Habitat Requirements for Rabbits
One of the greatest things about keeping a rabbit as a pet is that you do not necessarily need a cage! As long as your rabbit is litter-trained, you can let him roam freely around the house if it is safe to do so. Even if you do let your rabbit out to roam around, however, it is never a bad idea to have a backup cage or, at least, somewhere the rabbit can hide and rest if he wants to. Keep reading to learn the basics about your rabbit’s habitat requirements. You will also learn about recommended cage accessories and receive tips for choosing the right bedding for your rabbit.
a.) Choosing a Rabbit Cage
When it comes to choosing a cage for your rabbit there are several things to consider. The most important factor is, of course, the size of the cage. Rabbits are active animals so even if you let your rabbit out of the cage sometimes his cage should still be large enough that he can move around. At the least, your rabbit cage should be 4 to 6 times the length of your rabbit when he is fully stretched out. Because different rabbit breeds are different sizes, you’ll have to do this measurement yourself.
Another factor you need to consider with your rabbit’s cage is the materials from which it is made. You want to choose a cage that is easy to clean, so wooden cages are best avoided since they can absorb moisture and harbor bacteria. Generally speaking, plastic cages and metal cages are usually the best choice. Avoid cages with wire flooring, however, because these can irritate your rabbit’s feet. If you have to choose a cage with a wire floor, cover a portion of it with a square of carpet or a mat – otherwise your rabbit will probably just hang out in his litter box.
If you don’t want to let your rabbit run loose in the house, you should provide an exercise pen in addition to a large cage. The cage itself should provide at least 8 square feet of space for 1 to 2 rabbits and the exercise space should provide at least 24 square feet of space. Your rabbit should get at least 5 hours a day in the exercise pen or, if you are handy, you can connect the pen to his cage so he can come and go as he pleases.
b.) Indoor Cages vs. Outdoor Hutches
Many rabbit owners think that rabbits are best kept in outdoor hutches, but this may not necessarily be the case. There are, however, some important pros and cons to consider for outdoor rabbits. For example, it is easier to find space for a very large cage to house multiple rabbits outdoors – you also don’t have to worry about noise or odors if you keep your rabbits outdoors. If you provide your rabbits with an outdoor run, they will be able to eat grass and other plants to supplement their diet without costing you any extra money. Plus, clean-up is easier for outdoor cages than for indoor cages.
On the other side of the issue, keeping rabbits outdoors may expose them to parasites and other dangerous diseases – especially if they come into contact with wild rabbits. If your rabbits are kept outdoors, they may not receive as much attention and human interaction as they might if they were kept inside. Keeping your rabbits outdoors puts them at risk for predation and they could also be exposed to extreme temperatures and inclement weather which could make them sick.
c.) Recommended Cage Accessories
In addition to providing your rabbit with a cage, you also need to stock it with certain accessories. Your rabbit doesn’t need much but there are a few necessities such as a water bottle, food bowl, hay rack, litter pan, and a nest box or shelter. When it comes to your rabbit’s water bottle, it is worth it to spend a few extra dollars for a non-drip model – this will keep you from having to change your bedding as frequently. You should also buy a hay rack to keep your rabbit’s hay fresh by raising it up off the floor of the cage where it could be soiled.
Your rabbit’s litter pan does not need to be anything fancy – it just needs to be large enough for your rabbit to turn around in and deep enough to contain the litter without making it hard for your rabbit to get into the pan. Other things your rabbit may need include chew toys and other toys to provide mental and physical stimulation. Buy an assortment of toys at first and give your rabbit time to play with them so you can learn which type of toys he prefers. Your rabbit also needs a hiding place or shelter.
Another thing you need to consider for your rabbit’s cage is the type of litter you want to use – if you choose to use any at all. The best litter to use in a rabbit cage is fresh hay – ideally edible hay like meadow hay or timothy hay. You can also use a blanket made from some kind of natural fiber. Straw bedding and shredded newspaper or cardboard is not recommended for rabbit cages because it absorbs moisture which can lead to urine burn and it can also harbor bacteria. The worst bedding for rabbits is wood shavings, sawdust, cat litter, or any kind of cedar or pine product.