The Rabbit Habitat

Creating a Safe and Comfortable Environment for your Rabbit


Housing

Your rabbit will need a space to call home even if he is allowed to roam freely in the house. This will give him a sense of security and allow him to be safely confined if there are children or other pets in his running area. Here are several options for this living space.

1. Wire cage

Buy the largest cage you can afford for the space in which it will be placed. The general rule of thumb is that the length of the cage should be 4-5 times the size of the full grown rabbit when he is stretched out and the height should allow enough room for him to sit up comfortably. A sitting board should be placed inside the cage to protect the rabbit's hind feet (hocks). This board may be untreated wood, cardboard, a grass mat, or a rug. However, if the rabbit digs and pulls on the rug you will want to remove it immediately.

Modified Cage

Ideally, the cage should have both a side and a top opening. If there is only one opening it is best to have it on the side with a swinging door hinged from the side. Be sure the opening is large enough to accommodate a litter box. You can enlarge the cage door or add another opening yourself by purchasing appropriate materials at a home improvement center.

There should be a metal tray below the wire floor. Line this with newspapers or a paper based litter. Do not, under any circumstances, use pine or cedar shavings in the tray or in the litter box. Toxic fumes will be emitted and over time can damage the rabbit's liver and lungs.

2. The condo

Another option is a two or three story condo with wooden ramps going from one level to another. You can build it yourself or special order it. Be careful that the ramp is at a comfortable angle so the rabbit will use it.

3. Wire exercise pens

Pen Setup Collapsible wire exercise pens can be placed on hardwood or linoleum floors. You can make these yourself or purchase one from a local pet or feed store. This enclosure allows you to get in with the rabbit and open it so he can roam. Inside this area you can place a wooden or cardboard box for him to hide in and chew on, several litter boxes, food and water dishes, and toys. If your rabbit is a jumper pay special attention to the height of the pen.

Why keep a rabbit inside?

Housing your rabbit inside has many advantages. Your pet will become part of your family just like the cat and dog. Your rabbit needs companionship and he will receive it if he lives near you. His wonderful personality and unique bunny behaviors will delight you. Furthermore, you will get so familiar with your rabbit that any changes in his behavior, (i.e. activity level, eating or bathroom habits) will be observed when they first appear. These changes may indicate serious or even life threatening conditions and may warrant your immediate attention.

Outside housing

If you make the choice to house your rabbit outside there are some special considerations.

  1. Location of your rabbit's housing is of extreme importance. Always be sure he has access to shade and protection from wind and rain. A rabbit can die from heatstroke when the temperature in his living area rises above 80. A wet, cold rabbit is susceptible to pneumonia. What appears safe during the winter may be just the opposite on hot summer days.

  2. Your rabbit needs a strong, secure hutch that will protect him from predators and the weather. This consists of a hutch covered on the top, sides, back, and floor with wood. The door should be wooden framed. Heavy welded wire should be firmly attached to this framing. Under no circumstances should chicken wire be used outside. A determined rabbit can chew through it and dogs, raccoons and other predators can easily rip it off and kill your rabbit.

  3. Inside this wooden hutch should be a "bedroom" box where the rabbit can hide from predators and be given additional protection from the weather. In cold weather straw should be stuffed into this box allowing the rabbit to burrow into it to keep warm. A rabbit can die of a heart attack if stressed and certainly having a marauding predator clinging (or worse) to the hutch would be enough for this happen. Being able to hide will help ease some of this stress.

  4. A single rabbit isolated in an outside hutch is a very lonely rabbit so consider getting him a companion rabbit. This will help keep your rabbit warm and offer him some companionship when his humans are not available to interact with him on cold, dark winter days.

  5. It is best to have the hutch in a safe exercise area where your rabbit can be free to run and play during waking hours. An open pen leaves the rabbit vulnerable to hawks, stray cats, and dogs during the day, and owls, raccoons, cats, dogs, and other secretive predators at night. Therefore, the top should be covered with heavy wire, thus preventing any predator from harming the rabbit, day or night. The floor of the run should be covered with wire to prevent him from digging out. Another option is to bury the wire on the perimeter 9-12 inches below the ground. The sides should be made of heavy welded wire with a minimum height of 48 inches and, ideally, reaching to the top. It is important to close the rabbit in the hutch at dusk to protect him. Things are very different outside after dark.

  6. For temporary daytime exercise a portable rabbit run can be built into a rectangular shape with wood framing and heavy welded wire attached all the way around. The top can be hinged for easy access to the rabbit. It is easily cleaned or moved from place to place.

Safety first: Rabbit proofing

Before bunny is let out of his inside cage you should spend some important time on your hands and knees assessing the environment from the rabbit's vantagepoint and then make necessary changes to protect your rabbit and your furnishings.

  1. Most rabbits love to chew, so you must protect all your exposed electrical, computer and telephone cords. Rabbits are attracted to them and a few quick teeth nips can take out a phone or computer, at the very least, and at the worst, injure or kill your rabbit. Hide the cords if you can. Remember that rabbits can get into some very tight places so be careful. It is best to cover the cords with heavy, clear, plastic tubing which is cut down the side using an Exacto knife. This allows them to be placed inside the tubing. A determined rabbit with time on his paws can chew through the tubing but in most cases it will protect your cords. Other more sturdy options are hard plastic telephone wire covers, split loom tubing, PVC pipe, or computer cord covers. Check these covers frequently to make sure they are intact.

    Bad Bunny!
  2. Relocate any houseplants. Rabbits will eat any plants within reach. They won't know or care whether they are poisonous or not.

  3. Wooden furniture, wall moldings, and rugs can become victims of a digging or chewing bunny. Getting to know your rabbit's habits is crucial. If he is a chewer or digger (and most are) you can try using bitter apple or lime or a cheap perfume on the items on which he is working. You can get plastic corner covers to protect moldings and place linoleum, carpet squares, phone books or sea-grass mats where he is digging.

Attempting to train your rabbit may or may not be successful. He is doing what rabbits do. Try using the word "No", and stomping your foot or clapping simultaneously. You can try using a squirt bottle and saying "No". If he is destructive his living space may have to be restricted or be moved to a more "rabbit friendly" area of the house.