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Absolutely! Having a free roam bunny is awesome. They get plenty of exercise, lots of room to explore (rabbits are incredibly nosy), and they’re a pretty chill animal to hang out with.
They won’t ask to be let out every ten minutes, they’re litter trained, and their poop doesn’t smell.
But having a free roam rabbit isn’t always easy – especially if your rabbit is young. Rabbits are naturally destructive and love to chew.
Whilst I’d love to have Holly be totally free roam, until she learns to stop eating the walls or we can buy our own house (whichever comes first) she spends the night in her pen.
This is the reality for a lot of bunny owners, and it’s FINE. Even when Holly’s out, she tends to sleep just outside her pen door for hours. She can run and zoom in her pen so space and exercise isn’t an issue. She just likes a change of scenery and to run laps around the living room.
If you do decide that your rabbit is to be free roam, prepare first. Perfect planning prevents poor performance/your rabbit eating your baseboards.
Make sure wires are properly concealed
Rabbits love wires. A current flowing through a wire will deter a handful of rabbits, but most will keep on chewing regardless, so to protect your bunny (and your electricals) keep wires out of the way.
Rabbits have an uncanny ability to detect wires, so don’t think tucking them under furniture will suffice – if you have to do that invest in a wire protector. Check it regularly and replace when chewed.
Don’t leave them alone with other pets that they could harm/could harm them
Domestic rabbits have evolved to be a lot braver than their wild counterparts, so a lot of pet rabbits will happily start a fight with bull mastiff 50 times their size.
Make sure that initial introductions are safe – initially through a glass door/baby gate, then with at least the dog, and maybe the rabbit leashed/contained. Be especially aware of dogs with high prey drives.
My boyfriend and I volunteer at our local dog shelter and we were once walking the sweetest greyhound and she got a baby bunny WHILST ON A LEASH. It must have been ill (we have myxomatosis here) but I was so shocked. Not that she went for the bunny – she’s a greyhound and I’m not that naive, but how quickly (and silently) it all happened. BE CAREFUL.
Also don’t forget that rabbits have ammo too – young or small dogs could easily be injured by a kick or bite.
I had cats and rabbits when I was a kid and they got on fine, but I seemed to attract extremely lazy cats and aggressive rabbits. Cats are pretty focused about hunting.
We had a cat that loved to hunt mice, but she’d drink out of my parents fish tank and never tried to get a fish. The fish would even come up to the top in case they were being fed. But to the cat it was drinking time, not hunting time.
(And I know she liked fish because I was once (pre-veganism) adding an anchovy to a pasta sauce for depth and she begged and begged for it so I gave her a tiny sliver and she was (rightly) appalled.)
Keep them out of reach of house plants
People joke about we bring tiny versions of tigers into our houses, and essentially live alongside a modified version of our own predator (lololololol).
But spare a thought for me. I run a website and youtube channel about house plants, so i have quite a few.
And alongside my plants, there lives a plant predator (well two, but Daisy can’t climb).
Rabbits are pretty good at not eating poisonous plants (or eating a bot and realising it’s stinging their mouths) but if they find a non-toxic offering they’ll eat the whole thing in minutes.
I used to keep my Calathea (non-toxic) on the floor with a barrier, but I lost two before I realised that my plant predator would stop at NOTHING to get to them.
Keep your plants up a height, or in a different room.
Make sure they have a home base to retreat to
Rabbits spook very easily, and they need to know they have somewhere to run to where they won’t be bugged.
I take a two level approach to this. The first level of privacy is the pen. I rarely go into it other than to clean it out or to water the plants on the windowsill above.
But whilst I’m in the pen, Holly has the option to go into her box. The box is in our TV cabinet (literally just an old glass shop counter) and it’s just a cardboard box. Just a box will do – we only have our TV in there (the wires are behind it where Holly can’t get to them) because our living room is small and 50% rabbit pen.
We don’t go in the box (except to retrieve the millipede when she escaped her terrarium) ever. If we need to catch Holly we do so when she’s out of her pen so she knows that box is safe.
If she gets back to the box before we can catch her, we have to wait until she ventures out (usually with a bribe of toast crust)
Don’t get angry if they chew things
If you do, you will be angry all the time.
Rabbits chew stuff. It’s what they do and who they are.
How much and what they chew varies from rabbit to rabbit. But there’s not a lot you can do about it.
You can redirect them to chew on something desirable, like toys or wood bought specially for them but there’s no way to explain to them which things they can chew and which they can’t.
Well, you could, but it’d be tricky. It’d be like trying to train your dog which trees and lampposts they could sniff and which they couldn’t. Rabbit don’t know that you don’t want them to chew the sofa. How could they? Holly’s favourite thing in the world is her box and it doesn’t stop her from chewing it.
Block of the things that are important (you can try sprays but results vary from bun to bun), try to work out what your bun likes to chew, and try to recreate that in their pen.
We don’t let Holly chew anything outside of her pen. It sounds harsh, but it’s easier to train her that she can chew everything in her pen, and nothing out of her pen. Rather than say ‘you can chew the wood on your pen, but not the couch’ because she doesn’t understand (or care).
This also means that she associates her pen with toys not jail. Oh, and she’s not chewing the bars at 3am because she left one of her cups outside.
Don’t feel bad if you can’t trust your rabbit to be free roam 24/7
A lot of us rent, and can’t afford to pay for new baseboards and walls. That’s ok.
The downside is that we need a big-ass pen, but realistically, if I didn’t have a massive bunny pen in my living room I’d have just filled it with plants, so I’m not losing out on space really.
I do encourage you to let your rabbit out for a few hours a day. Rabbits are supremely nosy and even if they have ample space to run in their pen, they’ll benefit mentally from being able to explore.
Holly has recently developed a fascination with a puzzle board I keep behind the couch. Hilariously, every time she goes to look at it, she makes a little honky grunt noise, so I know she’s there, so I look over the arm of the couch to check she’s not destroying it.
Every time she sees me checking on her, she runs away all ‘I’m innocent, guv’. But she somehow began to associate me looking over with grunty noise, and trained herself to run back home every time she made the noise.
So now I see her creeping across the floor towards the puzzle board (crawling slowly, ears pointing forward – the old ‘explorer ears’), she grunts, and then dashes back to her pen.
She makes that grunty noise a lot, in very specific situations, and it’s weird.
It’s like a human with a deep voice saying ‘uh’, and she only does it when she’s in a confined space, like behind a door or the sofa, and she does it just before she’s about to start digging up the carpet or chew something.
She wouldn’t make a very good spy.