Indoors or Outdoors? Where to Raise Your Pet Rabbit

The Burnaby BC area has a mild climate with even temperatures that allow rabbits to live outside all year round. However, it is definitely better if you own a pet rabbit to raise them indoors. Although it is possible to keep your pet rabbit outside as long as you are mindful of the dangers, most pet experts agree that raising rabbits indoors is the safest and healthiest option.

The Pros for Raising Rabbits Indoors

  1. Safe from Predators – Your rabbit will feel much more secure if he or she lives indoors because predators will be out of sight and out of mind, sound, and smell. Unless there is a danger from other pets—in which case, they must be kept away—indoor bunnies can thrive happily and have plenty of freedom even in a very small house or apartment.
  2. Loneliness is Less Likely – Rabbits make adorable family pets and are intelligent and inquisitive by nature. Loneliness can be a serious problem for these little animals, and a family member must to be able to play and interact with your pet rabbit daily, which is much more convenient if a bunny is housed indoors. If you have a busy life and you can’t manage regular playtime even for an indoor pet, you should acquire a second rabbit so they can keep each other company.
  3. Weather is Never a Problem – No matter how cold, wet, damp, or stormy it is outside, you and your pet rabbit will be comfy and cozy inside. Your mind will be at ease even if the weather suddenly and unexpectedly changes and you are not at home. You don’t have to worry about racing home to rescue your little rabbit from the nasty weather while he or she is in an outdoor hutch.
  4. Housing Arrangements Can be Flexible – Your pet needs a suitable caged home indoors that is big enough to stretch and move around in easily, including room for lots of hay, food, water, and chew toys. In addition, you need an area for your bunny to have lots of exercise. When you litter-train your pet, he or she can have a whole room or part of the house where it is safe and fun to roam around. It is a good idea to put your bunny in the cage when you are not at home and when you go to bed at night, so that you can relax, knowing your little pet is perfectly secure and happy.
  5. Health Problem Signs are More Obvious – If your rabbit lives indoors with you, it will be easy to notice if there are symptoms of a health problem developing. It’s more difficult to notice symptoms if your pet lives outside and you have less interaction with them.

The Cons for Raising Rabbits Indoors 

  1. Other Pets Can Be a Problem – Other pets in your family may pose a danger to your bunny. If you have, say, a hunting or herding breed of dog such as a Yorkshire Terrier, you will have to make special arrangements to keep them separated and the solution can’t be to keep your bunny locked in a cage all the time. That would be unkind.
  2. Furniture May Entice a Bunny to Chew and Dig – Rabbits love to chew, dig, and burrow and it is important for owners to provide the opportunity for their little pets to enjoy these activities without causing harm. You must rabbit-proof your home with the same care that you baby-proof one.
  • Secure electric cords out of reach, protect the legs and undersides of furniture, and provide lots of chew toys: blocks of wood, commercial rabbit toys, paper towel tubes, and towels or old shirts that can be used for tunneling.
  • Tape boxes together with openings through which rabbits can squeeze, or plush cat tunnels, wicker baskets, or sisal mats that can be chewed and torn apart, and provide a variety of items to keep your bunny busy and happy. Block off areas that are unsafe for your pet to go or where there are items that could be damaged by chewing.

The Pros for Raising Rabbits Outside

  1. Outside Was Once a Rabbit’s Natural Habitat – Today, a rabbit can survive even if the outdoors is not the natural habitat of domestic rabbits. They can adapt to living outside as long as a good home is provided and the owner keeps a close eye on the situation. Because your pet needs an exercise area that is three times the size of a hutch, it is usually easier to find a good location like this outside.
  2. Bunny has the Freedom to Chew and Dig – Most outdoor items won’t be harmed by a chewing, digging rabbit who can engage in these activities to his or her heart’s content. You must secure the area, of course, and take precautions to keep your rabbit from tunneling under a fence and escaping. If you are careful, your bunny will enjoy the freedom of living outside, especially if another rabbit is there for companionship.

