Rabbits are traditionally kept outdoors in a hutch, but can also be kept indoors as a house pet. Hutches available from pet shops are frequently too small to be the sole accommodation for a rabbit. Wooden hutches have the advantage of being cheap, but can easily be gnawed; they also absorb urine and thus may smell after a few months.
Hutches of various designs are available, but the essentials are a dry draught-free secluded nest area, and an area for exercise.
Hutches should always be as large as possible, with at the very least, sufficient room for the rabbit to stand up fully on its hind legs, and to stretch out. If confined to the hutch for long periods, the rabbit should be able to perform at least 3 ‘hops’ from one end to the other.
Outdoor hutches should be raised off the ground, and protected from wind and rain. A felted roof sloping toward the back is suitable, as are louvred shutters that can be closed in particularly inclement weather. Direct sunlight should be avoided as heat stroke occurs easily in rabbits, as they can not sweat and do not increase water intake when hot. Good ventilation is essential to prevent respiratory diseases.
Bedding must always be provided: straw, newspaper and wood shavings are all suitable, but not sawdust. Cleanliness is essential to prevent disease, and hutches should be cleaned at least once a week.
An exercise area must always be provided in addition to a hutch. This can be in the form of a mobile run, ark or permanently fenced area of grass. Preventative measures should be taken to stop rabbits jumping out of runs, or digging deep burrows to escape. Bolt holes should also be provided to protect against potential predators, such as cats, dogs, foxes and birds of prey. Contact with wild rabbits should be prevented to minimise the risk of disease transmission.
House rabbits should have a secure cage area where they can be restrained when the owner is absent. Exercise around the house should be encouraged. Rabbits naturally urinate and defaecate in one place and thus are easily trained to use a litter tray. Electrical cables must be protected from chewing, and poisonous house plants should be avoided. Chewable toys are enjoyed by house rabbits e.g. cardboard boxes, or old telephone directories. House rabbits will readily learn to use ‘cat flaps’ for access.
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