Sunday, March 2, 2014

Housing for your Rabbit

    One of the most important aspects of owning a rabbit is where you will house the rabbit. One of the most common misconceptions is that rabbits are caged animals that do not need much space. This is not true. A rabbit (even a dwarf of 2 pounds) needs a minimum amount of space of 4' x 2' x 2'. If you plan to house two rabbits then you should double this space.

What not to do:
    Lots of pet stores offer starter options for rabbits. These cages are often about 2' in length and slightly less in width and height. This is much too small for any size rabbit as a permanent option. Some people use these as if they are the litter box and fill the whole bottom with bedding. This doesn't necessarily teach the rabbit to go in one place and is too small even for a dwarf rabbit.
    Unless you live in a perfect climate between 60 and 70 degrees year round it is not a good idea to house your rabbit outside. You expose your rabbits to a lot of diseases, predators, and the climate. Rabbits live longer, happier lives when they are indoors and this blog is dedicated to the indoor rabbit.
    Do not put your rabbit in a wire bottom cage. My first rabbit (a mini rex) had been housed in a wire bottom cage and had sores on her feet because of it. I was able to rehabilitate her partially but the hair on the bottom of her feet never fully grew back. Wire bottom cages have the appeal of "being easy to clean" but if you litter train your rabbit any cage becomes easy to clean.

Other Options:
    A better option is a larger cage with a plastic bottom or a hutch. Unfortunately, these types of cages are often very expensive and may have small openings making it hard for the rabbit to get out or for you to get the rabbit out. I have the Living World extra large cage:
    I love this cage because it comes with a built in shelf, nontip bowl, hayrack, and water bottle. I didn't end up using the water bottle because my rabbits prefer to drink water from a bowl. One of the best features of this cage is the opening top. This allows me easy access to my rabbit along with easy cleaning. There is also a small sliding front door that I leave open for my rabbit to come and go as they please. It is about 6 inches deep so I put a shoe box in front of the door to help my rabbits travel to and from the cage. Beneath the platform is open so that the rabbit can hide if they are scared. My rabbits rarely take advantage of this built in "burrow" but it is nice to have. The whole shelf is removable if you want it to be all one level. (I plan on taking advantage of this feature when I get Ginny spayed in a few weeks.) Another great thing about this cage is that the whole surface is textured so rabbits don't slide around and provides traction.
One early Setup of Ginny's cage. This cage is very versatile.

Ginny's current set up. She has been using her litter box better. 

    A puppy exercise pen is another great option. What is so great about these is they are easy to set up and take down. Right now Leo is living in an Xpen next to Ginny's cage until she is spayed. The Xpen that I bought came with 8 panels that are 2 feet wide and 30" tall. Leo did escape once from it but it was our fault for not locking the gate properly. For a larger rabbit or one that jumps a lot I recommend getting an exercise pen that is 36" tall. I have it upside-down so that he doesn't have to jump over the 6 inch doorway and he can walk in and out as he pleases when we are home. The floor is a large piece of cardboard (this is temporary). Options for flooring include: laminate, an office mat, large rugs, or tile flooring. Some people combine an office mat with bed sheets or fleece over it. I provide Leo with a small towel. I originally had a large towel that covered the whole area but he digs at it and prefers the smooth floor.
    Exercise pens can be set up outside so that your rabbit can enjoy the outside world but there should be a top on them and you should never leave your animals outside without supervision. I have modified my exercise pen by folding up  panels on top of one another to make the area smaller. The area of Leo's cage is 4 feet long by 2 feet wide by 30" tall. This large area allows for space to sprawl out and hop around along with a litter box, hiding place, toys, and food/water dishes. A rabbit should have enough space to comfortably hop 3 times across the area of their cage.

One setup for the Xpen for Leo. He kept digging at the towel so I modified his cage setup.

Leo's current set up in the xpen. (the cords running behind are protected)
    There are lots of other options that are available for rabbits to live. Some people build their own cages out of closet squares or Nic cages. These are excellent options for rabbits because they provide variety and people can modify them as needed. They are often relatively inexpensive for the materials used to create them but they do take some time to set up. Below are some images of these homemade cages.

This is a great cage with floor and upper levels

This cage has a smaller footprint and is more verticle

This cage provides three rabbits with homes separate from one another.
Hope this gives you some ideas of how to house a happy, healthy rabbit!

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