by: Cat McIntire
When thinking about how to take care of your bunny, their housing plays an important role. Housing options for rabbits have improved dramatically in the past several years.
Free-range living in a rabbit-proofed house (with SUPERVISED outdoor playtime) is the ideal situation for a rabbit to live up to its full potential and optimum lifespan. They are happier, healthier, and more able to become a full-fledged member of your family. There’s nothing like being greeted home by a loving bunny after a hard day in the outside world!
If a bunny needs an area of his/her own while you’re not home, a roomy exercise pen is the next best thing. It consists of a heavy wire “wall” which unfolds into an adjustable pen. It has no floor or ceiling, allowing for good airflow and a less “closed off” feeling than a cage.
They are sold in three different heights: 24 in., 30 in., and 36 in. if you have a jumper. Some come with a gate.
NEVER PUT A RABBIT IN A SMALL WIRE CAGE OR AN OUTDOOR HUTCH. Putting a rabbit in a wire cage is the equivalent of your being confined to a closet. Sound comfortable? A wire is very bad for bunny feet, causing hock sores (which, if left untreated, can result in severe bone infections) and arthritis.
Putting a rabbit outside under any conditions is just plain cruel. Depriving such a social creature of interaction is a horrible thing to do to a rabbit, not to mention a danger to its health and life.
If other household factors (such as dogs or small children) make caging your rabbit the safer option, get a large, roomy cage — even larger for bonded pairs. Each rabbit should have a living space a minimum of four times his or her size.
There are two-story cages available now that most bunnies love. Some cages look very furniture-like to better fit with your decor. Most cage companies will custom make their cages to your specifications.
No matter what form of housing you decide on, your rabbit’s well-being should be your main concern. Keep in mind that, no matter how nice the cage is, no rabbit should spend 24 hours a day locked up. Rabbits, just like other animals, need to exercise for good physical and mental health. So however you house your bunny, make sure he or she gets some running-around time and one-on-one interaction on a regular basis. You’ll both enjoy the benefits of a healthy, happy bun.
There are several options for flooring as well. You can use throw rugs or indoor/outdoor carpeting if your bun isn’t a carpet muncher. (I buy the indoor/outdoor close-napped carpet by the roll at Home Depot.) Avoid plush naps — they’re just too tempting.
For carpet munchers, you can use untreated grass mats. You can find these online, or Cost Plus sells them in strips of nine 12″ x 12″ squares. Grass mats should look and smell natural, but if they’re shiny or have a chemical odor don’t use them.
It’s fine if your bunny eats the grass matting, but carpet eating should never be allowed. Carpet fibers can collect in the bunny’s stomach, causing a blockage that can be fatal. To protect carpeted home areas, try a big piece of linoleum or plastic runners with carpeting or straw mats over them. YOUR RABBIT SHOULD NEVER BE ALLOWED TO CONSUME ANY NON-NATURAL MATERIALS.