You may just want to bring your rabbit indoors for the winter or you have purchased one that you would like to keep indoors. Whilst rabbits can make very good house pets, they can also make destructive ones too! Is it safe to have a rabbit in the house or are they better kept outside in a hutch? Well, all of this depends on how rabbit proof your house really is. The aim is always to keep your rabbit safe and prevent destructive behaviour.
What is rabbit proofing and why do I need to do it?
Rabbit proofing is how it sounds, the aim is to prevent objects from being chewed by rabbits. This is their favourite pastime after all! They like to be active and need to be entertained. We want the rabbit to be safe and your belongings, whilst enjoying having the company of your rabbit in the house. Some rabbits might be quite content with their surroundings and not feel the need to chew.
Rabbits love to chew. There’s no doubt about that, it’s a natural behaviour. Chewing helps them wear down their teeth that are constantly growing. So, what is at risk? Well, doors, skirting boards, cables, plants, carpets and any furniture are all in danger of being chewed as unfortunately rabbits do not understand what they can and cannot chew!
How do I rabbit proof my house?
We don’t want anything to be chewed that shouldn’t be but especially cables – data cables are bad enough, but power cables can result in electrocution. So how do we hide those cables? After all, every household must have trails of cables lying on the floor. One way these can be hidden is to try and hide them behind furniture that rabbits cannot get behind, for example the TV: try to put the television and stand in front of the plug with no gaps that a bunny could get through. Try not to leave trails of wire. The less cables in the room the better. That said, this is going to be a lot easier said than done.
Also try placing wires above ground level where the rabbit cannot reach, again maybe easier said than done and not exactly look pretty in the room, but its safety first. You can purchase online some tubing (sometimes called cable ducting) that wires can be placed in, to protect them or at least slow them down chewing through to the cables.
If some rabbits get bored or they see the corner of a carpet up they might be inclined to start chewing… or digging the carpet up, this is a natural instinct after all! Ensure all corners are secured down, if not try to block them off so the rabbit cannot get to it. Providing a digging box might be a good distraction, just needs to be a box with some shredded paper that can provide some entertainment.
Some people like to have long curtains that touch the floor, maybe our little bunny friends would like this too as this could be an interesting toy to chew. Try moving these out of the way or avoid putting the rabbit in the same room.
Now skirting boards may be a firm favourite for rabbits and possibly the hardest part of the house to protect as they are in most rooms. Some rabbits may not chew them but some may and they have plenty to chew at! You can purchase some protectors online, just search for skirting board protectors. These are usually plastic or sometimes metal coverings that protect the underlying crunchy tasty wood from rabbit teeth!
As rabbits might be able to get behind a sofa, their material is quite thin on the back so we want to discourage chewing or digging: try blocking both sides. Alternatively, put some tunnels behind it so the rabbit can still go behind without causing any damage, this is also great enrichment for them.
Many house plants are toxic to rabbits – in fact, so many that it’s worth assuming that they all are. So, it’s definitely worth just removing plants or placing them very high up so the rabbit cannot touch them.
Ideally, we would probably want to avoid having rabbits on stairs, to minimise any injury. Placing stair gates at the bottom of the stairs if your rabbit is on the ground floor would be an ideal way to stop them from going up, or vice-versa if they live upstairs.
Other parts of the house like loose bits of wallpaper that are at rabbit height may get chewed, as may wooden legs on furniture and any personal belongings left lying around! At the end of the day a rabbit may not want to chew this so action may not need to be taken – but always be on the lookout.
So where should I keep my rabbit in the house?
Some rabbits are left to free roam around a house, they are normally toilet trained and have a rest and feed area. This is fine to do and totally your decision.
Other options are that the rabbit is confined to one room, therefore we know this room is rabbit proof and the rabbit is safe. You can also purchase indoor cages; these are ok for smaller rabbits but likely not big enough for bigger breeds. The ideal size would allow the rabbit to lie stretched out, allow three easy hops and be tall enough that they can stand on their back legs. Another option is to use a wire pen, this will provide much more space than a cage, these can be found by searching in google rabbit wire pen or puppy wire pen. Again, though, the size is key, and it MUST be large enough for your rabbit and their friend.
Just like an outdoor rabbit, indoor rabbits also need enrichment. This could be in the form of plenty of cuddles but they also need some natural enrichment. Provide the correct enrichment then you’ll have a happy rabbit that will hopefully not destroy the house. Providing plenty of things that they should chew, the correct food, vegetables, tunnels should keep them happy. There’s many different enrichment things you can purchase at pet shops.
Over and above all, rabbits must never be kept on their own: they need to live with another rabbit. If you are getting a new bunny, try to get two who are already friends as it will save a lot of problems later. And make sure that they are neutered – 2 adult males will fight, 2 adult females will fight, and an adult male and an adult female will breed constantly!
Remember, rabbits are prey animals and will find the close presence of dogs and cats, their natural predators, very distressing. After all, most of us would not want to share our house with a lion or a leopard! And sadly sometimes pet dogs do eat pet rabbits… so suitable distancing and supervision is important.
Rabbits can make great pets and give a lot of love back. Keeping them indoors is fine, just make sure they are safe from other pets, escaping and chewing hazards.