Sharing Your Home with Rabbits
You share your living space with other people, dogs, mice, cats, insects, reptiles, and all kinds of living creatures. Rabbits have been sharing the inside of our homes for decades. Their indoor lives became “official” in the 1980s when the House Rabbit Society (www.rabbit.org) was established. Prior to that, rabbits living inside a house were not the norm.
Some current and previous generations kept rabbits in a hutch outside the house. Often near the wall of the house, or in or near a barn. In a hutch, rabbits are subject to wire floors that cut their feet, give them sore hocks, cold and hot weather that made it hard to breath, aggressive dogs that could scare them to death and bears and other wild animals that would attempt to eat them.
The Birth of Exotics
In today’s veterinarian language, rabbits, birds, reptiles, and unusual mammals are considered exotic pets. Bringing them inside our homes, people realized that rabbits and other animals could be litter box trained. That was a huge advance as they were thought to be messy. Rabbits showed that they could be companions, not pets. They ate and drank out of bowls and munched their hay out of the litter box. Keeping the mess in one place. They are active, exciting, loving and beautiful. They also sleep most of the day so that people who work could be sure they were comfortably in their home with no need for attention.
Sharing the Space
We’ve tried every manner of shared space in my house. Every rabbit has their own exercise pen with a litter box, hidey box, toys, food and water bowls, and bed. They need to have their own area to feel safe and own their retreat.
With some bonded pairs they could have the whole house all day. Our current bonded pair, Ginger and Rocky, crazy banana-heads we call them, sleep all day and wake near dinnertime when they have their banana treat. There is a lot of zooming through the living room in that time by Ginger. She only walks on carpet but sits outside her pen to watch us at night. Rocky hangs out in the hay box and is anxious to be picked up and rest on his human mom’s chest. He often licks my whole face and then starts on my hands. He is the only bun we’ve ever had that wanted to cuddle rather than run around.
We have given our single five-year old, Lena, the office where her Daddy sits all day. She adores him. She sits under his chair until the sun moves. Then she moves with the sun. It works out well for her. He is “her” person. She feels safe and comfortable with him around. Her exercise pen is in there and she can retreat when she wants. But she stays with her daddy most of the day.
Our other single, 12-year old Breezy, doesn’t come out of her personal space much because she is elderly but she has run of the house twice a day. In the morning before any of the others are awake, she comes out to do bunstruction on her toys
and boxes. Ripping cardboard and throwing plastic baby keys around the room. She only walks on carpet so she limits herself to the those rooms with rugs. In the afternoon at dinner time, she comes and sits in a tunnel near the kitchen to wait for her pellets.
They all return to their pens without any hassle.
A Lot of Options
There are many scenarios for a rabbit to live in your house. Some like one room; some work best in a big pen with monitored exercise time outside the enclosure. Others need a smaller space because of physical handicaps and need help with exercise. Either way, all rabbits need time to run, jump, binky and stretch their legs and move their bodies.
Try out different options based on the comfort and capabilities of a rabbit. If they are a wood chewer, a carpet digger or a plastic seeker, make sure that their spaces are rabbit proofed and that they are monitored during free time.