Rabbits are a wonderful pet for households, especially those with young children. They are a relatively low-maintenance pet with a huge cute-factor, and a great way for little ones to learn a thing or two about responsibility. However, the winter months can provide additional challenges for the new rabbit owner. How best to care for a rabbit in the wintertime?
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Don’t Underestimate the Season
Winter can be a difficult season for mammals, humans included. Think about the ways in which we prepare ourselves for winter – layering up and wearing coats for travel outside, using weatherproofing accessories like umbrellas and wellies to avoid cold and wet conditions where possible, and, perhaps above all, staying warm inside where possible – then think about the safety of rabbits in similar conditions. Rabbits have a smaller volume than humans, making them prone to lose temperature at a much quicker rate than we do. While rabbits are more evolutionarily equipped for winter conditions than humans, they can still suffer ill effects of the cold due to a number of factors. Rather than leaving your pet to their own devices, consider ways in which you can make them more comfortable.
Do Bring Their Hutch Inside if Possible – But Don’t Leave It In Your Garage
To that end, if it is at all possible you should consider bringing your rabbit’s hutch inside. Your home will solve many of the problems your pet might face with regard to winter conditions, and ensure a comfortable and warm season alongside your family. Just make sure not to do it too quickly, or you could heat-shock your rabbit with the extreme temperature difference between outdoors and indoors. If you have a garage, you might be tempted to use some spare room in it to host the hutch. However, this should be avoided; if you also park your car there, you could be introducing toxic exhaust fumes to your pet and risking illness as a result.
Of course, not every household has room to bring their rabbit hutch indoors for the winter. Thankfully, there are other ways in which you can ensure your pet’s safety and comfort throughout the colder months:
Do Up Their Food Intake
Your rabbit will be expending more energy in order to keep their core body temperature up in colder conditions, and as a result will need more calories each day to keep up with demand. A rabbit’s healthy diet generally includes around 85% grass or hay, with the remaining 15% made up of leaves and maybe food pellets; to this end, you should ensure you have a healthy stock of feeding hay for rabbits, and that your rabbit has ease of access to as much as they need.
Do Encourage Exercise
Rabbits still need exercise, even in the colder months! But oftentimes, conditions outside are not ideal for either you or the rabbit. Wet conditions are especially conducive to illness in rabbits, making it imperative that you find at least a dry place to let them run around. Bringing them inside for their daily exercise is encouraged.
Do Provide More Bedding
Lastly, and perhaps most obviously, colder conditions require warmer bedding. Make sure to provide additional straw for rabbits to make their bed with, and preserve their heat overnight – but don’t give them pre-woven materials, or you might find them nibbled on before long!