Should I keep my rabbits indoors or outdoors?

For many potential pet owners, rabbits may seem like an easy option.

However, as they can live up to 10 years old, they are a long-term commitment and have complex care and nutritional requirements that need to be carefully considered. Rabbits are also extremely social animals so it's recommended they should always be kept in neutered pairs (ideally male and female) so they don't become lonely.

Another consideration is whether to keep your rabbits outdoors or as house rabbits?

Petplan looks at the differences between keeping rabbits indoors and outdoors to help you decide what is best for both your rabbit and you...

The advantages of keeping rabbits indoors

* Because they’re in the house with you, indoor rabbits are more likely to receive regular love and attention. Rabbits are sociable creatures and can become lonely and depressed very easily, so being surrounded by people may help their health and increase their mental well-being.

* The increased levels of interaction, also means that your rabbits may be better socialised and therefore easier to handle.

* Inside the home there is little to no threat from predators – although it is vital that any other pets you have, are socialised correctly with each other to avoid any potential issues.

* Being in close proximity to their owners means that illnesses are noticed more quickly and vet attention sought faster.

Why house rabbits may not be the right choice

* We all know that rabbits like to chew, so keeping your rabbits indoors would entail you rabbit-proofing your house which may not be possible for everyone. Electrical wires and cables will need to be covered and/or put out of reach and houseplants will need to be non-toxic and/or kept out of reach. Also access to dangerous areas such as the oven will need to be blocked off or prevented.

* Bunnies burn off calories by regulating their temperature. If your house is too warm then they may start to gain weight, so bear this in mind – they get hot very easily because of their fur coats.

* If the rabbits haven’t been previously kept inside, you need to consider how to gradually get them used to common household sights, noises, sound and smells. There are lots of stimuli which could be frightening or stressful for rabbits such as noisy household appliances like the vacuum cleaner, TV or washing machine.

* You need to ensure other pets will not harm or frighten your rabbits. Rabbits will usually be scared of cats and dogs as they are natural predators, but if introduced carefully, early in life they can develop friendships. Never leave rabbits unsupervised with other animals.

The pros and cons of keeping rabbits outdoors

* Rabbits actually cope better in moderately cold temperatures than they do in warmer environments, due to their thick fur – a comfortable temperature for you, may not be comfortable for your rabbit. There are several breeds of rabbits which are suited well to the outdoors. They include: Britannia Petites, Belgian Hares, Blanc de Hotots and the English Butterfly.

* Outdoor accommodation makes it easier for your pets to get regular exercise. However, you need to ensure your rabbits' accommodation and garden are secure and plants/flowers are non-toxic to rabbits.

* Your rabbits can be exposed to various parasites and viral diseases such as Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease. The most effective way of minimising this risk is to ensure you treat your rabbits with regular insecticidal treatment and keep their vaccinations up to date. Fly Strike is also a risk, where flies lay eggs on your bunny’s skin (usually around the bottom area), which then hatch into maggots and eat away at the rabbits flesh. This can happen in hours and can quickly become fatal.

* Predators can also be a danger. Cages can be attacked by dogs, cats and sometimes even owls and hawks. Resolute predators can break or bend the wire of the cage and some can even open cage doors.

Do you have an indoor or an outdoor rabbit? Let Petplan know your thoughts below…