Sharing your life with a bunny brings you joy and responsibility. Watching your pal make Romaine lettuce disappear, getting that nudge on your leg inviting you to play, finding yourself in a stare-down that begs you for a treat, and enjoying quiet moments together enrich both your lives. Your buddy relies on you for care, and a big part of that involves where your rabbit lives. Whatever your living situation, you likely can adapt it to provide an environment that allows your companion to thrive, and keeps your home and furnishings safe.
Types Of Rabbit Enclosures
Rabbits have amazing personalities, and you learn more about them the more you are around them. Ideally, rabbits live with you in your home. Following are some of the common ways people and bunnies co-exist. One or a combination could be your solution. Many people opt to have a cage with the door open that is then surrounded by an exercise pen. Note that aquariums or other enclosures with solid walls must be avoided. These do not have enough ventilation for rabbit health.
1. Rabbit-proof a room or two that your bunny can roam freely. Set up areas with your bunny’s gear for eating, elimination, play, and a retreat/hideaway. Use doors or a pet gate to prevent access to other rooms. Bunnies are chewers and can sometimes escape their enclosure, so rabbit-proof all electrical cords in all rooms of your home as a failsafe.
2. Use a pet exercise pen or playpen to create a safe space for your bun. Rabbits hop, so the walls of these need to be at least 36 inches high. If you have a jumper, these might need to be higher or you might need to put a cover over the top of the X-pen. The Guinness World Record for a rabbit hop is 39 inches, but people on rabbit forums mention rabbits who jumped 4-foot barriers. Rabbits also climb, so don’t place a playpen wall near something that could be used as a step. Bigger is always better for the area the X-pen provides, but try for a minimum of 30 by 30 inches for a small rabbit. The pen should be larger if the rabbit is larger or there is more than one rabbit. Outfit the X-pen with all the essentials for your rabbit.
3. A large cage is another rabbit home option. As with X-pens, larger is better. It should allow your rabbit to stand up on his hind legs if he wishes. The minimal cage size depends on the size of the rabbit. For a 6-pound rabbit, the minimum is 30 by 30 inches, according to the Indiana House Rabbit Society. It must be larger for larger rabbits or more than one. The cage must contain all your rabbit’s gear and still allow for exercise and lying down. Be sure the wire spacing is small enough so your rabbit can’t stick his head through and get stuck. The floor should be solid, as walking on wire floor injures a rabbit’s feet. A second story or loft can add to floor space, and many rabbits enjoy having such a perch.
4. An outdoor hutch is the only option for some people. This requires a lot more effort, but can work if done properly. The same rules for cage size, wire spacing, and floors apply to hutches. The book “Ferrets, Rabbits, And Rodents Clinical Medicine And Surgery” recommends that hutches be a length that is enough for a rabbit to complete three hops and be tall enough for a rabbit to stand on his hind legs. Be aware that rabbits who live outdoors face numerous hazards that indoor bunnies do not. This includes weather concerns (too hot, too cold, too humid, too windy, too wet); predators that might attack or just scare a rabbit to death (snakes, coyotes, hawks, etc.) and disease or parasites spread by insect bites, droppings from birds or other animals, or any passing animal. Pet theft is another concern. If you take steps to protect your rabbit against all these hazards, you then need to meet his needs for exercise and companionship. Life in a hutch doesn’t provide enough exercise on its own, and you need to interact with your pal for several hours a day to increase and maintain your bond.
5. If your entire home is bunny-proofed and you know your rabbit’s habits, you might opt to give your friend free-roam of your home. This works only if all hazards are removed or rabbit-proofed, including poisonous houseplants, medications, chemicals, cleaning products, small items in rabbit reach that could be ingested, power cords — anything you wouldn’t want your rabbit to nibble should be covered or gone. If your bun is a chewer, sprayer, or digger and might destroy a chair leg or carpeting, whole-house access likely isn’t a good idea.
What Rabbits Need In A Home
The above review of the types of rabbit homes mostly keyed on space availability. Let’s look at homes from a rabbit’s point of view.
A Good Location: Placement of your rabbit’s habitat requires some thought. Rabbits shouldn’t be trapped in a spot that gets direct sunshine unless there’s an area where they escape it if they wish. Drafty spots, stinky areas, or places with high humidity are also no-nos. This usually rules out laundry rooms, garages, and kitchens. If other pets share the home, don’t allow them access to your bunny unless you know they are friendly and you are always there to supervise. When the temperature rises, pay attention to your bunny’s area. Rabbits do best with the ambient temperature at 61 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual.
