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The idea that rabbits live outside in hutches in firmly entrenched in the minds of many people. Most, probably. Which is sad, because not only do rabbits need a lot of space to get adequate exercise, but you see so much more of their personality when they’re tearing around your living room.
Where should my house rabbit live?
Ideally, your rabbit should have free roam of at least one room in your house.
I get that this isn’t always possible – a lot of us live in rented accommodation and rabbits can be really destructive. If this is the case, then I recommend that you get an x-pen or similar so your rabbit is confined to an area, but not a hutch.
My rabbits live in a huge pen that my boyfriend made – he made a wooden frame and then used the panels from a couple of x-pens – but we still allow the rabbits free roam of our living room when we’re around.
They’re actually welcome in any part of the house, but the stairs are apparently unclimbable and then laminate flooring in the kitchen is terrifying. Never mind.
How to set up a pen for your rabbit
I got a couple of X-pens from Amazon and set them up to create one big rectangle. How big the pen needs to depend on your rabbit, but I like to have a pen big enough to accommodate zoomies.
I must admit, I sometimes regret this when 3 am zoomies are on the agenda.
What do rabbits need in their set up?
Whether your rabbit is free roam or in a pen, they will need a few items:
- A safe place
Some rabbits really like a cosy bed or den that they can get tucked into, but mine have always liked to sprawl about on the floor.
However, they can sit in the TV cabinet if they’ll feeling nervous. Remember that rabbits are prey animals, so if they get spooked it’s nice for them to have a little area they can retreat into.
- A tube
This isn’t 100% necessary, but most rabbits love a tube. Usually to dig in, to be honest. It brings out the wild rabbit in them.
As I said before, Holly and Daisy like to sit in the TV cabinet if they’re feeling nervous (say a dog barks or an ambulance siren goes off), but others we’ve had in the past liked to sit in tubes.
We used to panic and think we’d lost a bunny, but a gentle tap of the tube confirmed that they were chilling in the tube.
By the way, to check tubes for inhabitants without disturbing them, tap the tube with your foot as if you were trying to roll it along the ground. If it rolls, it’s empty. If it isn’t, someones in there.
Few things piss off a rabbit more than having their nap disturbed.
- A hay rack
I like to keep my hay rack above my rabbit’s litter box since rabbits like to eat and poop at the same time. It also means that a lot of the dropped hay goes into the litter box rather than falling on the floor.
- A water bowl
I like to give my rabbits a bowl for their water, rather than a more traditional bottle.
Rabbits’ high fibre diet requires a lot of water (rabbits drink a lot of water – far more than most other pets) and it’s easier and more natural for them to drink from a bowl.
I have had a rabbit that flat out refused to drink from a bowl, no matter how hard to tried to convince her, so she had a bottle, but overall, a bowl is far more suitable.
A heavy bowl is a must, since rabbits just LOVE to throw things. If you have a lop that ends up with wet ears, or a very string rabbit that throws any bowl you put down, try a bowl that clips onto the side of the pen.
It’s pretty easy to litter train a rabbit (read how here) and they don’t need that big of a box (depending on the size of the rabbit). Cat litter trays suit most medium-sized rabbits. I like to use a paper-based litter, because it’s super absorbent, and doesn’t get accidentally kicked everywhere.
Plenty of room to run
Rabbits love to run. Well, dash about. They’re traditionally known for hopping, but that’s more like the rabbit equivalent of going for a walk.
Rabbits also binky, which is a cutesy name for their happy dance, which usually involves jumping and twisting in the air. They NEED enough room to do this, because it’s a great way to ensure that your rabbit is super happy.
Some rabbits, like my Holly, are really timid by nature, so seeing them binky is a good way to check that they’re naturally timid, not actually frightened of something.
Holly does laps of the living room and she’s super fast. Daisy tries to join in, but she’s just not as athletic as her mother.
Not all rabbits binky, but most of them like to run around like mad fools – it’s so funny to watch.
Should your rabbit be free roam?
A lot of people insist that all rabbits should be free roam, and I get it: free roam rabbits live the absolute dream.
But it’s also not always possible, and I don’t want you to beat yourself up if it isn’t possible. As long as your rabbit is inside and has a large enough pen, that’s fine.
I recommend that you let your rabbit out for a few hours every day so that they get used to being around you and your family.
Our rabbits are usually free to roam from 3 pm to whenever we go to bed, and for most of that time, they sit in their litter box and eat. But those times when they zoom around the living room are incredible to watch.
Tips for bunny-proofing your home
I’ve tried every spray that’s meant to deter your bunny from chewing, and none of them work on all rabbits. You may just have to experiement.
