A dwarf rabbit, or Netherland Dwarf, is one that has inherited a dwarf gene that prevents it from growing very large -- usually not more than four pounds. Although tiny, your dwarf rabbit still needs a durable cage that will keep him safe from predators or the trouble he might get into, like chewing on electric cords or digging into your neighbor's yard, while unsupervised.
The largest cage you can provide is best, even for a small dwarf rabbit, since it will give your him plenty of room to play and exercise and still have plenty of space for food, water, resting and elimination. The smallest cage suitable for keeping a dwarf rabbit is 18x24 inches, and at least 14 inches high. If you plan to add a litter box, increase the size of the cage by at least the size of the box so that your rabbit doesn't lose any valuable floor space.
Wire is the ideal material for dwarf rabbit cages since it is durable, easy to sanitize, provides good air flow and easy visual contact with your rabbit. Wood is suitable as a frame for a wire cage, but an all-wood cage doesn't offer enough ventilation. The wood should be thick enough to withstand some chewing and still retain its integrity. Plastic cages are not suitable, since your dwarf rabbit can easily chew through the pieces and escape or become ill from ingesting plastic parts. A glass aquarium is also unsuitable due to a lack of ventilation. The slick floor can also cause your rabbit to develop splay feet because there is no traction.
A cage with a wire floor is the safest and most sanitary for your dwarf rabbit. Urine and feces will drop away from him, keeping him clean and healthy. Although it is uncommon in dwarf rabbits, a wire floor may cause sore hocks, or feet, from the constant pressure of the wire on the bottom of the feet. To avoid this, keep a small wooden board or special rubber resting mat in the corner of the cage. Wood floors offer good support for feet, but trap urine and feces. Rabbits frequently sit in the feces, even if provided a good layer of bedding and may develop infections on their feet from the constant contact or upper respiratory infections from the ammonia odor trapped in the wood. If you keep your rabbit on a wood floor, clean the cage daily to reduce potential problems.
An indoor cage does not need a solid roof to protect a dwarf rabbit from the elements, and it may be placed as low to the floor as desired as long as there are no predatory pets in the house that will frighten your rabbit, such as cats or dogs. It should include a nest box with a wire bottom, or critter cave where your rabbit can hide if noise or activity in the house overwhelms him. Indoor cages sometimes include split levels or small runs, but these are not necessary if you give your dwarf rabbit plenty of exercise outside of the cage.
An outdoor cage, or hutch, needs to strike a balance between offering protection from the elements and adequate ventilation. Ideally, it will have a sold roof with enough of an overhang to block rain and snow from getting into the cage, and wire sides for air flow. Ventilation is vital because rabbits are extremely sensitive to ammonia odors from their urine and overheat easily in summer months. In areas with extreme winters a nest box may also be necessary. Outdoor cages should also be at least 18 inches off the ground to deter predators and avoid problems created by moisture from the soil.
- Storey's Guide to Raising Rabbits; Bob Bennett
- Ohio State University Extension: Rabbit Basics for the Beginner
- University of New Hampshire Extension: ARBA Recommendations for the Care of Rabbits and Cavies
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