Online Veterinary Education Library
Our team of veterinarians and staff strive to improve the overall health of our patients by focusing on preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions associated with their health. Please use our educational library to learn more about health problems and treatments available for your pet. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, contact us.
- Small Animals
Rabbits have strong legs meant for active living, such as running and jumping and are very social creatures. That is why they need daily exercise. They also need a cage with room to maneuver placed in a location around household activity. At a minimum, small to medium-sized breeds should have cages that are 4' wide, 2' deep and 2' tall to have room to move around freely and include all their housing necessities. As a rule of thumb, make sure your cage allows your adult-sized rabbit to stand up on its hind legs without touching the top of the cage.
Most rabbit cages are metal to stand up to your bunny's active lifestyle. If the cage is made of wire, you will need to create a solid floor that won't hurt your pet's feet. A piece of wood or corrugated cardboard can be used for the flooring. Use straw, hay or aspen shavings over the bottom of the cage for your rabbit to make a comfortable nest for resting and sleeping.
To be healthy, rabbits need to feel safe and secure. You'll need to create an area within your cage for your rabbit to rest or hide to maintain its sense of security. Some need completely enclosed spaces; others are content with a comforting nested area. Place a basket, box with a hole for entering and exiting or large cardboard tubes in the cage for hiding and resting space. Put down a straw or hay lining, or line the rest/hide container with a soft, absorbent (and washable!) material, such as a baby blanket, for added comfort. Do not use terry cloth towels or carpet squares as they can be abrasive to your bunny's feet.
Temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal for rabbits. They often display signs of drooling and nasal discharge if the temperature is too high and are prone to heat stroke if the humidity level is also high. Too cool or damp an area promotes respiratory problems. Keep the cage in a well-ventilated area. In hot weather, use an air conditioner or fan to keep your rabbit comfortable.
Please note: Pet rabbits are exclusively indoor creatures and should never be housed outdoors. In addition to temperature-control issues, outdoor hutches place rabbits at risk to other predators, increase the likelihood of their escaping and getting lost, and can create health problems as a result of the isolation.
Rabbits like a clean environment are can be easily litter trained. When you first put your rabbit in its new home, it will choose a corner or location to be used for its wastes. As soon as your pet has made its preference clear, put a newspaper-lined litterbox in that location. You might also want to put a little hay in the box. Rabbits tend to defecate when they eat; having hay in the box creates a natural alignment between the two activities. Generally, you should have one more litterbox than the total number of rabbits you have living in the cage. Pelleted litter is the best product to use for lining the litterbox and is preferred over wood shavings or corn cob. Pelleted litters are nontoxic, so they won't hurt your rabbit if digested and they draw moisture away, which keeps the surface drier and controls odor. A wide variety of pelleted litter products are available commercially.
Please note: Never use clay or any kitty litter in a rabbit's litterbox or cage as they can cause fatal intestinal obstructions or respiratory problems.
Your pet rabbit will require daily exercise outside of its cage as well as toys within the cage to keep it active. For space outside of the cage, the easiest solution is to purchase exercise fencing panels (commonly used for dogs), which are at least three feet high for small and medium breeds and four feet high for large rabbits. These panels are available from most pet stores and can be configured to any size or shape. They are also made of nontoxic and sturdy materials. You'll also need to bunny-proof the room. Use a sheet of no-wax flooring (available at most hardware stores) to protect your floor. It's also easy to clean and can be rolled up for convenient storage. If you choose to allow your rabbit to roam freely in your house or a room, make sure to block all escape routes (including windows) and cover all electrical cords and furniture to protect them from your rabbit's teeth and claws. Also make sure to remove any toxic plants.
In nice weather, you may want to give your bunny exercise time outdoors. Again, be sure to put up fencing panels to create a safe environment.
Please note: Never leave your rabbit outdoors unsupervised, even in a fenced in area. Other animals can climb the fence or knock it over, putting your bunny at great risk.
In the natural world, rabbits spend a lot of their time digging and chewing. In addition to exercise outside of the cage, you need to give your rabbit plenty of toys to keep it busy. Use cardboard boxes, wooden chew toys made for birds or branches made from dry wood to chew on. Rabbits also like items that make noise, like old keys on an unbreakable holder, empty plastic or metal cans, hard baby toys or jar lids. They also like playing with items that can be both chewed and moved, such as toilet paper rolls. Old telephone directories make an ideal, long-lasting toy for rabbits. To satisfy your rabbit's urge to dig, add a cardboard box filled halfway with soil or shredded paper in the cage.