By Caroline Charland
I find it exciting that these days so many rabbits live indoors as house rabbits. Rabbit owners have a choice of many different set-ups for their rabbits beyond a large cage — from something as simple as an exercise pen to a full room with all kinds of rabbit houses and toys to the entire house.
How do you decide what is the best set-up for you and your rabbits? I always say the more room, the better. Rabbits love to run, jump, binky and bunny flop wherever they please. They like to climb up on things and spend time getting ear rubs on the couch from their owner.
Rabbit’s easily litter train, so they can live in the house like a cat, but there are some things you need to consider. Do you have other pets that could possibly be harmful to your rabbits? Are there young children in the house who could be harmful? How about items that are not safe for a rabbit to chew, or items that you just don’t want chewed?
What is best for your rabbits? Here are some tips and suggestions to help you decide.
Rabbits Living Loose In The Home
I have had rabbits living loose in my home for more than 30 years, and I have learned what works and what doesn’t. Some rabbits do great having this kind of freedom, but some don’t do as well and end up getting into too much mischief.
I find it’s best to find an area in your home that belongs to your rabbit, even if it is an open area and not penned. This is the area to place the litter box, food and water bowls, toys and a comfy bed. As your rabbit explores your home, note the favorite places he likes to lay. Sometimes this might be looking out of a sliding glass door, sometimes lying in the sun coming in from a window. Rabbits enjoy lying on cool floors. If you have a fireplace you may find your rabbit spending time on the cool bricks there, too.
In my experience, rabbits don’t like to walk on hard floors, so if you have hard floors you may need to place rugs and runner rugs around your home for your rabbit to move around on. If you have a two-story home, your rabbit will likely find his way upstairs. If your upstairs rooms are not rabbit-proofed, make them off limits by keeping the doors closed.
Rabbits Living In A Room
If letting your rabbit have the run of the house is not for you, then the next best thing is using a spare bedroom. Instead of having the door closed, put up a baby gate so you can still see your rabbit when you walk by.
You can use many creative ways to make this room fun for your rabbit. Look for accessories to add, including hidey-houses, tunnels and rabbit playgrounds. These can be found at rabbit specialty stores and online. Consider adding a sandbox for digging fun. All of these additions make it a great place for a rabbit to live.
Living In An Exercise Pen
Exercise pens are a great way for your rabbits to live in your home. Some houses just can’t be rabbit-proofed and may not be a safe place for a rabbit to live loose. In such cases, setting up a large exercise pen, 4 by 4 feet minimum, is another option.
With an exercise pen, your rabbit is contained but still has lots of room to run and play. Also, by putting up an exercise pen you can still see your rabbit and he can see you.
If you are worried about your flooring, purchase a piece of linoleum flooring and put that loose on top of your flooring and then the exercise pen on top of that. This way you don’t need to worry about chewed carpet or spilled water damaging your floor.
Inside the exercise pen provide your rabbits with a big litter box each, hidey-houses, bed, food and water bowls, and toys.
When you are home let your rabbits out for supervised playtime so they can get some exercise and spend one-on-one time with you.
Courtesy of Caroline Charland
An exercise pen can be used to section off part of a room for your rabbit.
Rabbits Living In A Cage
If you absolutely can’t have your rabbit in a room or an exercise pen, perhaps because of space or the presence of young children or other animals the rabbit would not be safe with, then set up a large cage. You can even buy a big dog crate made for large dogs and turn it into a place for your rabbit. It’s best to put it on top of a table if you have children or dogs. But if you don’t, just put it on the floor.
Make the cage fun for your rabbit by adding a two-story hidey-house or a wood shelf, so your rabbit has another level to go on. Add a big litter box, food and water bowls, and a bed so your rabbit will have a place to rest. You can buy hanging toys and chews for rabbits. Hang them around the cage or crate so your rabbit has things to do and doesn’t get bored.
Rabbits kept in cages need daily exercise time outside the cage in a safe room. Allow them as much exercise time as possible.
Rabbit-Proofing For Safety
Rabbits love to chew, some rabbits just chew on the baskets and toys you give them, but others chew items in your home. So something to think about is whether can you provide a safe home for your rabbit to roam. Electric cords must be covered by tubing or kept out of your rabbit’s reach.
If you have plants inside your home, make sure they are safe by looking up a poisonous plant list, or move them out of your rabbit’s reach, keeping in mind that rabbits can jump and climb, you may need to move plants into a room that your rabbit can’t access.
Courtesy of Caroline Charland
If your rabbit has access to a room with a fireplace, always have a screen in place and never leave your rabbit alone if a fire is going.
Things To Remember About Rabbits
As someone who has lived with rabbits for many years, I offer you the following further tips to make living with your rabbit a happy experience for you both.
- Temperature control is very important, especially in the summer. If you leave your home, make sure the air-conditioning is set low enough to keep your house cool while you are away.
- If your rabbit is loose in your house, always check to make sure you haven’t left out anything potentially harmful that he could get into. And remember that rabbits love to chew — if you leave your shoes, books, TV controllers in their reach, these may get chewed.
- If you have other animals living in the home, make sure all pets are securely where they need to be to ensure your rabbit’s safety.
- Don’t leave food on the dining table. I found my rabbit on the dining table after Thanksgiving dinner eating what was left of the pumpkin pie. He jumped on the dining chair, then onto the table. Rabbits have a great sense of smell and will find food whether it was meant for them or not.
Why Keep Rabbit Indoors?
When I started my rescue for rabbits more than 30 years ago, my impression was that rabbits were not spayed or neutered, given litter boxes, living indoors or getting proper health care. When I brought home my first rabbit I couldn’t stand the thought of him being alone outside, so I brought him inside my apartment. Right away he started using my cat’s litter box. From there I decided to study rabbits, their needs and their behaviors.
Thirty years later, I see that rabbits all over the world are living as house rabbits. They are now living 10 to 15 years, which is longer than ever, and I believe this is because of living indoors with their humans and being part of their everyday life, being spayed or neutered, being on the proper diet and getting proper health care.
We all love our rabbits and want them to be with us for as long as possible. Providing safe indoor living is a big step to making that happen.
Courtesy of Caroline Charland
If your rabbit has free roam of your home, give him his own area that has his bed, litter box, toys, and food and water dishes.