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If you're one of the growing number of people who wants to keep your pet rabbit with you in the home as opposed to outside in a hutch, you've probably already realised that their care needs and the provision you must make for them is slightly different than that which is required for outdoor rabbits. House rabbits often live considerably longer lives than outdoor bunnies- up to 12 years in some cases, and so the argument for keeping your rabbit inside as a household pet is a strong one. Rabbits are sociable, easily bored animals, and keeping your rabbit inside the home can make it easier to spend time with them and keep them entertained. However even rabbits which receive a large amount of interaction with people still need the company of their own kind, so you should not try to keep one rabbit on their own.
While giving your rabbit free run of the house is one of the best things you can do for them in terms of supporting their exercise needs and giving them lots to do, this does of course mean that you will need to rabbit- proof the house or any rooms which they have access to, to protect both your pet and your furniture. Even if you intend for your rabbit to be loose in the house most of the time, you will still need to provide a hutch in a quiet corner for them to sleep in or escape to if you have guests or people around that might make your rabbit nervous, and to close them away safely within when needed. Rabbits are prolific chewers, and will chew furniture, curtains, electrical cords, shoes- more or less anything within their reach that they can sink their teeth into given the chance! You can buy cable tidies and plastic tubes to protect electrical cords within the home, and you should make sure that you cover or pack away any cords or electrical cables that your bunny might come across. Providing rabbit- safe toys and blocks for chewing on and making sure that your rabbit is not lonely and receives enough attention is vital in minimising the chances of your rabbit finding their own entertainment and grinding down their teeth on your possibly expensive and unsuitable furniture and knickknacks. Cardboard boxes, wooden blocks and hard balls all make good toys and play areas for rabbits.
Rabbits are naturally very clean animals, and will not be happy or thrive in a dirty environment. Pick up after your rabbit regularly, and of course, make sure that their hutch, enclosure and foods bowls are all regularly cleaned and washed. Rabbits are relatively easy to litter train, and will usually go to the toilet in the same place every time. If the rabbit is already used to using a litter tray, you may find that simply placing the tray in the area of your choosing will be sufficient to encourage your pet to do his business in that spot. If your rabbit is not already house trained or used to using a litter tray, you will probably need to work by a process of trial and error, identifying the area of the hutch or room where your rabbit prefers to go to the toilet, and placing the litter tray there. Make sure that the litter you select is safe for your rabbit- paper based litters or those made of biodegradable materials are best. Do not use clay, clumping litters, scented litters or wood pellets, as your rabbit may try to eat them, which can be very dangerous.
Generally, rabbits can live side by side with other household pets such as cats and dogs quite happily, provided that the other animal in question is well trained and does not view your rabbit as prey. Introduce other pets to your rabbit carefully and slowly, and make sure that your rabbit can always escape to safety if he is nervous. Some rabbits will play quite happily with other pets like dogs and puppies, but always supervise play, as dogs can sometimes be rather boisterous and could inadvertently hurt your rabbit. As with any animal, some pets get on better with company, particularly of other species, than others, and some animals just won't take to sharing their space and environment no matter how hard you try to encourage them.
In the wild, rabbits graze grass as a large part of their diet, so if you can provide time and space for your house rabbit to be able to play outside safely in an enclosure, then all the better. If you are able to keep your rabbit as an indoor/ outdoor pet, then be mindful of the differences in temperature between the indoor and outdoor environment in order to avoid shocking your rabbit's system with extremes of heat and cold. Remember that rabbits housed indoors most of the time will be less hardy and resilient to the vagaries of the British weather, and will probably not develop the same thick winter coat which rabbits housed outdoors will have in the winter, so take care that your rabbit is not too cold when outside. Similarly in the summertime, make sure that your rabbit does not overheat, either in the house or when playing in the sun.
If you are considering getting a house rabbit or bringing an existing rabbit to live indoors, there are a fair few bits and pieces you will need to have ready beforehand to make sure you've thought of everything. Use this checklist to make sure that you're fully prepared.
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