The Cons for Raising Rabbits Outside

  1. Times Have Changed – Domestic rabbits, unlike the wild rabbits people remember from the olden days, don’t thrive as well or for as long if housed outside, nor are they equipped to survive on their own. If kept outside, a bunny now needs a very secure enclosure, which includes a hutch where your pet can hide if feeling threatened and can be protected from the elements when the weather changes.
  2. Predator Safety Concerns – Rabbits are prey to animals like dogs, cats, raccoons, foxes, hawks, and eagles. Even if he or she is safely tucked away in a hutch, a rabbit can be so frightened at the sight, sound, or smell of a nearby enemy, he or she can suffer a heart attack.
  3. Loneliness is More Likely – Loneliness can be a serious problem for rabbits as they are social animals. If a family member can’t play and interact with your little pet daily, which is probably less convenient if he or she is housed outside, your bunny will become very unhappy fast.
  4. Weather Can be a Serious Problem – Rabbits do not handle extreme temperatures or stormy weather at all well, and accommodations that adapt to all weather conditions may be difficult to find, build, or arrange.
  5. Vegetation Must be Constantly Monitored for Safety – Rabbits will munch on just about anything, and you have to keep a close eye on what is growing in your bunny’s play area. See to it that all toxic plants that may start growing in the yard are quickly removed. Make sure you know and can identify all the plants that must be ruthlessly dug up before your bunny finds them first.

How Do You Make Your Decision?

You may have heard the argument that rabbits can be raised outside because they have lived outside in hutches for many generations, and wild rabbits still safely live outside today. However, that is not a realistic assessment of the situation because:

  1. Wild Rabbits are a Different Species Than Domestic – Domestic rabbits are not the same animals as wild rabbits. Wild rabbits are smaller, they grow thicker coats, have bigger feet, can run faster, and are better equipped to deal with and hide from their natural enemies. If domestic rabbits become lost outdoors, they cannot survive for long because they don’t have the instincts and traits that allow them to live in the wild.
  2. Rabbits Used to be Kept Outdoors Only Briefly – Outdoor rabbits were generally kept in hutches and raised as food for only a matter of months. Domestic rabbits are kept as pets for many years.

This is why, overall, raising a rabbit indoors is the best choice you can make for your pet rabbit. However, if you don’t have a suitable area indoors, and you have the space and the inclination to take all the special precautions that are required to raise a rabbit outside, it can be done—but you must be very, very careful.

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How to Take Care of Your Rabbit’s Teeth

One of the most important tasks you’ll have after adopting a cute little rabbit is taking care of your new pet’s teeth. If you supply the diet and care needed to keep the teeth healthy, which continue to grow for his or her lifetime, you’ll have a happy, healthy bunny!

Why Teeth are so Important to Your Rabbit’s Well-being

A rabbit’s teeth are not like those of a cat or dog—they’re more like those of a horse. Horses and rabbits are herbivores with teeth of different sizes for different chewing jobs structured to break down tough, fibrous vegetation. They also share similar bacteria in their intestinal tracts to help them remove the nutritional value from fibrous material and digest it.

The slicing and biting action of the front incisors, along with the grinding action of the back teeth while chewing tough vegetation, is needed to keep your rabbit’s teeth healthy and reduce overgrowth. It is imperative that your bunny’s teeth are healthy for your little pet to be a healthy animal.

Rabbits that live indoors are at risk for dental problems if their owners don’t understand the risk of feeding their pets a pellet-based diet. Even though rabbits can get sufficient nutrition from pellets, this diet does not offer enough fiber and resistance to keep the teeth, particularly the large incisors, from becoming overgrown.

As well as the very visible four incisors at the front, there are two tiny incisors, called “peg teeth,” behind the upper incisors. Including the grinding teeth—the molars—behind the incisors called “cheek teeth,” there are 28 teeth total in your pet rabbit’s mouth. You won’t be able to safely inspect the back teeth, which is why your pet should visit your rabbit’s veterinarian to make sure all is well. Healthy teeth mean a healthy rabbit.

