Several years ago I had a client come to me with their new rabbit for a neuter. She explained to me that both she and her son was very anxious about the surgery because his previous rabbit had just died of respiratory disease and she wasn’t sure he would be able to take it if he lost another rabbit so soon. The surgery went well, and the rabbit went home uneventfully. A few days later they rushed him back in to the clinic in a panic. The rabbit had seemed perfectly normal, but they had found him collapsed in his hutch in the garage this sunny June afternoon. Unfortunately the rabbit had died en route to the hospital but when he arrived his body felt like he had just come out of the oven. His body temperature measured higher than 110 degrees that is the top end of what the thermometer would read. The rabbit had died of heat stroke.
The garage seems like such a safe place to shelter an animal. It seems logical to use it as a place that is out of the sun in the summer and out of the wind in the winter to provide a safe haven to our pets when we may not want them inside the house, but don’t want to just dump them outside to be exposed to the vagaries of the weather and of prowling predators.
Unfortunately the garage is a place of great danger for pets. In the cold the garage blocks the wind and snow, but without something smaller like a dog house inside the garage the space is too large for an animal to use its own body heat to warm up the air in the immediate environment. Frostbite can and does happen to ears and feet of animals kept in the garage.
In the summer the garage can heat up nearly as much as the inside of a car in the parking lot making heat stroke a very real possibility for an animal locked in a garage on hot days. Rabbits, ferrets and chinchillas are particularly sensitive to the heat and will not do well in the summer in hutches in the garage unless there is a lot of special ventilation for them.
It is impossible to underestimate the stupid things a bored dog will eat when given the opportunity. I have treated dogs after they have eaten bags of fertilizer, ice melt, and rat poison traps that were meticulously placed so that there was absolutely no way the dog could ever get to them. Of course the garage is a veritable grocery store for such delicacies in the dog world.
Cats are not free from the hazards of the garage either. On a cold winter night the warm engine compartment of a car that just finished the evening commute home can be irresistible to the cat. Once they get themselves snugly situated against the engine block there can be some real excitement for the cat when the driver of the car suddenly realizes that she is out of milk and needs to make a quick drive the grocery store.
Cats also often perch or sleep in odd places like the tops of the truck’s tires, or the top of the garage door. When the vehicle suddenly comes to life and backs up some cats are caught by surprise and run over after they are dumped off the back of the tire. Cats resting on the tops of garage doors are often injured or killed when the door is opened or closed by someone who has no way of knowing the cat was even up there.
The garage still makes a great home for cars and rakes, but our four-legged companions would be better off either inside or outside with appropriate shelter, than sharing space with the weed whacker.