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Rabbit Care

Rabbit Hutches and Cages

Keep domestic rabbits indoors in a cage.

Every rabbit owner should know that the safest place to keep a rabbit is indoors in a cage. Domestic rabbits are different from their wild relatives. Domestic rabbits do not tolerate extreme temperatures well, especially in the hot summer months.

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Rabbit Care Q & A

Be careful handling rabbits.

Tips and Advice For New Rabbit Owners

Rabbits are fragile animals that must be handled carefully. Their bones are so delicate that the muscles in their powerful hind legs can easily overcome the strength of their skeletons. As a result and if not properly restrained, struggling rabbits can break their own spines. To pick up your rabbit, place one hand underneath the front of the rabbit and the other hand underneath his back side, lifting him carefully with both hands and bringing him against your body. Never let a rabbit’s body hang free, and never lift a rabbit by the stomach or by the ears.

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Rabbit Ownership Guide

Choosing Your Rabbit’s Home 

Choosing your rabbit’s home is arguably the most important first step in rabbit ownership. After all this is where your rabbit will be spending a majority of its time while you are away. However, with multiple pet retailers, websites, and pet specialty stores, choosing a rabbit enclosure can be overwhelming. With these tips and suggestions, choosing your rabbit’s home will be an easier and better informed decision.

Hutch vs. Cage

Most pet retailers carry two types of rabbit enclosures: cages and hutches. Deciding whether to purchase your rabbit a cage, hutch, or other enclosure type should be based on your own lifestyle choices, surrounding climate, and personal preferences.

Cages: Indoor rabbit owners usually prefer cages over hutches. Cages are usually smaller and better suited for those living in colder climates or with indoor space limitations. If your rabbit belongs to a child or other family member, smaller cages allow the rabbit to be placed in that family member’s room. Additionally, most rabbit cages are made of plastic or metal wire, making them easier to clean than wooden hutches. However keep in mind that cages are usually smaller than hutches and rabbits will need to be taken out for exercise daily.

Hutches: Rabbit hutches have the advantage of being bigger and better suited for outdoor use than rabbit cages. Generally rabbit hutches have greater square feet and included exercise pens. Most hutches have multiple levels and detachable exercise pens, requiring owners to exercise rabbits less often. Rabbit hutches are more durable and weather resistant. Most hutches are raised off the ground, providing better shelter. Additionally, many hutches already have weather proof roofs and side paneling.

Additional Housing Choices: Some rabbit owners, such as those with multiple rabbits or large backyards, prefer to create their rabbit’s home. Some chose to convert dog crates, sheds, barns, pens, and other enclosed units into rabbit quarters.

Other Considerations:

Shelter:  Rabbits are temperature sensitive animals. If your rabbit is housed outdoors make sure your rabbit will be comfortable in both winter and summer months. When choosing an outdoor home, make sure to have an overhanging roof to keep rain out. Also if you live in a colder environment, consider rabbit homes with larger enclosed areas.

Furthermore, even indoor rabbits must be provided with an adequate shade and heat source. If you will be gone most of the day and turn the air or heater off, make sure your rabbit has a way to find relief.

Ventilation: When choosing your rabbit’s hutch, cage, or other living environment make sure there is good air circulation. Rabbits are prone to respiratory problems. Improperly ventilated homes cause bacteria and dust to cumulate, especially with damp hay present. Hutches and cages with side wire or metal paneling offer the best ventilation.

Protection: Rabbits are prey animals. If you choose to place your rabbit outside, neighborhood predators like hawks and coyotes will take notice. Make sure to place your rabbit in a home that has additional enclosed sleeping quarters. This enclosed area should not have any openings predators can get through. Likewise indoor rabbits should be kept safe from cats, dogs, and unsupervised children.

Hideaway: Every rabbit, even indoor ones, should be provided with a proper hiding spot. Again rabbits are prey animals. They are constantly scanning their environment and will react to the slightest noise. Some hutches already come with enclosed hiding spots, while most cages do not. Empty boxes, baskets, or store bought “condos” work just fine to comfort rabbits. Rabbits that are not provided with a hiding spot will be stressed, live shorter lives, and be overall less enjoyable pets.

Taking into account your own lifestyle, surrounding climate, and personal preferences will help you make the best choice for your rabbit’s habitat. After all a rabbit’s home will only be as comfortable as its owner is able to make it. Rabbits can be amusing, loving pets if provided with adequate housing.

