Rabbits can make fantastic pets; they’re smart, silly, playful, and even affectionate. However, there is more to caring for rabbits than one might think. Despite their small size, rabbits are very active animals and they require extra space and attention. Read through our suggestions below to make sure you create the best environment for your cotton-tailed friend.
The minimum requirement set forth by the Virginia Beach SPCA is a medium to large size dog crate with an exercise pen attached, and the enclosure should be located inside the home. Outdoor rabbit enclosures welcome the threat of predatory animals and inclement weather, so keeping your rabbit indoors is much safer option. Plus, rabbits are highly social animals and do best with regular interactions with family members. Keep in mind that you should not house your rabbit with other rabbits unless they have been spayed or neutered. You should also introduce altered rabbits on neutral territory before housing any rabbits together. All introductions should be supervised.
When it comes to the flooring inside of the enclosure, a laminate surface is best. The commonly seen wire flooring can be harmful to a rabbit’s feet, so a smooth surface is ideal. You can choose to place a sheet or carpet over the laminate floor in an effort to help your rabbit grip the surface with a bit more ease. However, keep in mind that rabbits love to chew, so make sure they have plenty of toys to keep their mouths and minds occupied. Without enrichment, they will likely chew whatever is available, including carpeting, sheets, and whatever other materials are inside the enclosure. Also make sure to include a smaller hut or igloo inside your rabbit’s enclosure for when your rabbit wants some alone time. Dog crates, ex-pens, and toys can be purchased at the VBSPCA, and flooring can be found at most hardware stores.
Rabbits like to keep things clean. They are avid self groomers and they typically choose to use one corner of their enclosure as their bathroom, which makes litter training easy. All you have to do is follow your rabbit’s lead and place an appropriately sized litter box where the bathroom area has been established. Make sure to use a pelleted litter, NOT cedar shavings, pine shavings, or clay cat litter. The wood shavings can make your rabbit sick and clay cat litter can cause respiratory and gastrointestinal issues.
Your rabbit’s litter box should be changed daily, and the enclosure should be cleaned at least once or twice a week. While your cleaning, place your rabbit in a pet safe room and clean out the enclosure with warm soapy water.
Rabbits need to run and jump, and they need several hours of exercise time out of their enclosure every day. Exercise time can be inside or outside of the house, although make sure to protect any wires inside the home if playtime happens inside. Rabbits love to chew, so you will need to rabbit-proof your play area by covering all electrical wires and cables, and you should remove houseplants and other items you don’t want disturbed. When outside, completely enclose your rabbit’s play area with sturdy fencing or a dog exercise pen, and make sure to supervise your rabbit at all times because rabbits can quickly tunnel under fences.
Stay tuned for more Rabbit Awareness Month articles posted throughout July, featuring tips on nutrition, rabbit handling, and play.