In the comments section of one of our older posts, Katherine Buchanan asked about housing guinea pigs outdoors here in the U.S. She wrote:
Are they a different breed of piggy? I have never heard of anyone keeping a guinea pig indoors in England (maybe a garage but never in the house). And if you waited for it to be 65 they would only go outside about two weeks a year!
Ours (brothers) lived happily until 8 years old and were never sick.
We are keeping them inside because that is what we were advised (although we did take them out on the grass on a warm day this week and they loved it, especially clover). I am just curious why they are treated so differently. We live near San Jose so it is pretty warm 9 months of the year, although cold at nights.
There are many reasons for the difference in housing practices over here.
- Veterinary knowledge has evolved over the years, and vets have learned more about how sensitive guinea pigs are to drafts, breezes, extreme temperatures at either end of the thermometer, and climate control (or the lack thereof). Warm temperatures, humidity, and sunny weather lead to heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and sunstroke. Cold temperatures and drafty or damp weather can lead to colds, pneumonia, and upper respiratory infections.
- In many areas of the U.S., it's not uncommon for there to be as much as a 30- or 40-degree difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures. This is very hard on guinea pigs, even in well-insulated cages.
- Guinea pigs become acclimated to climate-controlled environments. Keeping them inside for half the year, then putting them outside -- even in warmer weather -- can be a shock to their system if the transition is not managed carefully.
- Guinea pigs housed outdoors are in danger from feral cats and stray/wild dogs, raccoons, foxes, and snakes. In the U.S., we have predators that England doesn't (or, at least, I don't think it does) -- bears, wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, cougars, and more. (Here in Connecticut, there's been a problem with coyotes going after cats and dogs.) They're all coming into populated areas with increasing frequency (the price we've paid for over-developing the land), and they're all looking for a meal...any kind of meal.
While there may be very small pockets in the U.S. where the temperatures are moderate enough year-round to accommodate outdoor housing for guinea pigs, most areas are not suitable. And the threat from wild animals is cause enough for concern. For all the above reasons, you will not find many folks in rescue on "this side of The Pond" who support outdoor housing.