Rabbits are not the cheap, low-maintenance pets that some sellers still claim they are. In terms of socialization, training, care and general expense, rabbits are as big a commitment as dogs, possibly more so. Along with vet costs, housing is one of the biggest expenses, as rabbits have specific habitat needs.
Wherever you keep your rabbits -- you should always have more than one -- they’ll need a secluded place to sleep and a spacious area to run and play. The typical rabbit hutch is suitable only as a sleeping area and a place to hang the water bottle. A hutch is nowhere near enough in itself. Plentiful bedding is required; if you keep your pets inside, you'll need at least one litter tray per rabbit.
Pet rabbits are descendants of the hardy European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and can tolerate moderately harsh weather, provided they have a shelter. In the wild, they use burrows. As pets, they need a tough, weather-proof hutch with plenty of straw or hay -- for additional insulation, for comfort and for handy snacking. Although rabbits can cope with some cold, excess heat is dangerous. If you live somewhere hot, keep your pets inside.
Turn a large section of your yard , ideally an area of lawn, into a run. As the run must be escape- and predator-proof, a simple fence is not sufficient. Rabbits can dig, carnivores can climb and some predators can fly. The sides must be sunk into the ground and the top needs a secure mesh cover. Check the lawn area for any potentially poisonous plants beforehand and remove them. If you aren’t sure whether a weed is toxic or not, pull it up. It should go without saying that if you have used chemicals on the lawn recently, it is not suitable for rabbits.
Keeping your rabbits inside is the safest and probably easiest option. For indoor rabbits, the sleeping area can consist of a basic indoor rabbit cage with a large box inside for a shelter. One large cage would do for a bonded pair, but if you are introducing strange rabbits, you need to provide one cage each. You need this cage even if you plan to give the rabbits the run of your home because it provides a secure place to sleep -- as prey animals, rabbits need security. It is also helpful when house-training your pets. Think of it as the rabbit equivalent of a dog crate.
Your home forms the run for indoor rabbits. Rabbit-proof at least one room, which means protect all cables and anything else you don’t want chewed. Remove toxic houseplants, even if you think your pets can’t reach them. This is the first room they should have access to and the one to return them to when you go out. Just open the door of the cage and you have your shelter and run combination. Don’t let them have unsupervised access to your entire home until they are fully toilet-trained and you’re 100 percent sure you’ve rabbit-proofed everything.
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Judith Willson has been writing since 2009, specializing in environmental and scientific topics. She has written content for school websites and worked for a Glasgow newspaper. Willson has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.