The only answer to this question is yes, guinea pigs can live outside.
As a member of the family of rodents, guinea pigs used to live happy and healthy lives in South America before they started being domesticated around 3.000 years ago.
Now they are entirely domesticated, meaning no wild guinea pigs exist. Many people are wondering whether to keep their guinea pigs inside or outside and what’s best for the pet.
Well, there are both positive and negative sides to keeping them inside or outside.
The course of actions to take in providing them wellness of living in the two cases is different but achievable. You can even opt for a mixed type of housing after we discuss the facts.
Can Guinea Pigs Live Outside?
Guinea pigs can live outside in climates where the temperatures aren’t way too extreme in winter or summer.
There are a lot of things to be done if you want your guinea pigs to be safely sheltered among predatory animals and harsh conditions. With enough precautions, your pet can live a happy outside life.
The outside world allows guinea pigs to exhibit natural behaviors and live a more humane life. A great addition to the outside housing is the presence of fresh air and natural sunlight boosting the production of Vitamin D. Natural lifestyle means a healthier lifestyle.
If you have a bigger yard you might be able to provide a more spacious habitat for your guineas in opposite to what can you do inside your home.
Not only do the guinea pigs benefit from the fresh air; it also helps in providing natural ventilation and elimination of odors arousing from guinea pig droppings and urine. That’s almost impossible to achieve when you have them in a closed space.
There are of course the negative aspects of guinea pigs living outside. They must be accommodated in ways to have an insulated winter hutch and place to avoid direct sunlight during summer, which is costly.
If they are outside, the guinea pigs need to form a herd so they can keep each other warm and secure. With bad housing come the diseases that can spread pretty quickly in the herd.
What Temperature Can Guinea Pigs Be Outside?
The ideal temperature for any guinea pig is between 12 and 23 degrees Celsius. So guinea pigs can normally live at these temperatures when the outside conditions are such.
However, they must have places to get warm or hide from the heat.
It’s not possible to control the outside temperature because it can quickly change. It can rise or fall 5 degrees Celsius in just a few hours, especially during winter. Guinea pigs cannot pant or sweat so it’s up to you to provide them with the ideal temperatures.
How Can I Keep My Guinea Pig Warm Outside?
Preparing the guinea pig shelter for the winter is the same as preparing your own winter hut for the upcoming chill.
If you already decided that your guinea pig is going to spend the colder months outside, there are many things to do to ensure he is properly taken care of.
The prime thing is to ensure your guinea pigs have enough quality bedding. The colder it gets the more you need to provide for the animals to stay warm.
An igloo for guinea pigs (called pigloo) filled to the top with hay is one of the ways to have your guinea pigs cozy and snug. Also, it’s one of the cutest ways.
The bedding tends to get wet really fast. Even though that’s not that big of an issue while the guinea pigs are housed inside, damp hay will make them colder and subsequently contribute to respiratory infections and other health problems.
Replacing the bedding once daily during the winter is of vital importance for the animals’ health.
You can make extra insulation by placing a few layers of newspaper on the floor of the hutch. 10-12 sheets will do just fine.
Of course, you need to cover it with enough hay so that the guinea pig can build his nests, forage, and feel like nothing has changed (they react stressfully to changes).
For the roofing, you might want to consider using felt. This type of cloth really makes the hutch waterproof and has firm insulation properties. Three or more layers of felt will do just fine.
If you live in an area where a lot of rain is expected, buying a protective cover for the hutch is a really great idea if you don’t have one already.
Those that want to walk the extra mile can even build one themselves. Placing a thermometer inside the hutch will allow keeping track of the temperature constantly. Get a smart type that sends updates to your phone.
The protective cover must have enough airflow to prevent the forming of condensation where the guinea pigs reside. Besides keeping them dry during the rainy season, it also serves and a wind protection barrier.
As mentioned before, one of the key points of keeping guinea pigs warm during the winter is by keeping them in herds.
Firstly, by having company they would be less exposed to stress and thus to stress-related diseases. Secondly, when they really feel the chills, mutual snuggling will help them share warmth.
There is always the option of moving the hutch to an enclosed place outside your living space. You can use the garage, the shed, etc.
Wherever you decide to put the hutch, the place must have proper ventilation and access to sunlight. This can be a temporary solution for those two weeks of winter when everything is frozen.
Commercially bought heating pads are an awesome and eco-friendly way to warm up your guinea pigs. Actually, they will warm up themselves.
These pads have a self-healing mechanism that draws warmth from the body of the guinea pig and won’t lose it during the whole night. The best part is there is no chance of overheating, burns, and injuries.
During winter the water bottle can freeze. To avoid this you can either wrap it in an insulation pad or move it to the inside of the cage.
