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OUTDOOR AND INDOOR HOUSING  Any outdoor housing situation is not ideal nor in the best interests of your pet, there are numerous risks to housing guinea pigs outdoors such as temperature fluctuations, exposure to insects, predators, drafts, less social interaction, expose to the elements and illness is not detected promptly. All of these factors alone are indicators that an outdoor housing situation is not safe and will be discussed in full. If an indoor housing situation cannot be implemented under any circumstance there are specific guidelines to provide a safe, secure and protected outdoor environment. Outdoor Housing Risks  Some of the main concerns with outdoor environments are: Predators: Both humans and animals pose a threat to cavies which are housed outdoors. People may try to steal, injure or hurt your guinea pig if they are able to gain access to your cage. Locked cages have been known to be broken into and the cavies inside are stolen or harmed. Dogs, cats, snakes, and other animals may also harm your guinea pig if your cage is not made completely secure and is not under constant human monitoring. Even the presence of potential threats from a predator can cause a guinea pig to go into a state of panic, which may lead to self inflicted injuries. Indoor housing is less likely to be broken into, this is due to the fact that is it hidden, inside a secure environment with other valuables, and it is not seen as a easy target. Pest/Insects: Insects such as mosquitoes, spiders, parasites, bees, wasps, lice may also pose a potential threat to your cavy. They are at a higher risk if housed outdoors as they are easily exposed to these pests. Your cavy may develop illnesses related to insect bites such as fly strike which can be fatal. Fleas, also pose a threat if they are present in the outside environment. They can cause a guinea pig to be subjected to flea anemia if bitten, in some cases myxomatosis may be transmitted by other various biting insects. This can lead to fatalities not only to guinea pigs but rabbits as well. Indoor environments provide a safe and secure environment, and a life free from the threat of illness related to pests/insects. Illness: Illnesses will take longer to diagnose and recognize. Cavies which are housed outdoors will not be monitored as closely as those housed indoors. This can lead to many cavies becoming extremely ill before the owner notices there is a problem. Guinea pigs are prey animals and have the ability to hide and mask illness well. With a 4-6 hour period a cavy can begin to become lethargic and internal organs may shut down, within a 12 hour period the result can lead to a fatality. Indoor housing provides owners with a closely monitored environment in which to recognize illness sooner leading to prompt medical care. Outdoor housing environments are not monitored as closely due to occupants spending the majority of their time inside the house and not outdoors. Temperature Fluctuations: Cavies are very susceptible to both heat stroke and temperature extremes. Cavies should ideally be housed in an environment which is 18-22C. Summer temperatures in Australia can reach well over 30C. Night temperatures can go as low as 15-7C, sometimes lower. These fluctuations can lead to URI's (upper respiratory infections) which if not treated promptly may be fatal. Heat stroke can also be a concern. Cavies cannot survive in summer temperatures. They do not have sweat glands and cannot cool down effectively. If their environment is not cool their lives will be sufficiently shortened. Guinea pigs that are born in Australia are also not bred to survive our temperatures. According to the ANZCCART and The Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science Australia, the environmental requirements of domesticated guinea pigs are similar to those of the common laboratory species. ''Sutherland and Festing (1987) recommend the following conditions: Temperature 18-22C, 8-20 air changes/h, relative humidity 45-70%, 12-16h light/day cycle. Group- housed guinea pigs provided with bedding withstand colder conditions, but neonates have reduced survival at temperatures below 17C. Temperatures over 30C are not tolerated well, particularly by pregnant sows.'' (The Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science Australia) Guinea pigs should not be housed outside in cold temperatures below 17C even with bedding and cage mates the survival rate falls; nor should they be housed in hot climates above 30C. They should always be housed in an environment that offers them a cool and comfortable temperature and not be housed in a hot, stuffy environment that can lead to heat stroke and death. Indoor housing offers a cool, protected and sheltered environment. It has the benefit of using electrical appliances such as air conditioners and fans, water and ice are nearby, and cavies can be monitored closely in these extremes. Drafts: Expose to drafts can cause URI's (upper respiratory infections) to develop which can severely compromise the health of your guinea pig. This combined with the inability to detect illness promptly can lead to fatalities. Outdoor environments are not fully protected against the elements. Even with barriers or other materials in place to minimize the exposure weather extremes pose, it will not stop drafts from entering the cage. Indoor environments can easily be changed to prevent this. Closing windows and doors will effectively deter drafts from entering the house and the cage. Outdoor environments do not have this benefit. Social Interaction: Some guinea pigs which are housed outdoors may be forgotten. Social interaction may only occur during feeding times or at certain times of the day. Cavies need social interaction 24/7 even if it is not direct. They must be able to see, hear, smell and be present in all family activities, even if it is from the safety of their cage. They must be part of the family. Depriving a guinea pig of this interaction is not valuing it as a member of your family or as a valued companion. Keeping a guinea pig isolated from household life even if it is only for short periods of time during the day is not ideal. They must have a permanent presence in the household to be able to effectively benefit not only socially but psychologically as well.
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