Foxes are constantly barking around us at night now, although we live in a town. What can I do to ensure our guinea pigs are safe?

Urban foxes are much more common in many areas these days, and certainly, they will attack pets such as guinea pigs living in hutches or runs if they have the opportunity. The cage doors are the most vulnerable part of any hutch, and you should check that these are secure as far as possible. Do not rely on a simple latch to keep the door secure, as foxes can open this with their paws.

Instead, you can fit bolts here, although these can potentially become a problem when it freezes, as they may become stuck. You will need to keep them well-oiled, so as to be sure that you yourself will be able to open the hutch easily at all times. The alternative to using bolts will be to choose a hasp with a padlock - preferably a combination padlock so you will not need to worry about having a key available when you want to gain access to the hutch.

It is also worth checking the mesh, to ensure there are no weak spots that a fox could exploit to gain access. This is most likely if you have a hutch and run combination, which are very popular as they offer more space than a conventional hutch on its own. You can reinforce the support on the inner edges with proper U-shaped netting staples, as the mesh may simply be tacked in place with fairly lightweight, rectangular staples which do not extend very far into the timber framework.

In the case of a run, stand this on level ground, with blocks around the edge, to ensure there is no way that a fox could force its way in here. It will also give you increased peace of mind if you can shut your guinea pigs securely into their sleeping quarters at night, letting them out early in the morning, although beware that foxes particularly in urban areas are not just active after dark, but during the daytime too.

A safer option will be to transfer the hutch into a suitable outbuilding, such as a well-lit garden shed, certainly at night. You can then shut the door here and be pretty certain that the foxes cannot reach your pets inside. Finally though, do not be too alarmed by the sounds of the foxes. The likelihood is that they have been resident in the area for a long time, but the barking that you are hearing at present is part of their courtship ritual.