Housing Update

Jul 10, 2000 by

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This update contains additional information that has been collected since the article “A Sense of Place and Space” was written. It is suggested that you read this to have a complete understanding of the habitat needs of house rabbits.When choosing a habitat for your bunny, do not select an aquarium or a solid walled cage. These do not provide sufficient air circulation (which can lead to respiratory disease) and can also cause heat build up in hot climates.

If possible, cages should be kept in the coolest and least humid area of the house away from heat and drafts. 60 – 70°F is best for bunnies; in the upper 80’s and beyond can potentially cause a fatal heat stroke. Leaving a bottle of frozen water in the cage and wetting down the bunny’s ears during hot weather will help cool your bunny. Also, marble tiles may be used as a cool spot for bunnies to lie on in warm weather.

Although a cage can be a place for security and quiet time, it is best to place the cage in an area of activity since bunnies love attention and can become lonely if isolated.

Commercial cages may be converted by removing or covering wire floors, enlarging door openings and changing the way that the door opens, adding additional doors, and placing on a cart with wheels if mobility is needed. Be sure to cover any cut wire edges with hard plastic edge protectors or the plastic spine backs from report covers. Also, covering doors that open down with towels, a small rug, or grass mats will prevent bunnies from getting feet or legs caught in the wire door.

Wire floors on commercial cages may be removed with J-clip removers or a small awl and needle nosed jewelry pliers. If the floors are not removed, a variety of coverings may be used to cover the wire floor. Carpet remnants, grass mats, self-healing cutting mats (type used by artists and quilters), synthetic sheepskin, and towels have been used with success. If linoleum is used inside the cage, use a single piece rather than individual squares. It can be rolled up and placed inside the cage, however it tends to curl up at the sides. An inner frame made from furring strips should hold the edges down. If your bunny starts to chew or ingest any of your non-natural floor coverings, replace them with another item.

Grass mats may be used for floor and ramp coverings and recreational chewing. If you live in a humid area or the grass mats get wet (from dripping water bottles), you will need to check periodically for mildew. Replace mat squares as needed.

If a cage is on legs and not too high off the ground, a ramp, stool, or step placed at the cage door’s entrance will allow the bunny to enter and exit the cage at will. If a ramp inside the cage is set at too sharp of an angle, shortening it and resting it on a shelf, stool, or wooden box should solve the problem. Make sure that if you raise the ramp that there is adequate room for your bunny to enter and exit the ramp. It may be necessary to enlarge the ramp opening. Carpeting, grass mats, or wood strips (tacked cross-wise along the length of the ramp) may be attached to the ramp to provide footing for your bunny.

When building a habitat, keep in mind that hardware cloth should be used rather than chicken wire. It is sturdier and easier on the bunny’s paws and mouth. Also, do not build or purchase cages with wire ramps. Feet can get caught, legs twisted, and nails torn off. If you do have a cage that has a wire ramp or shelf, it may be covered with carpeting or synthetic sheepskin. Dog crates/cages have been used successfully as bunny cages. Even though they may be large enough to place a shelf in them, they are small so make sure that you provide adequate free run time outside of the cage.

Neat Ideas Cubes (manufactured by Fellowes) have been used to create bunny condos that are a favorite with bunny owners. Further infomation and an example of this type of condo may be seen on the page featuring “BlackieÕs House”. These wire grid cubes can be found at some office supply stores (Office Max) and membership warehouses (Costco). Be sure to pull the nylon cables tightly and use wood supports to ensure that the condo is stable and secure for your bunny.

Shelves may be added to cages if there is sufficient height between the floor of the cage and the top. Angle braces may be attached to a wooden shelf and slipped over the cage wire. (Attach angled brace to bottom of shelf with one side of the angle on the outside and facing downward.) The shelf may be used for resting, lookout, or exercise. A flat roofed house of wood or cardboard will provide the same in addition to a private area for the bunny. A hooded litter box or a pet carrier may be placed in a room for privacy (make sure that your bunny doesnÕt eat the plastic carrier or litter box).

A small piece of Plexiglas may be clipped to the cage wire behind the hay container to keep the hay inside the cage and to keep cats paws out of the hay. A piece 4Ó wide times the length and width of the cage may be clipped around the bottom of the cage to deflect urine or debris. (Use a 1/8″ tile drill bit to make holes if using “0″ rings to attach Plexiglas.)

When constructing cages, keep in mind that if they are wider than 24Ó, you may not be able to get them through a doorway. If mobility is a factor, add wheels and consider the weight of the finished product. You may wish to consider a collapsible or modular cage that can be taken apart if it is to be transported.

Small thin bungee cords, clips, or clothespins may be used to hold open cage doors. Hook and eye closures seem to work better than latches on handmade wooden habitats.

