House Rabbits: Why It’s Better For You And Your Bunny
A House Rabbit who has the freedom of your bunny-proofed home does not need backyard exercise to remain healthy and happy. But this doesn’t mean that bunny should never go out! A bunny with limited, supervised access to your bunny-safe back yard is a lucky bunny indeed.
Zooh Corner recommends that all rabbits live inside the home as loved and loving family members. A rabbit who lives in your home with you can live an average of 5-8 years longer than their out-of-doors living counterparts. Why? you ask. The reasons are numerous! There are many hazards to being an outdoor rabbit, not the least of which is lack of human interaction. Rabbits who live in your home as a part of the family—that is, a rabbit who lives among, watches and participates in humans going about their lives—will have the chance to show you their wonderful, intelligent, loving personalities and their playfulness.
Did you know that rabbits like to play with toys—and with their people? It’s true! Rabbits are very social animals who need and crave the love and attention of their owners. They like to play with toys on their own, as well as play games like peek-a-boo, ball or “catch-me, catch-me” with their people! This social interaction plays an important part in your rabbits’ overall health and longevity.
When a rabbit (or any pet) lives inside your home with you, you are far more likely to notice when he is not behaving “like usual,” and it is easier to note departures from the rabbit’s regular routine: Is bunny less active? Not is his usual spot by the fireplace? You will also be more likely to quickly notice subtle changes in physical appearance: Is bunny looking ‘frazzled’ (not grooming herself)? Eating or drinking more or less than usual? Does bunny appear uncomfortable or in pain? As with human members of our family, we tend to notice changes in our pets more quickly when we are around them a lot. A rabbit left to live outside, even under the best of circumstances, is simply not around you enough for you to take note of small, subtle changes soon enough to make what could be a critical judgment of your pet’s condition (vet tomorrow? or now?). Monitoring the health of any living being can be a life or death issue.
Health issues are not the only reason to keep your bunny or bunnies inside with you. There are many hazards in a back yard that can cause injury or death to your pet, including injury, escape, disease, severe weather and of course, predators.
Pookey Ran Away!
Week after week the calls come in, “Pookey was out playing in the yard and now she’s gone, do you think she’ll come back?” or “I found a bunny in my front yard and I don’t want to take it to the pound, but I can’t keep it…” Bunnies are diggers by nature and it is not possible, nor is it fair, to expect them to stop this entirely. Often, a bunny left to her own devices in a backyard will dig her way out; or she may create such a lavish underground warren that she cannot be extricated. Bunnies that escape inevitably die of the elements, sickness or predators; a domestic rabbit cannot survive in the wild! Less than 1 percent of escaped rabbits are lucky enough to make it to a rescue, and when they do they are lucky to find a spot—there are so many rabbits already in need of help! . But there is a solution: Bunnies who live in the house and have their own cardboard boxes filled with digging materials (hay, shredded newspaper, etc.) cannot dig out—but then, why would they want to?
There are many physical and health dangers lurking in your backyard as well. Many plants are poisonous to rabbits and our domesticated pets cannot tell the difference, despite what you may have heard. Dirt and dampness can harbor many forms of bacteria that can cause a bunny to become quite ill or die (worms, coccidia or pseudamonas for instance). Vines, sprinklers, yard tools and toys can severely injure or kill a rabbit at play.
A friend of ours had what she thought was a “bunny safe” backyard—until her lovely brown mini lop broke her neck hopping through some vines elegantly arched over a wall. There are no longer any ‘arches’ and the friend routinely cuts all ground level vines.
I Went Out to See Chocolate and He was Dead!
We frequently get calls from people who did indeed go out to visit their bunny only to find him dead, or in a very dire condition. What happened? Rabbits are extremely susceptible to the elements, especially heat. Temperatures above eighty (80) degrees can cause heat stroke and/or death, especially when rabbits are left in direct sunlight, or in badly ventilated housing structures. Signs of heat stress include panting, drooling, rapid breathing or pulse—and lethargy. If bunny shows any of these signs, wipe down his ears with a cool rag, put him in his carrier along with a large ice bottle and GET TO THE VET IMMEDIATELY, it is a life or death situation. Heat is the number one killer of out-door pet rabbits.
There are ways to reduce the weather risks for out-of-doors rabbits: misters, fans, shaded patios and frozen bottles of [water]—but none of them is fail-proof. And keeping a rabbit in a garage, however well-lit and ventilated, is downright unfair! How dreadfully lonely and bored they must be!
The Neighbor’s Dog Ate My Bunny!
Cats, birds, dogs, hawks and snakes…all predators of your pet bunny. Rabbits are prey animals, and as our pets are domesticated prey animals they do not have the wherewithal or the avenues to escape that their wild cousins have. Moreover, a predator doesn’t have to “get” your pet in order to cause harm. A rabbit can have a heart attack from fear (very common), or he could run crazy (again, in fear) and break his neck or his back or a leg! Many sturdy hutches have been ripped apart by “the neighbor’s dog.” I can’t tell you how often we hear the words, “Oh, I had a bunny when I was little, but the neighbor’s dog got into our backyard and ate it.” Or “My dog only chased my bunny and he just died!” Can you imagine the agony? The terror? Your average person wouldn’t consider leaving their hamster outside to live! Why a rabbit? Anxiety, Grouchiness and…Bunny Dancing?
Anyone who has seen a joyous bunny zip across the floor, jump in the air and flip himself around, ears and toes akimbo “dancing” just for the pure joy of being a bunny—knows what we mean when we say: “My bunny is my best source of anxiety relief.” We defy anyone to resist just a little smile when a bunny sits up in front of you ‘begging’ for attention or goodies! Even the most natural of bunny acts, cleaning the face or ears, is adorable and entertaining. Bunnies are very clever and playful, and if given the opportunity they will entertain you for hours on end. Remember: A boring bunny is a bored bunny!Whatever the reason—for you, for bunny, for both of you—bring your bunny inside to live with you as a part of your family. They are adorable, litter box trainable (like cats), curious, intelligent and affectionate pets. With a little time and effort we guarantee that you will be just as pleased as bunny…if not more so.