A spray bottle of water can work. Don’t spray your bunny – you’ll just make them mad. Instead, distract the bunny with the sound of the spray and say ‘no’ firmly.
I actually don’t have much success with ‘no’. A loud ‘aa-aa’ is more effective, because it’s a harsher sound than ‘no’.
The best way to protect your stuff from being chewed is to not let your rabbits at it. You can protect baseboards with X-pen panels, bricks or furniture.
Rabbits really like to dig in corners, so you can deter them by covering the carpet with a tile. It makes them so mad.
Rabbits love to chew fixed objects (like, er, trees) so a lot of people swear by giving them them a block of wood to chew on that doesn’t move (nail it down if you can).
A lot of rabbit experts claim that you can stop unwanted chewing with enrichment. They argue that rabbits chew because they’re bored.
In my experience, no amount of toys, or nailed down bits of wood deters a determined chewer. It’s simply the nature of a rabbit to chew, and some chew more than others.
Also, some rabbits are bigger than others – my French Lop could’ve probably eaten a house full of baseboards in a day. Luckily her favourite activity was digging in cushions, so we sacrificed a few to save the many.
One day, I’m going to have stone baseboards so my rabbit’s can’t chew ’em. I’ll grow a tree up the middle of my house and they can have that instead.
Basically, if you value it, cover it up.
What’s the best flooring for house rabbits?
Slippery floors can be quite damaging for rabbits – they can hurt their feet and backs if they slip, and they’ll struggle to get enough exercise.
A lot of people recommend the interlocking flooring you often see in gyms – it’s pretty affordable from Amazon. I personally buy carpet offcuts – you can get a 4m X 1m offcuts for about £10 in a lot of carpet stores. They’re cheap, they don’t slide around, and they’re easy enough to clean.
As long as you cover the floor, it doesn’t really matter what you use. Old towels, blankets, and rugs will do just fine.
What are the best toys for house rabbits?
A tube is always a great bet.
Cups are a firm favourite – you know the plastic stacking cups for babies? Rabbits love them.
A simple cardboard box can provide hours of fun, especially if filled with screwed up paper. I like to sprinkle in some of the dried herb mix rabbit treats for a bit of added excitement.
A toilet roll tube is also a great optional – stuff it with hay for some added interest.
Our rabbits have a plushy rabbit that they like to wash. I don’t really know if they like her or view as a bit of a burden. Apparently some rabbits like to hump them.
You need to be careful with cardboard and stuffed animals – remove them if your rabbit is eating them. Small amounts of cardboard are fine, but take it away of they’re eating a lot of cardboard quickly.
I once bought a treat tray for my rabbit for Christmas – you put treats in little hollows and the rabbit has to try to get them out. It took Isobel 10 seconds to flip the whole thing over and get all the treats at once. Oh well.
NB: treats aren’t necessary. Using your rabbit’s regular pellets as treats is fine, but be sure to adjust their evening meal accordingly.
Where should my house rabbit sleep?
It’s up to you (and your rabbit). Some people are happy to let their rabbits free roam at night, but I’ve seen too many videos of 3 am zoomies across the caregiver’s head to do that myself.
Rabbits sleep at night naturally, so they’ll be perfectly fine if you put them in a pen at night. Some people leave a light on for them, but we just leave the curtains open so the streetlight gives them a bit of light.
We close the curtains in winter, and we don’t leave the light on BUT if I were getting a bunny in winter I’d leave them a night light until they were settled in. Rabbits can’t see that well in the dark and I want them to be able to access their water and litterbox easily.
From what I’ve noticed, rabbits are fairly adept at getting around in the dark.
Holly and Daisy tend to sleep snuggled up together in the TV cabinet and get up at around 5 am and start clattering around.
I can actually sleep through it now. In our old house our living room was upstairs, and every morning our bunnies apparently put on tap shoes and zoomed around. Holly and Daisy are much quieter.
We also had a ball with a bell in it. Would not recommend.
Final thoughts on creating the perfect house rabbit set up
Most rabbits don’t need a designated bed like people assume.
They’re like cats and dogs in that respect: some appreciate their own cozy bed, some like to sprawl out on the floor, and some wait until you’ve gone and then get up on the sofa.
Our rabbits have always been happy to lie on the floor and sleep. All cozy pets have been used exclusively as litter boxes, so we’ve had to remove them (bunny pee smells extremely strong!).
The most important thing is ditching that notion that rabbits need a hutch. They don’t. The just need adequate space, a litter box, food and toys. If you have two, they’ll use one another as a pillow.