Rabbits might not seem like part of the family at first, but these social animals thrive when surrounding by their favorite people. Giving them the right amount of attention often means keeping your rabbit indoors at least part of the day, but he can sleep outside if you prefer, at least in most cases. Taking the proper precautions helps him stay healthy and happy in his outdoor environment.
Wild rabbits live and sleep outside, of course, but they have mothers who teach them the basics of survival. This includes how to find shelter to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. They also tend to undergo more dramatic changes throughout the year than most domesticated rabbits. For example, they're more likely to develop a thicker fat layer and more dense fur in the winter than a rabbit bred as a pet. Your rabbit doesn't have the same genes or skills as wild rabbits, so consider this when you're deciding on the best place for your rabbit to sleep.
Playing It Cool -- Or Warm
When you use an outdoor cage for your bunny, give him what he needs to stay comfortable at night. In the summer, make sure there's enough air flow through the cage so the rabbit can take advantage of breezes and not get overheated. If he's out in the day as well, shade at least part of his cage from the hot sun. Winter is a bigger concern when he sleeps outside. Create a nesting box with a small entrance so he can get out of the wind and cold. Line the box and the cage with soft, warm material such as shredded newspaper or straw. Some rabbits enjoy a small, cuddly blanket, but be sure to clean it often.
Protecting Your Bunny
With your rabbit outside as you sleep, you don't always know what's sniffing around his cage. Rabbits can die of fright when threatened by a predator, and the fact that he's separated by the cage won't keep that from happening. Making sure there's mesh on all sides, including the bottom, can keep predators from digging or reaching in to grab your rabbit. Keeping the cage raised off the ground also can help. Don't let your rabbit roam free in a fenced backyard at night -- predators can easily climb over or dig under your fence to get to him.
He's So Needy
When you choose to keep your rabbit outside at night, take care of his essentials. He'll need food and water, as rabbits tend to be most active in the mornings and the evenings -- he's likely to still be in his cage when he gets hungry in the morning. A rabbit is relatively easy to litter train, so keep a clean litter box in his cage as well. Rabbits also like solid lookout points, such as the top of baskets or sturdy boxes, to help them survey their areas and feel safe.