A Place To Eat: Rabbits get hungry and thirsty, so the first thing they look for in a home is where the food and water are located. Clean, fresh hay needs to be available 24/7 for anytime munching by your bunny. Stock up a hay rack and the litter box with hay daily. Once you know your rabbit’s eating habits, you can better judge how much to put out each day to ensure freshness. Add pelleted rabbit food to a heavy, non-tip bowl once a day as directed by the manufacturer. Save treats like bits of vegetables or fruit for specific times daily or for training. Rabbits need lots of water and, like hay, it should be accessible 24/7. Offer in both non-tip bowls and in bottles.
A Safe Surface: Look at the underside of your bun’s feet. What you won’t find are paw pads. Rabbits don’t have them. The only protection they have between their delicate feet and the surface they walk on is some fur. Rex rabbits have less fur on their feet than others and are even more sensitive to surfaces. This is why wire flooring is such a danger to rabbits and solid floors are so important. Walking on wire isn’t a circus act for them. Standing and walking on it all day every day really pounds the feet and causes inflammation that can get infected and become a case of full-blown bumblefoot or pododermatitis. This is painful and can even prove fatal in extreme cases that are left untreated. Hard, solid surfaces can also cause bumblefoot, but not as quickly. Your bunny’s home needs fabric, paper litter, a grass mat or some sort of bedding so the majority of his time is spent on a soft surface.
A Retreat: Rabbits are prey animals, which means they need a small place to retreat to where they feel safe. That’s what makes hideaways important. A little house inside your bun’s area is perfect. It can be plastic, fabric, or even a chewable material like grass or wood. If it’s a rabbit-safe chew item, it does double duty as a retreat and a “chew toy” that gives your bun an activity. If your rabbit has the run of a room or your house, consider having more than one hideaway.
A Place To “Rest”: Yes, your bunny will appreciate a soft bed, but we’re also talking a litter box and litter here. Most rabbits can be litter box trained, which cuts down a bit on daily cage cleaning. Some rabbit rescues even advise piling hay on top of the litter box, as many rabbits seem to like hanging out in the box to eat and do their thing. Look for a large litter box, one that your rabbit could lie down in if he wished.
A Play Zone: You’re not going to forget toys for your rabbit, right? Chew toys are often favorites, whether mats, homes, balls, or other small items, rabbits enjoy chewing things up. Toys to toss around are another fun type. Toys that make noise, tubes to run through, puzzle toys — these and more can all delight your bunny. Put out three or four types at a time and alternate them with others weekly to keep your rabbit interested. Make your own. Something as simple as a paper lunch bag stuffed with hay or a cardboard tube with a treat inside are fun toys. And cats aren’t the only ones drawn to cardboard boxes, rabbits like them, too! Pay attention to your rabbit’s preferences and but also try new toys.
So far we’ve discussed must-have items for rabbits. You might also choose to add another rabbit to your family so that your bunny has a buddy in addition to you. Rabbits are social, and most appreciate the company of another bun. Bonded bunnies groom each other, snuggle together and play games. But not all bunnies get along, so try a “bunny date” at a nearby rabbit rescue to find a rabbit pal. And spay/neuter is a must to prevent pregnancy.
Life with a rabbit roommate is primed for companionship and fun, but it also comes with a few chores, including shopping and cleaning. Neither are difficult, but they do take time. Keeping your rabbit’s enclosure clean protects your pet from several ailments. For example, a dirty litter box can cause respiratory problems and soiled water or food can cause gastrointestinal problems. Inspect your buddy’s habitat daily and remove any soiled bedding or spoiled food. Clean food and water bottles with warm, soapy water daily and fill with fresh water. Change all bedding once a week and swap out toys. Inspect toys for wear-and-tear, discarding any damaged ones and cleaning any dirty ones. Cages or hutches need a thorough cleaning every month or so with a rabbit-safe cleaner. Rabbits are individuals and some are messier than others. If your bun is a messy one, step up the cleaning schedule.
Free To Be A Bunny!
If your bunny lives in an enclosure smaller than a room, then your rabbit needs free-roam time in a room for a few hours a day. Play some games with your pal in a bunny-proofed room and then let him roam around as you watch TV, read a book, or do some other activity. You might be treated to the sight of a few binkies!