A roof may be created over part of a cage with a wire top by using a piece of cardboard, wood, or towel. You may wish to add a small cabinet or bin on top or to the side of your habitat to store your bunny supplies.

Essential supplies for all habitats include a litter box with organic litter (do not use softwood shavings such as pine or cedar), water bottle or bowl, feed bowl, hay, and toys. Bowls need to be heavy enough not to be tipped over. Litter boxes may need to be attached to cage with clips, wire, or 1Ó C- clamps.

If you use a wire exercise pen as a habitat, make sure that it is stabilized and secure. Dogs, cats, children, and rambunctious bunnies can easily move or knock over the pen. Also, be aware that if the pen does not have a top over it, cats will have easy access to the area and the bunny. If your bunny is a jumper, make sure that you get a pen tall enough to prevent escapes. A pen three feet tall is recommended for most bunnies and a pen four feet tall may be used for a larger bunny. For added security, a wire top may be added to the pen. Fabric may also be drapped across the top of a pen and clipped to the top edges to keep a bunny from leaping over the top. If the pen has eight panels and is setup in a rectangular shape (run), your bunny will have the potential to get more exercise than in a pen that is set up in the shape of a square. A pen attached to the sides of a bunny cage keeps your bunny confined in a bunny-proofed area yet provides more room to move around and exercise.

Gates (such as those used to keep children and dogs out of certain areas) are another way to set up an area for your bunny. Make sure that the gate is not placed at the top of stairs; if it comes loose, the gate and your bunny may end up at the bottom of the stairs. If your bunny seems overly interested in chewing the gate, try decorating it with permitted chew toys as a diversion. Be aware that if the gate is used for separation of bunnies that it can lead to aggression.

It is natural for bunnies to chew and dig and they can be quite destructive. Therefore you must bunny-proof your home so that you and your bunny may enjoy his or her running time to the fullest.

It is imperative that electrical cords be hidden or covered with tubing or hard plastic casing, since one bite by your bunny could be fatal. Remove poisonous plants, toxic substances, and small objects that could be ingested. Use caution when using recliners and hide-a-beds; bunnies can get trapped inside or caught in opening or closing mechanisms.

Plexiglas can be used to cover wallpaper or part of a carpet; a thin strip of untreated wood tacked over a wooden baseboard protects it from bunny teeth; furniture can be arranged to hide cords and electrical outlets; grass mats placed over carpet will protect your rug.

To keep bunnies happy and relieve boredom, provide them with plenty of toys such as untreated baskets and wood, grass mats, wire cat balls, and hard plastic baby toys. Make sure that if you use hard plastic baby toys, that the bunny is not eating and ingesting them. If so, immediately remove the item. Rawhide chew toys should not be used because a piece can become lodged in the throat and the bunny can choke.

Large tubs of hay, newspapers, or a towel may be used as an outlet for digging. A large ball might be welcomed by your bunny for rolling and pushing. A climbing area may be created with baskets, boxes, and pillows. Jute and hemp doormats are another diversion for chewing as are pieces of untreated wood attached to baseboards or inside of the cage. Tunnels can be made from open ended cardboard boxes, cat tunnels., and cardboard propped up against the side of a wall. Additional information may be found in the article, “More Than Just a Chew Stick”, located in the back of the packet.

Ideally, all bunnies should be supervised during their free running time, particularly if they are in an outdoor run. Supervision will allow you to see if the bunny is getting into mischief, and if the bunny is outside, to ensure that the bunny is safe from the environment, whether it be the weather or predators.

Outdoor runs should have a wire bottom or solid bottom covered with a thick layer of straw. Runs, like wire exercise enclosures, need to be high enough to keep bunnies from jumping out the top. A wire or solid top will prevent escapes and other animals from entering the run. If there is no bottom to the cage, wire needs to be extended several feet down into the ground to prevent the bunnies from digging out.

Outdoor runs need to be placed out of the sun and drafts with water provided for the bunnies at all times. Keep in mind that outdoor runs should only be used for a few hours of exercise, then the bunny needs to be brought inside the house. Do not leave your bunny outside at night even if the housing is secure. A bunny can easily die of fright from the sights and sounds of predators such as opossums, raccoons, dogs, and even cats. (Death can occur even if there has been no actual attack.)

Keep your bunny’s habitat clean. Clean and change litter boxes regularly, wash feed bowls and water containers, sweep and vacuum up any debris, and wash bedding.

There is much information contained in this update; information that has been gathered from bunny owners just like you. Hopefully, with the guidelines from both the article and the update, you will be able to successfully choose a special living arrangement that best suits the needs of you and your bunny.

Kathy Anderson

 

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