But what about our pet rabbits, they certainly don’t burrow underground so how can we help them get through the winter safe and sound? Keep rabbits away from cold drafts and headwinds, and do not allow them to have a wet coat or damp bedding, since this can lead to hypothermia.
If you live in an area that is regularly below 15ºF, then you should consider bringing your rabbit indoors during the coldest months. Whether they live inside or outside, all rabbits exhibit some behavioral changes in the winter months.
They may not be wild anymore, but their instincts will still kick in as they make some changes to prepare for winter. But the timing of their winter molt will depend on your geographical location and when the weather starts to turn cold where you are living.
This is just the instinct to eat more so that your rabbit can build up a layer of fat to help keep them warm when it gets colder. It also takes a little more energy, and more calories, to keep their little bodies heated up, so they’ll be eating more to make up for that.
You may find that your rabbit is more likely to sit and sleep in a loaf position when it gets cold out, instead of sprawling out or flopping on their side. This is a way for rabbits to reduce the amount of surface area on their body that’s exposed to the cold.
So as the weather gets cooler, you might see your rabbit start zooming around and doing some pinkies around the living room. Be sure that you’ve taken the time to rabbit proof your house, so they won’t get into anything they shouldn’t.
If you live in an area with temperatures more extreme than this, then you will need to take some significant precautions to make sure your rabbit can stay comfortable and healthy throughout the winter. I really advocate for this year round because no matter the weather, there are always a lot more dangers for a rabbit outside than inside.
Bringing them inside will have the added bonus of making them a part of your family, in addition to protecting them from the cold weather. There is a possibility they will go into shock if they move from the very cold outdoors to a warm indoors.
If it’s already very cold out, it’s best to transition your rabbits to a garage or covered porch first, and give them time to acclimate to a slightly warmer environment before bringing them all the way into the house. Rabbits do best in temperatures that are around 60-70 °F, so if you keep your home at the typical 68-70 °F, your rabbit will do just fine.
You could also consider keeping your rabbit in a room in the house that doesn’t get as much heat, since they do well in colder temperatures too. Most homes are well insulated, and even if it gets very cold outside, the indoors will remain a comfortable temperature for your rabbit.
If you happen to live somewhere where it gets freezing outside, you may still want to keep the heat on while you’re gone, but even then, there is no problem with turning it down. This is kind of like baby proofing, you need to make sure your rabbit can’t chew or dig into anything dangerous or important.
It will be easier for you and your rabbits if you prepare for these changes before the extreme weather hits: Frost easily forms and ground level and can creep into the rabbit’s hutch.
Consider getting heavy-duty insulation boards if you live in a freezing climate. Line the floor and walls with newspaper and add lots of extra hay as bedding.
Give your rabbit a hot water bottle or microwavable heating pad to sit against. Check on your rabbit’s water and replace it multiple times a day to keep it from freezing over.
Check for leaks in both the hutch and the tarp to be extra sure no rain or snow will be able to drip through. You can either bring them inside to exercise or make sure to thoroughly dry them after they have had time in their run.
Rabbits are clean animals and it’s uncomfortable for them to live in a dirty hutch. Keeping the hutch clean is also a way to prevent infection and discourage parasites.
As hypothermia takes hold, your rabbit will be unable to regulate their body temperature. They will lose heat faster than they can generate it and their temperature could drop to dangerous levels.
All the necessary internal processes in the rabbit’s body will slow down, including their breathing and heart rate. Ears and feet that feel cold to the touch or look pale.
In the meantime, you don’t want to wait before you start getting your rabbit’s body temperature back to normal. Place your rabbit on a heating pad (at the lowest setting) or next to a hot water bottle.
Sneezing Watery eyes Runny nose Matted fur on their front paws Wet nose Difficulty breathing Drooling Skin sores around the eyes, nose, or mouth Head tilt Loss of appetite Loss of energy This is most likely to affect their ears, but a rabbit’s feet can also be subject to frostbite, as their body tries to keep the most important organs warm.
If a rabbits ears (or feet) start to develop frostbite, they will first turn bright red, then get very pale. Most of the time elderly rabbits will have a lower body fat density, making it more difficult to keep themselves warm.
Their thick, fluffy coats make it much easier for them to withstand the cold temperatures. Unfortunately these rabbits have to compete for food resources, and they often can’t find adequate hiding spots when they are being hunted by predators.
When animals hibernate, they store up fat and go into a state of deep rest and hardly have to eat at all during the winter. But a rabbit’s health is dependent on their sensitive digestive system being continuously in motion.
They’ll come out periodically to forage for food, but will spend the majority of the winter safe from the elements in their underground homes. Instead, they find dense shrubs or holes in tree bases to hide and hunker down for the winter.
Rabbits don’t hide food to find later in the winter, like squirrels do. Many rabbits will resort to raiding people’s winter gardens, especially if there is snow on the ground for a long period of time.
The rabbits will do a lot of damage to shrubs and tear the bark off of trees. The shrubs and foliage are sparse and don’t provide the same kind of cover that they do in the summer months.
In addition, many rabbits don’t change the color of their fur coat in winter. Their brown coat can stand out against a snowy landscape, making them more of a target.
Even though your pet rabbits are pretty hardy critters and can withstand a fair amount of heat, if those temperatures become too high, your bunny’s life may be at risk. As we know, during the summer months, the temperatures can climb to anywhere between 50 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
While rabbits are pretty resilient, they do have an ideal temperature range that they feel most comfortable at and as a result, continue to thrive. There are no absolutes in nature, your pet bunny will not immediately overheat at 78 degrees.
Beyond those temperatures, your pet rabbit can start to suffer from the ill effects of overheating. During the hot months, your pet rabbit may behave strangely if they are being affected by the heat.
In order to protect your bunny’s health, you have to be aware of what an overheating rabbit looks like. If it feels warm to the touch, your rabbit may be struggling with the high summer temperatures.
Convulsions occur when your pet rabbit’s muscles contract and relax involuntarily. Veterinarians generally discourage pet owners from having a fan blowing air directly on their rabbits.
Remember to change the water at least twice a day to keep it clean and free of bacteria. Ceramic tiles are cool to the touch and will draw the heat from the rabbit’s body.
The reason why this is effective is that rabbits use their ears to regulate their body temperature. You may think that dipping your rabbit in a cold bath to cool him or her down is a good idea.
Baths will stress your rabbit’s body and do more harm than good. As you may have guessed by now extreme temperatures will affect your rabbit’s health.
There is one major health concern that affects rabbits if their temperatures are not regulated. Heatstroke or heat exhaustion as it is sometimes referred to can cause permanent damage to your rabbit’s body.
If your rabbit’s exhibit’s severe symptoms like body rigidity, you need to take him or her to the veterinarian immediately. Rabbits have very small sweat glands inside their mouths.
Unfortunately, if your pet rabbit’s temperatures remain elevated, he or she may experience vital organ failure. If your rabbit falls into any of the following categories, as a responsible pet owner, you should be on high alert.
You are advised to keep a close eye on your rabbit during hot months. All rabbit owners should be intimately familiar with the signs of heatstroke and know the various methods that can be employed to keep them cool.