Climate change and global warming are hot topics that keep the weather at the forefront of our consciousness. We’re all keen to reduce our carbon footprint — but we also understand the importance of being able to manipulate our own environment, whether by warming, cooling, humidifying or ventilating. It helps us stay comfortable and — when it comes to extremes in the weather — keeps us alive. Our ability to cope with extreme temperature by creating comfortable homes is something we can take for granted. So much so that it is easy to forget that our small animal companions are exquisitely vulnerable to the elements. And climate change makes them even more so.
Pocket pets (like guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, ferrets, chinchillas, mice, rats, gerbils, sugar gliders and hedgehogs) are very different from each other, but they have at least one thing in common: a large surface area compared with a very small body mass. This provides a much larger area for heat loss, making them extremely vulnerable to the cold. They don’t tend to sweat, and they’re not as effective at losing heat by panting as dogs are, which means that when temperatures climb it can be even harder for them to cool down. These tiny critters have a very high metabolic rate, meaning that they produce a lot of heat and require constant energy. In order to flourish, they need to be kept within a relatively narrow temperature range (see chart on Page 91).
For the full article, pick up the 2011 issue of Critters USA or click here to buy the issue.