Teeth Problems Can be Created by Poor Diets

Your rabbit’s teeth will continue to grow throughout your pet’s lifetime just like our fingernails do. They grow at approximately two millimeters a week. An appropriate diet will wear the teeth down so that they don’t become too long. If that happens, these problems can occur:

  • An overgrowth of the front teeth means the top teeth won’t meet the bottom teeth as they should, which is called a “malocclusion” and this condition creates problems.
  • A malocclusion can cause the back teeth to become misshapen.
  • Misshapen back teeth can grow sharp and pointed, rub against the cheeks and tongue, and cut the inside of the mouth.
  • Another problem caused by malocclusion is the back teeth can become impacted and the gums inflamed, and painful and dangerous abscesses can form in the jaw.
  • Back teeth need the daily grinding that occurs when a bunny is munching on grass and hay. Otherwise, they may lengthen unevenly and the bottom teeth will no longer meet the top teeth as they should.
  • If your rabbit has dental problems, the resulting pain may cause your bunny to stop eating, which can quickly become fatal. It is dangerous for a rabbit to go without eating for 24 hours.

Signs Your That Bunny’s Teeth are Fine—or Not

Remember that rabbits in the wild are prey for many animals, and any sign of pain or weakness makes them targets. Both wild and domestic rabbits will instinctively go to great lengths to conceal any discomfort, so as a bunny parent you must be vigilant for signs that your dear pet is suffering. Examine your rabbit’s teeth once a month and take your bunny to their veterinarian once a year for a check-up.

Signs That Your Bunny’s Teeth are Fine: 

  • The top incisors should be creamy white and smooth except for a line down the middle. The bottom of them should be neat and chisel-shaped.
  • The top and bottom front teeth should be lined up and straight, and the gums pink.
  • When you feel the sides of your bunny’s head, below the eyes, and along the lower jaw, there should be no lumps.

Signs Your Bunny’s Teeth Aren’t Fine:

  • Drooling or discharge from the mouth
  • Discharge from the nose or eyes
  • Your bunny is using their paws to dig inside the mouth (you’ll probably notice wet paws)
  • Swelling of the face or jaw
  • Abnormal feces (small and dry, or big and long)
  • A sudden disinterest in eating
  • Weight loss

A Good Diet Ensures Healthy Teeth and Thus a Healthy Rabbit

You need to provide a good diet for the care of your pet rabbit’s teeth. Dental problems cannot be ignored. You must take your pet’s diet seriously or your little bunny will have a lifetime of regular teeth trimming and abscess draining under anesthetic. That’s not fun for either of you!

Rabbits need lots and lots of hay. It is the staple of their diets, so you must supply an unlimited amount. Hay is what bunnies need to keep their teeth healthy, to control the growth of their teeth, and to ensure good health for their digestive systems.

Expect adult rabbits to eat a daily amount of hay roughly the size of their bodies and it should always be fresh. Replace the hay before it becomes brown or moldy. If you offer different kinds of hay, your rabbit will be required to use different chewing motions, which is good for their molars. Timothy grass hay and oat grass hay are good choices.

As well as hay (did we mention lots and lots of it?), provide some green leafy veggies as well. The best choices are organic, free of pesticides, and washed thoroughly before serving them to your rabbit. Small amounts of three different vegetables can be offered at each feeding and you can choose from various greens such as leaf lettuce (not iceberg) and romaine, kale, carrot tops, watercress, dandelion leaves, and a variety of herbs such as basil and dill.

Fresh pellets can be offered in small amounts and should not contain corn or other high calorie foods, and they should be roughly the same colour and size and high in fiber. Bunnies love pellets but you mustn’t provide so many to the point where your pet will no longer eat the amount of hay they need every day.

Offer only healthy treats in very small amounts and save them for the times when your bunny needs comfort or when you’re training your pet. Treats can be pieces of strawberries, melon, green pepper, bananas, or small—that’s small—amounts of carrot (in spite of what Bugs Bunny cartoons have shown us!).

If you don’t know if a food is safe, don’t offer it. Certainly don’t offer chocolate, any type of candy, or avocado, and keep houseplants out of reach just in case. For more information on rabbit foods that are okay or not okay for your rabbit’s diet, please refer to our previous blog post.

