigs can suffer from dry skin, more so as they get older. Talk to one of our nurses or vets about which moisturisers and other topical treatments you can apply for dry skin.
- Back off the butt baths – If you’ve been used to giving your guinea pig a ‘butt bath’, try using a damp cloth to clean them instead as they get older, to avoid them getting too cold afterward.
- Pet bereavement – Small pets can feel lonely after the loss of a companion and may start to become withdrawn, silent, aggressive, eat less, and their own health can decline. If you can’t introduce a new small furry pal, try giving them a stuffed toy buddy to snuggle up to, and lots of attention from you if they want it.
If you have any questions about caring for senior small furry pets, get in touch with our nursing team who will be happy to advise you.