How to House Rabbits Indoors
Like dogs and cats, rabbits can live happily indoors. In fact, having a house rabbit has many benefits, not just for your pet, but for you, too.
“Keeping rabbits indoors is ideal because it protects them from potential harm like predators and inclement weather,” says Katie Malensek, DC, DVM at Ravenwood Veterinary Clinic in Port Orange, Florida.
Being indoors can also help keep your rabbit healthy. Because rabbits are prey animals, they are very good at concealing pain and illness. By having them inside, you can get to know their normal behaviors and appearance, making it easier to recognize symptoms of illness or injury, like loss of appetite, lethargy, skin growths or wounds.
But indoor rabbit care does have some unique requirements that you’ll want to familiarize yourself with before you get a bunny roommate. Read on to find out what you need to provide your indoor rabbit with to keep her happy and healthy.
A Bunny Burrow
Rabbits are intelligent and naturally curious, so you’ll want to provide them with their own personal rabbit habitat rather than giving them free access to your home.
“Keeping them contained and not loose in the house also prevents them from chewing on things that they may damage or that may harm them, like electrical wires,” Dr. Malensek says.
Create a safe, cozy bunny burrow for them with plenty of room to stretch, sleep and move around and that can house a litter box. Some pet parents reserve a room just for their rabbits, but if you don’t have that kind of space, consider a spacious indoor rabbit cage like the MidWest Wabbitat rabbit home with flooring made for sensitive rabbit feet.
“Protecting them in a large crate or pen with flat flooring is important for their comfort and they should never be housed directly on wire flooring as this can cause foot pain, deformities and infections,” Dr. Malensek says.
Make your rabbit habitat even more comfy with newspaper or commercial bedding made just for them. Bunnies love to dig and bury themselves under bedding and will even nibble on it to reduce stress or boredom.
Access to Hay
Along with fresh water, fresh veggies and a nutritious pelleted diet, house rabbits need plenty of hay to support digestive health and keep their teeth trim. Make hay easily accessible in their rabbit habitat with the Kaytee Rollin’ The Hay feeder, which has a spinning dispenser for an interactive way to forage for hay.
A Place to Potty
Rabbits can be trained to use the litter box, but be aware that not all commercial litters are appropriate for your house rabbit. In fact, some litters, such as clay or softwood litters, can make them sick.
Choose a paper-based litter or one made with rabbit-friendly materials, like Oxbow Bene Terra Eco-Straw pelleted wheat straw small animal litter, which is made from compressed high-fiber wheat straw.
Another option is to line the litter box with newspaper and top with hay; just keep in mind you’ll need to change the hay often as your rabbit will eat the hay.
Rabbits tend to gravitate toward corners in their indoor rabbit cages when they go to the bathroom, so when you’re choosing a litter box, you may want to opt for one made especially for corners, like the Kaytee Hi-Corner small animal litter pan.
Exercise and Enrichment
Just like any other pet, without proper exercise and enrichment, bunnies can get bored—which can lead to destructive chewing and digging as well as obesity and other health issues.
One way to provide your rabbit with exercise and enrichment while keeping her safe is with a play pen. The Frisco dog exercise pen with step-through door is a large secure playpen that can be connected to other Frisco pens to create a large agility area for your rabbit.
There is also the Kaytee Pet-N-Playpen small animal pen that comes with a plastic play mat to protect your pet’s feet and your floors. Be sure there are plenty of rabbit toys to shake, throw and chew on in the pen to help keep your indoor rabbit active.
“Cardboard toilet paper and paper towel rolls stuffed with Timothy hay are cheap and easy to give your rabbit something new and fun to chew on,” Dr. Malensek says.
With a little preparation, you and your rabbit can live together comfortably and happily indoors.
Chris Brownlow has been writing about pets for over 10 years. As a writer who believes in immersing herself in her topic, she has tasted more than 20 different flavors of dog and cat food while working on an advertising campaign for PetSmart. Prior to her pet days, Chris was a print and digital journalist at The Tampa Tribune and The Virginian-Pilot.