As well as food, provide some rabbit-safe chewing items such as branches, twigs, and dried leaves and wooden chew sticks or blocks to help control the growth of your bunny’s teeth.

Taking care of your pet rabbit’s teeth means an annual check-up with a rabbit veterinarian who has been trained to care for bunnies, and ensuring that you supply the diet needed for their teeth. You’ll keep your bunny healthy and both of you happy as a result!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

Health Benefits of Spaying or Neutering Your Pet Rabbit

Did you know that there are health benefits to spaying or neutering your pet rabbit? For example, expect a longer lifespan when you have your bunny spayed or neutered. It is as important for rabbits to be spayed or neutered as it is for cats and dogs.

What is Spaying/Neutering?

This type of surgery is often referred to as “sterilizing” or having your pet “fixed” or “altered.” The term for female rabbit surgery is called “spaying”; for males, it is called “neutering.”

The procedure renders the animals incapable of reproduction, which benefits not only the individual rabbits but the community of rabbits as well.

Overpopulation in the pet world means that animal shelters are unable to house or arrange adoption for the number of rabbits produced and brought to them. Many people have released unwanted bunnies into the wild, which is a death sentence for these little pets who have no idea how to survive on their own.

How and When Should Rabbits be Spayed or Neutered?

For female rabbits, spaying is best performed when your pet is between four and six months old. Spaying is when the uterus and ovaries are removed. For male rabbits, the surgery is best performed when males are between three and five months old. The procedure is castration, which is the removal of the testicles.

Rabbits younger than these ages are prone to complications from surgery. If you adopt your bunny from a shelter, be sure and ask if he or she has already been sterilized as you may not be able to tell by examining your new pet.

Generally, your rabbit’s veterinarian will have a good idea on the right time to sterilize your rabbit. If you have any concerns about the surgery, be sure and ask and also request an explanation of the procedure. Find out what kind of preparation is required and when it will be okay for your bunny to go home with you.

Rabbits Receive Many Health Benefits When Spayed or Neutered

  1. Females no longer run the risk of cancer in the ovaries and/or uterus, and they’ll have a reduced risk of cancer of the mammary glands.
  2. Males have a lowered risk of testicular cancer.
  3. Both sexes will have a lowered risk of contracting diseases that can be passed through the exchange of bodily fluids.
  4. Both sexes will have less chance of suffering from urinary tract infections.
  5. Males are less likely to roam, urinate to mark their territory, and engage in fights with other animals because of their sexual aggression.
  6. Females no longer have to endure the stress and discomfort experienced during heat periods, and will no longer attract the attention of unneutered males.

There are Other Benefits, Too

  1. Having your pet rabbit sterilized helps resolve the problem of animal overpopulation.
  2. Female rabbits are less likely to bite, lunge at, and scratch their owners and other pets.
  3. Males will become happier and more relaxed.
  4. Both sexes will become easier to train and will bond better with their owners after sterilization. They will also be able to have friends of their own and of the opposite sex, which isn’t possible after sexual maturation unless they are altered. Altered rabbits make much better companions when they are no longer preoccupied with the urge to mate.
  5. Both sexes will become less destructive and will chew and dig less, but will remain mischievous and fun.
  6. Not only unsterilized males but also females use urine to mark territory, and male urine in particular has a very strong odour. If he or she is not sterilized before reaching sexual maturity, territorial marking may become a habit even if it no long serves its original purpose of keeping rivals away.

Give Your Pet Special Care After Surgery

When it is time to take your pet home after sterilization, make sure you have your rabbit vet’s instructions and pain or anti-inflammatory medication, and know what to expect.

Check on your rabbit’s surgery site regularly to make sure everything looks normal and there is no sign of infection—i.e. redness or pus. Go back to your rabbit vet if things don’t look right.

Keep the location of your pet rabbit’s cage in a quiet area and don’t encourage your bunny to move around too much. Your rabbit will know what is comfortable and you can expect him or her to avoid hurtful movements.

As you can see, your pet rabbit will reap many health benefits from spaying or neutering, including living a longer, happier life. Your rabbit will also become a much better companion for you and other pets after the procedure is done.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.