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Should I keep my rabbits indoors or outdoors?

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…

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Ian Smith
Our rabbit Millie has never been outside. Her water, hay and food are changed every night and she is only allowed to eat recommendedicated food. Biscuits, chocolate and cakes are very dangerous to bunnies and can result in Gut States which can be fatal. We used to feed Millie all sorts of things but learned our lesson when she nearly died four years ago. She eats hay, pellets and a small bit of salad every day. NEVER give lettuce to a rabbit because it can cause tummy upsets.We have learned a lot about keeping a rabbit healthy and happy and give advice to other owners now. Millie is very happy and is like a little dog, she is very affectionate and loves to be fussed. She is our baby and we love her.
Alison Dixon
My rabbits are indoor bunnies, they do not have a cage and are litter trained, I also have a cat and all 3 sleep on my bed with me at night and have never fought. I believe rabbits are excellent house pets and owners who keep them outside miss out on so much
Charlotte Williams
We have our little Flo inside with us. She gets pretty much the run of our bungerlow (carpeted bedrooms under supervision!!!) and is extremely inquisitive, loving and has a huge personality. Summer time she comes out for a run if we are out there gardening or relaxing. I feel sad thinking of the many bunnies out there that get bought for children and abandoned in small hutches. I wish there were stricter rules regarding the purchasing of animals big and small.
lyn alton
My bunnies have the best of both, they have the free run of the house, their own secure indoor area indoors, away from the the cats if we are not around, but they have their own cat flap into a large rabbit garden area safe from any other animals. When we at home with them Bunnies and cats get on well and sit in front of the fire together or on the sofa with us. Out side the run around dig build tunnels as rabbits should. They were almost instantly house trained, always outside in the same spot, which we regularly clean up, (great on the compost heap.) if it is very cold or fire works the use a litter tray without a problem. Just love having Bunnies. Lyn
Steve Spacksman
Please look at your records we lost Jessie in march 2015 !!
We have an indoor rabbit and she has always been very happy. We keep her in a decent sized run at the back of the living room with open access to her cage at all times. Keeping her in the run means we can leave her out all day and means she can't chew any wires. She does come out at least once a week and has a good run around the flat but always supervised. I don't necessarily agree that rabbits should always be kept in pairs. We have only ever had one rabbit and she has always shown signs that she's happy. She often runs and darts about and can be heard throwing about her toys and chasing them or running through her tunnel. She is very friendly and always runs in between our legs and can be heard grunting and always jumps on us. As long as rabbits receive regular attention and have a good space to live in, they can be very happy indoors.
I think it's great that you are bringing up the topic of rabbit housing! My rabbits live outside in a large purpose-built shed and aviary combo. This gives them a huge amount of "indoor" space and outdoor space. I would LOVE to see you do an article on outdoor rabbit housing as so many people still believe that it is okay to keep rabbits in hutches, when in reality hutches were originally only for rabbits meant for food back in war times! The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund has some great tips on the correct size of housing which might give some ideas: http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/ahutchisnotenough.htm
Sara Allison
100% Indoors is best! Provided; they get to go out doors daily and indoors you just rabbit proof all your wires. Never leave anything on the floor you wouldn't want a rabbit to chew and all is well. Its a great way to be tidy. And i've noticed they only chew when they are bored or want attention. I've had various cats and house rabbits over the years and in various numbers ie 1 rabbit 2 cats, 1 cat 2 rabbits, and now 1 cat and 1 rabbit they have all got along very, very well indeed. I have never had any qualms about leaving them unattended together (depends on the individual pet of course) If you have an indoor rabbit you can really appreciate their personality and they are great pets and in my experience 1 rabbit is fine as long as you can spend 24 hours a day with them yourself.

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