Domestic rabbits can be raised outdoors or indoors. Housing for rabbits range from outdoor hutches, to indoor cages, to the free run of the home. Whichever option is most suitable for your home and rabbit, all should provide a shelter from extreme weather conditions and predators as well as a resting retreat.
Outdoor rabbits are usually housed in large hutches made of wood or metal, or wire cages. Hutches can be quite expensive. The wire cage, although not as good in terms of protecting and providing comfort for your rabbit, is a cheaper option. Most rabbit owners prefer wooden hutches as metal ones tend to become quite hot in summer. Rabbits are susceptible to heat stress and as they do not sweat or pant, the only way they cool down is through their ear veins, which is often not sufficient in the heat of the summer sun. Therefore, it is important that the hutch or cage is sheltered somehow.
An outdoor hutch should be divided into two connecting areas. One area with a wire mesh door to allow light and air through, and also to prevent bugs such as mosquitoes from biting your rabbit. The other area should provide weather protection against the sun, cold, wind or rain. Most hutches and some cages will have a hinged door at the top to allow easy access for cleaning. The floor of the hutch or cage should be covered with straw to provide cushioning and warmth for your rabbit. A solid board or rug can be put in cages to avoid your rabbit’s feet being caught in the wire. The hutch or cage should be raised off the ground and secured from cats, dogs and predators in your surroundings.
The size of the hutch or cage depends on the size of your rabbit (fully grown), the number of rabbits you intend to keep in the housing and how much time they spend in it. The larger the housing the better it is for your rabbit/s.
Indoor rabbits should never be kept completely confined to a cage. Exercise is vital for the rabbit’s health. All too often we hear well meaning but poorly informed people describe rabbits as easy to keep because “they can be caged and don’t take up much space!”. This idea has led to many rabbits being caged for most of their lives with the distinct possibility of developing both physical and behavioral disorders. They are designed to run and jump and move about a large area.
Indoor rabbits can be housed in an indoor hutch or cage. A wooden or metal hutch is suited for indoors too but are not necessary. A simple cage with a solid base and lots of straw is just as good.
If you let your rabbit run loose around the house, make sure you supervise your rabbit and “rabbit-proof” the areas and things that they cannot have access to. Things such as electrical cords and access to any nice furniture should be restricted as rabbits like to chew. They like to chew a lot and will slice through cables quicker than you might expect.
Litter box training / House training
Rabbits can be litter box trained relatively easily but it must begin right away. When beginning training, confine your pet in a small area, either in a cage or a blocked off section of the room, and place a litter box in the corner. Try to pick the corner your pet has already used for his/her toilet or move the box if you notice the rabbit going somewhere else. Make sure the sides of the box are low enough so that your pet can get in and out easily. It is helpful to put some droppings in the litter box. It is also helpful to put some hay in the box to encourage defecation as rabbits usually pass stool while they are eating. In exercise areas, provide one more litter box than the normal number of rabbits you have and put newspaper or plastic under the litter box to protect your floors from accidents. Never punish your pet while in the litter box or for accidents. This only hurts your relationship as rabbits do not respond to punishment as some pets do.
Pelleted litter makes the best bedding and is preferred over wood shavings, corncob and kitty litter. Pelleted litters are non-toxic and digestible if eaten, draw moisture away from the surface which keeps it drier, control odors well, and can be composted. Do not use clay or clumping kitty litter (we have had cases where rabbits have eaten these products and died from intestinal impaction). There are a wide variety of pelleted bedding available through pet stores, veterinarians and rabbit clubs. Softer litter is suggested for rabbits that spend a lot of time in their litter box.
Make sure your rabbit has access to daylight in order for them to absorb enough Vitamin D to keep them healthy. Place them in the morning sun but not directly in the sun’s rays. Remember to move their cage to a cool and dim area so they can rest without any disturbance.