two lop-eared rabbits outside in exercise pen on grass
As long as you are around to supervise, an exercise pen is an easy way to create a safe play area outdoors for your furry companion. Kapa65/

One of the bonuses of sharing your life with a rabbit, guinea pig, or other small mammal is that these joyful beings can stay in your home all day, every day. No need to worry about a late-night potty call or whether your neighbors are disturbed by barking. However, on mild days when puffy, white clouds float high above and a gentle breeze beckons, you might want to take your furry pal on an outing. Should you? What are the precautions to take and how can you ensure that your best buddy is safe and happy outdoors?

Common Sense Safety

General guidelines for any outing include providing a safe enclosure, such as an exercise pen, and never leaving your pal unsupervised. The X-pen should be placed in a safe area that is at least partially shaded. Place food, a hideaway, and water bottle in the X-pen so your small friend has the comforts of home. Include a large, frozen bottle of water on warm days in case your pal wants to snuggle it to get cool. Many things can go wrong, so always stay nearby to monitor and to play with your pal. End the outdoor play after an hour or two, or whenever your small friend seems ready to head back indoors.

guinea pig on grass outdoors in x-pen
Don’t let your pal explore a grassy area unless you are certain no fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides were used on or near it. sipa/

Respect The Weather

Heat, cold, humidity, rain, snow, ice, wind — these all add up to danger for small mammals outside. Don’t plan an outing when you know conditions are unfavorable. Small mammals are just as sensitive as you, if not moreso, to bad weather. Humidity in particular can be a “hidden” danger, as even a mildly warm day could trigger heatstroke if humidity is high. Some small mammals might enjoy a romp in the snow, but limit exposure to a few minutes. Better yet, bring some snow indoors in a bathtub or large container for your friend to enjoy in the safety of your home. Your pal can then control the length of the romp.

Inspect The Ground

Outdoors, the surface where the paw meets the ground is uncontrolled. The temperature and texture of what your pal walks on is quite different from what’s found indoors. Always feel the surface with your bare hand to test whether it’s appropriate for your furry friend. Other surface dangers to consider are whether pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers have been used in an area. If you don’t know, steer clear. Never let your companion drink water from puddles or other outdoor water sources that could contain Giardia or be otherwise contaminated. And common sense alerts you to stay away from areas with scat from other animals, trash or other potential hazards.

big-eared rabbit outside on driveway or patio
A fenced-in yard is another option, but be certain your little buddy doesn’t dig. Supervise to scare away predators, especially birds of prey. rande24/

Watch Out For Predators

The outdoors include numerous predator dangers. Birds of prey can swoop in and grab a small mammal in seconds. Wildlife like coyotes, snakes and foxes, and even roaming pets like dogs or cats are dangerous to small mammals. These predators might not even need to touch your companion to cause harm, as dying of fright is not unheard of for rabbits. It’s rare, but it can happen. You can minimize the predator risk by staying close to your furry friend at all times.

Know The Disease And Parasite Risk

Although less common, another concern when enjoying the outdoors is possible exposure to disease and parasites. Mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, and flies are some of potential carriers of ailments or parasites that can afflict small mammals. Avoid taking your small mammal outside during dawn and dust when some insects are most active. Stay away from areas with tall grass that could harbor fleas or ticks. Don’t take your pet to an area that other animals frequent in case flea or mite eggs are present.

Honor Your Buddy’s Wishes

You might consider the fresh air and sunshine of the outdoors a fun adventure, but pay attention to your furry companion. Does he or she try to hide away the entire time you are outdoors? Is your pal frozen in fear or hunkered down warily watching the world? The outdoors can be a scary place. If your friend gives any signs of fear after a few minutes, consider a slower introduction to the outdoors or skipping such adventures in the future.

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