Rabbits are a lot like cats. We assume both creatures are nocturnal because they seem to sleep their days away. But they’re crepuscular, meaning twilight is their most active time. They do the bulk of their hunting or grazing at dawn and dusk. But do rabbits get cold at night? Of course! But they can withstand extreme temperatures, going as low as 30°F (-2°C).
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Do Rabbits Get Cold At Night?
Organic Winter Warmers
Some people keep bunnies as pets, but farmers raise them for meat and fur. Rabbit pelts are typically used to line the insides of winter coats, boots, and gloves. Rabbit hair yarn can be knitted into sweaters, socks, stockings, and scarves. Felt fabrics can include bits of bunny pelts, and the fur can be used to stuff duvets, pillows, cushions, bedding, and plush toys.
But while their fur is a good insulator for human use, it’s not as good at heating the rabbit itself. How so? Well, the rabbit’s body offers a lower surface-area-to-volume ratio than, say, a pair of gloved hands. So if you’re housing your rabbits in an outdoor hutch, you need to keep the night-time temperatures at 101°F to 103°F. The bedding substrate can be a helpful tool.
Bunnies are tough to litter-train – and they sometimes eat their own droppings. So the bottom of your rabbit pen should be lined with plenty of hay or sawdust. These help absorb the smell and provide extra warmth for your rabbit as s/he sleeps. Your rabbit’s hutch should have a solid bottom made of metal or plastic since wire flooring might hurt your rabbit’s feet.
A mesh floor would also allow cold air and precipitation into the cage, so ensure the hutch is raised. This keeps predators away and protects your bunnies from runoff rain and damp soil. Your bunny’s body is covered in soft, fluffy fur, and its natural habitat includes snowscapes and winter wonderlands. You can even find them in Alaska and Siberia. They can handle it!
The Ears Have It
While bunnies are mostly cute and toasty, certain parts of their bodies are more exposed. These include their ears, that twitchy little nose, and their toe pads. These are helpful spots when you want to check the health of your rabbit. Their noses may always feel chilly due to their breath, but you can touch a bunny’s ears or feet to see if they’re too warm or too cold.
Also, pet bunnies deal with cold weather more effectively than commercial bunnies. This is because meat and fur bunnies are leaner and more muscular while pet rabbits are bred to be round, fat, and fluffy. These features get even more prominent after they’re neutered. Their appearance is appealing to pet lovers, and it has the by-product of keeping your bunny warm.
Curiously, if your rabbit’s ears and feet are too cold or too hot, it can be a sign of fever and your bunny may have an illness. Check for other symptoms before calling a veterinarian. You may also worry that your rabbit has the chills if s/he starts to sneeze. It’s possible they need to get warmer, but it could also be the result of some dust up their nose. Look for more signs.
When it starts to snow, you may be tempted to bring your rabbit indoors. But rabbits are mammals. (Yes, they do make milk!) And like other mammals, their body temperature shifts slowly. Bringing a bunny out of the snow and into a heated house could shock their system because of the sudden temperature rise. Instead, move them to an insulated shed or garage.
Keeping the Hutch Warm
Typically, your rabbit is fine as long as its enclosure stays above the freezing point. You don’t want icicles in their drinking water! But moisture can be a problem, and dew can accumulate during the night and early morning. Inspect the hutch regularly to make sure there’s no leakage or gaps where water can get in. Damp conditions are worse than the cold!
If the nights are getting extra chilly this season, consider stacking bricks under your rabbit pen. The bricks will raise the hutch to avoid pests and slithering predators, but they also provide additional insulation to keep the floor of the hutch warm. Plus, bricks are naturally absorbent so they can soak up some of the moisture from the ground as well as the cold air.
Typically, the sides of the hutch are made of chicken wire. But at night, the cold wind could make your bunny uncomfortable. Consider getting a removable hutch cover that you can slip on at night. You could also try a DIY solution like old blankets, a rug, a towel, or a canvas tarp. It should be a breathable material to avoid smothering your rabbit. And it should be a quick fix.
You want it to go off and on in minutes if not seconds because you’d have to position it every night and yank it off the next morning. Some breeders recommend adding a plastic sheet over the cloth for waterproofing, but you should only do this if your rabbit has enough space. Ideally, every rabbit needs a 30” by 36” space so it can stretch, hop around, and breathe.
If you have multiple rabbits in a smaller hutch and you cover them with a waterproof sheet, they may not have enough air to breathe. In such cases, use a loose cover that drapes over the rabbit cage without clinging to its sides. Fresh air can still flow freely even as the top sheet keeps out any moisture or cold. Put used newspapers under their bedding for extra warmth.
A Bun-ny in the Oven
Assuming your bunnies have plenty of space, watch their behavior at night. Are they huddled in a corner or pressed close to each other? That probably means the hutch is too cold and it needs warming up. If your bunny lives indoors, you could always cuddle in your bed. But rabbits don’t have reliable potty habits, so they could soil your bed as you sleep.
If this does happen, a solution of baking soda, dish soap, and hydrogen peroxide can get rid of the smell, but this could take several days of soaking followed by some heavy-duty laundry. A safer idea if you’re worried about your rabbit getting cold is to use a heating pad. Since it stays in one spot, rabbits can move closer to the heat source whenever they want warmth.
Don’t opt for an electric pad, since that could be harmful. But you can find rabbit pads that you can warm in the microwave. They hold heat for about 10 hours, so they’ll get your bunny safely through the night. Also, while rabbits can handle the cold quite well, their fur can overheat them if they’re always in the house. So watch the thermostat for indoor bunnies!
If the temperature in your house is higher than 75°F, you’ll have a very unhappy bunny. Put in a conductive floor made of metal, marble, slate, or tile to cool the hutch down. And if your bunny lives outside, build their enclosure in a shaded area of the yard. The spot should have good ventilation since the steady airflow will keep the hutch cooler and cut down any stink.
Burrows and Boxes
In the wild, rabbits prefer to live in burrows. And just like cats, rabbits love cardboard boxes. So you could consider placing one in a corner of your rabbit enclosure. Cardboard boxes are good insulators, so your bunny can hop into them if they feel cold at night. But you’ll have to watch how your rabbit reacts. Put the cardboard in during the day as your bunny is napping.
That way, when your rabbit wakes up, you can see how s/he responds. It’s important because your bunny might nibble the cardboard or pee on it, and the stench will be annoying both to you and your rabbit. Also, if your hutch is lined with edible bedding (straw or hay), spot-clean it every day and change it out once or twice a week because your bunny will eat its s**t.
If your rabbit isn’t responding well to cardboard, consider putting its pet carrier inside the hutch. Most pets are terrified of their carriers because they connect them to the vet. This is why pet parents are advised to leave the carrier out in the open and let the pet play with it, eat in it, or sleep in it. That way, it’s not an automatically negative trigger and vet visits get calmer.
But the main benefit is the pet carrier becomes a hidey hole for your rabbit. They can go in there if they feel skittish or cold, and because the carrier has a see-through door, you can still keep an eye on your rabbit. The sides and roof of the carrier are plastic so they insulate your bunny from cold air and potential moisture. Put straw at the bottom of the carrier as well.
Cold Feet, Warm Hutch
Do rabbits get cold at night? Of course, everyone does! But bunnies have thick fur that can protect them from chilly temperatures. They’re fine at 30°F, but if you have outdoor rabbits, keep your hutch at about 100°F during the night. Indoors, ambient temperatures over 75°F can be cloying because there’s no wind. But in both cases, keep the hutch covered at night.