Celia Haddon - Cat Expert

Understanding animals through their behaviour


Pet rabbits, Jake and Flake, in the snow. Copyright Clare Wilson


The simplest way of keeping rabbits (and guinea pigs) warm and their bottles unfrozen, is to move their living quarters indoors or into a shed or unused garage (not a used garage because of car fumes) during cold weather. Any temperature lower than –7 degrees centigrade may be dangerous to rabbits but temperatures above that but below freezing may cause them discomfort if the hutch is either damp or the prevailing wind blows into it. It’s vital that any outdoor hutch is dry and weatherproof with plenty of hay. If you have a damp hutch you should buy a new one anyway.

The ideal temperature range is 15-20 degrees Centigrade. Put bubble wrap round the water bottle but the nozzle may still freeze in really bad weather. So change the water bottles five times a day to make sure the rabbits get enough unfrozen water. In an emergency, you can keep the hutch temperature higher by insulation at night. Staple heavy duty polythene between two broom handles and use this to cover the hutch. Put both broom handles under the roof, with clips for both, letting one hang down in front like a blind in severe weather. During the day roll up this bottom broom handle and put it back into the clips. Fix a blanket between the front of the hutch and the polythene at night. If the hutch is covered in this way it MUST be uncovered every morning.

You can also keep the rabbits warm at night with a SnuggleSafe microwave heat pad available from www.snugglesafe.co.uk They are wonderful for humans too. It’s important to follow instructions, always have the device in its cover, and bury it under the hay/bedding so tht the rabbit cannot be burned. Snugglesafes stay warm for many hours and one of them will raise the temperature in an outside hutch.

Snugglesafe. c. Lenric

Snugglesafe. c. Lenric

A rabbit owner writes ” I have made wooden panels for the front of my hutches, attached by small swivel pegs for use at night. The cap left by the water bottle on the door leaves enough ventilation. I then drop the plastic sheeting over the hutch with a wooden strip stapled on to the bottom to give it some weight.”

It is very important not to take your rabbit into a warm house, then put him out into a freezing hutch for the night. The sudden temperature change is extremely bad for him.


Rabbits tolerate heat less well than cold. They cannot sweat like we do and they cannot pant like a dog. They get rid of their body heat through their ears but they will die if they get over-heated (Harcourt-Brown 2002).

If the desired temperature is between 15-20 degrees,  then any temperature above 20 degrees will begin to stress a rabbit. Getting too hot is dangerous for them. They can’t pant or sweat to get rid of the heat. At 28 C or 82 F they get dangerously hot (Brown, 2001). This is why shade must be provided in the run. Also put down a cool tile for them to lie on and leave a frozen bottle from the freezer in a place where the rabbit cannot be freeze burned by it. Put iced water in the water bottle/bowl.  Hot hutches also make a rabbit vulnerable to fly strike and good hygiene is essential in hot weather. Daily cleaning out of all dropping and soiled material is a must. A rabbit’s bottom should be checked twice daily and Rearguard used.


Brown, S. A., (2001), ‘The Domestic Rabbit: Husbandry and Clinical Techniques,’ Suppl Compend Contin Educ Pract Vet, 23, 2(A), 15-22

Harcourt-Brown, F., (2002), The Textbook of Rabbit Medicine, Oxford, UK, Butterworth-Heinemann

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