Specialized snug cover water bottles that prevent freezing in winter and keep the coolness in summer can be bought at most pet stores.
Can My Guinea Pig Outside Through The Winter?
Absolutely, if you accomplish all things considered to keep him warm and cozy.
The thing is, once you build solid housing for your guinea pigs, no matter how extremely hot or cold the temperatures are, they will be protected and safe.
How Cold is Too Cold For Guinea Pigs?
18 degrees Celsius is the minimum ambient temperature at which guinea pigs feel comfortable. Going below by 3 degrees they start to feel the coldness and their bodies react accordingly.
At around 15 degrees Celsius the blood flow in the skin of the guinea pig slows down. This reduction of blood flow is a self-regulating mechanism to save heat in low temperatures.
But a guinea pig at a temperature below 15 degrees Celsius left for more than a couple of hours – that’s just looking for trouble.
How Do I Keep My Outdoor Guinea Pig Cool in the Summer?
Here’s the harsh truth. Guinea pigs don’t do too well in cold temperatures, but they also don’t do too well when the temperatures are high. It’s needless to say that it’s up to you to make them feel comfortable throughout the summer.
The self-regulating thermal mechanism works through the skin only when the temperature is a bit higher than the ideal one.
Their blood-flow increases to cool them down. Because they lack the ability to sweat and pant, extremely hot weather is a no-go.
The integral part of keeping outdoor guinea pigs cool in summer is providing one or more shady spots. There is the option of a natural shade (ex. a tree, a bush) or one that you can create – a garden umbrella comes to mind. Be creative and explore unique and eco-friendly ideas.
Your guinea pigs will need plenty of fresh water to get easily through those hot summer days. You can’t imagine just how fast they can empty a bottle when thirst hits them hard.
If you are not around to refill the bottle frequently place more of them so they don’t start craving for water.
Some guinea pigs dislike warm water and refuse to drink it. It’s advisable to place the bottles under a shade or cover them with one of the snug covers we mentioned before.
Ice packs are a great way to keep guinea pigs fresh when the weather is hot. They will come and go to and from the ice packs whenever they feel the need. It will start to feel like a guinea water park of some sort.
How Do I Know If My Guinea Pig Is Too Hot?
Guinea pigs can overheat pretty easily. The condition is also called a heatstroke and happens when all the thermoregulation mechanisms in the body failed to release the excess heat.
Symptoms to look for are:
- Rapid breathing/very shallow and slow breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Fixed/closed eyes
There can be one or more symptoms when the guinea pig is too hot. In all the cases immediate medical care is required.
With a very serious state of overheating your guinea pig needs to be taken to the vet as soon as possible. In the meantime the following course of action should be performed by the owner in the exact order:
- Remove the animal from the heat source (ex. direct sunlight)
- Place the guinea pig in a cool place
- Cool them down by putting a wet towel on their backs
- Hydrate them by giving fresh water with a syringe
- Get to the vet
Is It Safe for Guinea Pigs to Be Outside?
Guinea pigs are safe outside as long as they aren’t exposed to:
- Extreme temperatures
- Poisonous flowers and plants
The hutch where the outdoor guinea pigs dwell needs to be predator-proof. Foxes can outsmart you and get into a cage that is not completely secure causing a disaster.
Watch tutorials on how to make the hutch extra secure and don’t spare any money on additional materials and accessories if needed.
Guinea pigs are herbivores and would gladly chew on anything green that looks appealing to them. However, many plants are poisonous to guinea pigs.
Common ones include ivy, elephant’s ear, tulips, daffodils, foxglove, nightshade, etc. Always place the hutch away from overhanging plants and flower beds.
Small rodents are very sensitive to pesticides. These chemicals are very hazardous and even small quantities can prove to be dangerous.
Don’t place your guinea pigs’ housing in an area exposed to these types of poisons. Remember – pesticides can also be spread around by the wind.
Aside from the heat, another health hazard for guinea pigs that live outside in the summer is flystrike.
Flystrike or myiasis is a serious disease that affects a great number of animal species. It’s very painful and can turn to disaster in just a couple of hours.
Flystrike happens when the green bottle fly (Lucilia sericata) lays eggs in the guinea pigs’ fur. Usually, this is the area around the pet’s rear.
The eggs hatch into white maggots that start to eat and penetrate the guinea pigs’ flesh. This is very painful and on top of that, the wounds become infected with pathogenic bacteria.
Even though Flystrikes can appear anywhere during hot weather it’s more common in dirty housing. The urine, the feces, and the moisture attract flies. Keeping the hutch clean can help a lot in this manner.
If your guinea pig stops eating and acting normal and has a strange odor check his body. The infestation can be so large that the maggots are visible even from far.
Never try to pull anything on your own and take your pet to the vet immediately.