Many owners are turning away from the traditional set up of the rabbit in a hutch in the garden. Hutches and cages are now often indoors and many owners also embrace the concept of free running 'house rabbits'. This article explains the concept behind free running, some ways to rabbit-proof the running space and considerations for keeping the space rabbit friendly.
What Is Free Running?
Also dubbed 'free range', this is giving rabbits an area, room or even the run of the whole house to freely roam in. It's popular with owners as rabbits have tremendous needs for daily exercise; this has been likened to the needs of a small canine. They simply can't sit in their hutches all day without becoming stressed and unhealthy and free running gives them to space to properly exercise to their hearts content. It also allows for plenty of interaction – delightful for owners and beneficial for these sociable little creatures.
Tips for Rabbit Proofing the Running Space
Electrical wires must be encased in sturdy cable guards that they cannot chew through – otherwise they can and will chew straight through live electrical wires. Be aware what electrical or heavy/sharp items they could knock over and remove anything they could chew as little detached parts can hurt them outside or in their gastro-intestinal system. Protect your carpets with old rugs and give them a litter box with organic rabbit litter – they will learn to use it with a little prompting with rabbit treats. Watch out for houseplants and household cleaning products – both can be utterly poisonous to your rabbit if ingested. Once you're done some basics installing a litter box and clearing electrical wires, sharp objects, poisonous substances away, you still need to consider which other pets and people they can come into contact with.
Who Else Uses the Space?
Whilst there are no wild predators indoors, there are still plenty of ones you might not have considered. Normally placid cats and dogs may not be as obvious a threat as a pet python but they may still try to play or attack. Rabbits have died through shock even though their predator never laid a hair on them. Is there loud music or TV noise that could stress them out? Are there any kids around – don't let them be in the rabbit's running space without training, as rabbits have been severely injured by kids who received no handling instruction.
If you can create a rabbit safe large space for them to run in, you will give your rabbits a great start in life. It is simply a life of boredom, stress and misery living copped up in a small hutch with precious little exercise and interaction. Animal charities caution this type of living causes major health problems. The basic tips above can help you turn at least part of you place over to your rabbits, for a healthy daily exercise workout.
IMPORTANT: Please consult your vet for any health or daily living concerns and check your place for any hazards before attempting free running – no article can hope to cover them all for every home. Many thanks for your understanding.
House Rabbit Society. Living with a House Rabbit [online].
ASPCA [online] Animal Poison Control Centre [online].
Mike Holby advocates for rabbits everywhere writing about issues commercial organisations gloss over or ignore. Mike has an entire website devoted solely to the subject of housing rabbits, with little known info on care needs and expert organisations, including getting a rabbit itself. To profit from Mike's experience, visit http://www.rabbithutchesadvice.com.
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