If you have ever set foot in a local pet store, you may have noticed that for every 30 shelves with items for dogs and cats there may be one for rabbits (if you are really lucky). Most of the time, that one shelf isn’t even just for rabbits, it’s for small animals in general, which includes completely different species such as hamsters, guinea pigs, and chinchillas. If that wasn’t annoying enough, they also offer us the most teeny tiny cages they could find and advertise them as the ideal housing for our rabbits. Nonsense! Rabbits are very active and love to run and jump and be entertained. They don’t want to sit in a small cage all day, where besides from eating and sleeping there isn’t much else to do. Such a cage is really only acceptable in combination with a playpen that is always accessible or with the door open (almost) constantly. When we adopted Bunny he had a small cage like that and he was used to spending most of his time in it. We didn’t want to change too much too quickly, so we kept it for a while. The first few weeks he slept all day and all night, rarely hopped around, and showed no interest in his surroundings, even though the cage was open almost constantly. Binkies never happened.
We thought that was just his personality, but after several weeks he became more active, curious, and explored the house. I am convinced now that he was simply depressed from being confined in a small, uninteresting space for too long. As a child I had a rabbit named Snuffles with similar “lazy” characteristics and I cringe when I think about how we kept him. He lived in an aquarium. Only came out when 7-year-old me wanted him around. I also remember that my rabbit’s sleeping schedule did not correlate with my school schedule, so it often happened that he simply slept through the assigned out-of-cage time. Not a good life.
When looking for the ideal housing, we have to keep in mind what a rabbit needs to be happy: They like to have space for running and jumping. They like to have a safe place to hide in (one for each rabbit) with at least two exits, such as a house made of wood or cardboard (rabbits don’t like to feel trapped; hence the two exits). They like to have food, water, and a litter box. They like to have a comfortable place for sleeping. They like to have toys for entertainment. The ideal housing must be big enough to satisfy all of these needs. 6.5 square feet per rabbit is a good number to start with. I found this online calculator that recommends even more space if you are interested: http://www.cagecalc.de/
Let’s have a look at some of our options.
Fenced In: Use a playpen or garden fence elements (held together with zip ties) to build a safe home for your rabbit. It’s a great idea to put down vinyl or plastic and top it off with a rug, cork, or piece of carpet to keep your wood floor or regular carpet clean. The fence should be at least 30″ high and all items a rabbit could climb on should be about 30″ away from it to avoid an escape.
Cubed: Wire storage cubes (available at stores like Target or Walmart) are super versatile and can be used for a variety of cages – as simple or as elaborate as you like. You can tie the elements together with zip ties and use dowel rods as leverage for wooden boards that serve as second/third stories (Did you know that home improvement stores cut wood for you for free?). You can find many more examples and ideas if you search for “storage cube cage” online. Again, placing vinyl, cork, or plastic under a rug on top of your regular flooring would ensure that it stays clean and safe.
Upcycled: Take a piece of already existing furniture and turn it into a cage! You can use an entertainment center or sideboard, for example, and replace the doors with wire and then remove the middle walls or cut holes through them, so your rabbit can hop around. You can add pieces of stick-on cabinet liner and top it off with towels or carpet to keep the wood safe and your rabbit comfortable. Especially if you combine this solution with a playpen this is a nice and stylish option. The example in the picture is great, because the wire is on both sides of the cage, which keeps the air flowing, and there is also a private space for the bun to hide in.
Rabbit Room: If you have the space, a whole room makes for a great cage! It’ll be spacious, you can decorate it in a fun, safe, and exciting way, and it’ll be easy to just close the door when you need to confine your rabbit (or hide the mess from visitors). Another option is to bunny proof one room in the house (such as the living room or a bedroom) and add baby gates, so your rabbit cannot get out. That way your bun has plenty of space while still being confined and safe. Especially for children this is a great option. After all, they’d quickly learn to consistently clean up their toys and clothes from the floor. ;)
Free-Range: Our Bunny is king of the house. We rabbit proofed just about every room and keep the door of the one unsafe room closed. He still has an area that is his, though, with a house and several sleeping spots. We love the fact that Bunny can be a part of family life not only when we allow him out of his cage, but whenever he feels like it. It’s fun to watch TV and have him come up on the couch to cuddle. I also love waking up and seeing Bunny already waiting for me.
DIY: You can make your own cage with a simple sanding tool, a hammer, hinges, and nails. Check your local home improvement store and go with the wood widths and thicknesses they have available. Get someone there to cut the lengths according to your wishes. They will also have inexpensive wire you can secure in between two pieces of wood. It definitely helps to draw it out for yourself first and decide where the nails will go and in what order the parts should be assembled. If you want to use lacquer to protect the wood or add a fun color, ask for products safe for baby/children’s toys.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks so much for reading! We have a separate post that offers ideas for furniture options. I’d also love to add more pictures of different rabbit housings to this post, so feel free to submit yours here, on facebook, or by emailing us.