Rabbit Enrichment

Rabbits are active, intelligent animals. Rabbits have unique physical and mental needs based on their own individual personalities. If not provided with daily enrichment activities, rabbits may display negative behaviors such as excessive lunging, chewing, or biting. Rabbit owners should first observe their rabbit’s behavior and then provide enrichment activities based on their rabbit’s preferences.

Timid Rabbits: Rabbits are generally shy, bashful animals, but some are especially so. If your rabbit likes to spend its time burrowing, digging, and hiding then base its enrichment activities off this. Provide items like empty wicker baskets, bowls, cardboard boxes, and other hollow items. Fill these hollow items with hay or newspaper shavings to stimulate digging. 

Aggressive Rabbits: Believe it or not some rabbits are quite boisterous. If your rabbit likes to punch, throw, and kick consider providing toys to release this energy. Mobile toys like hanging baby toys, parrot toys, balls, and even slinkies do just the trick! (Note: If your rabbit is abnormally aggressive towards you, this could be a behavioral problem or lack of spaying/neutering)

Adventurous Rabbits: If you notice your rabbit climbing to the top of your couch or exploring unknown crevices of your home, then you have an adventurer. Providing items like cat trees, ramps, and mazes will satisfy your rabbit’s inner pioneer. Additionally, providing extra exercise time may help release some of this energy.

Chewing Rabbits: All rabbits love to chew, which is why hay should be readily available at all times. However, some rabbits love to chew so much they will begin chewing other items such as cage walls and furniture. To prevent destructive behavior, provide your rabbit with untreated cardboard boxes, tree branches, pine cones, or blank or soy ink printed paper.

Providing rabbits with daily enrichment will reinforce positive behaviors by providing an outlet for extra energy. A busier, happier bunny will make for a more amusing and loving companion.

Understanding Bunny Behavior

Unlike cats and dogs, rabbits are shy, non-vocal animals. Most people are unfamiliar with rabbit behavior as rabbits are less common pets. Prior to training and building a relationship, rabbit owners must first get to know their bunny. Understanding the following common behaviors will help you get to know your rabbit better and build a lifelong relationship. 

Binkies: A sure sign of pure bunny bliss is binking. Binking occurs when a rabbit jumps and then mid-air twists and turns their feet and head. A rabbit may begin binking while standing still or while running. Binking is sort of a rabbit equivalent to a human heel click.

Sprawling: Calm and content rabbits will lay on their stomachs with their front and hind legs stretched out. Rabbits are prey animals, meaning they are constantly scanning their environment. When a rabbit lays in complete disregard for its surroundings, this means they feel calm and safe.

Flopping: Another positive rabbit behavior is flopping. Rabbits will quickly fall from an upright position to its side and lie their motionless for a short time. This is sign that your rabbit is calm and content.

Chin Rubbing: At first glance it seems strange that rabbits are rubbing their chins on objects and even humans. However, rabbits have glands inside their chins which secrete territorial hormones. Chin rubbing is the equivalent of a dog urinating or a cat rubbing.

Thumping: Contrary to what popular children’s movies may have taught, thumping is not a positive rabbit behavior. When a rabbit thumps, they are signaling to other rabbits that there is danger near. You may catch your rabbit thumping if they see a dog or a new visitor to your home.

Boxing: Boxing is a rabbit defense mechanism in which a rabbit stands on its hind legs and punches with its fore legs. Many times boxing is a territorial defense. If you observe your rabbit boxing when you place your hand in its home, consider petting and reassuring your rabbit prior to anything else.

Screaming & Squealing: Both screaming and squealing are signs your rabbit is stressed, in danger, or in pain. Avoid witnessing this negative behavior at all costs.

Keep in mind, rabbits are timid prey animals and cannot be trained through negative punishment. Negative behavior must be corrected through understanding the cause of the behavior, positive reinforcement, and patience. Understanding your rabbit’s behavioral signs is an essential precursor to training and developing a relationship with your rabbit.

Choosing a Rabbit

Choosing your new rabbit goes far beyond just a simple meet and greet at the local pet store. Considerable time and thought must go into choosing your new bunny. Although each rabbit has its own individual personality, some important generalizations about rabbits can guide you to choosing the best companion.


Rabbits are highly prolific animals. Even spayed and neutered rabbits base many behaviors off the need to reproduce. Female rabbits will indicate their need to build a nest and protect their family. Female rabbits may dig frequently and are generally more territorial. Male rabbits will base many behaviors after their need to find a mate. Male rabbits tend to be more outgoing and adventuresome.


Rabbit breeds may be grouped into the following size categories dwarf, small/medium, and large/giant. Generally smaller rabbits are more nervous, but live longer lives. Larger rabbits tend to be mellower, but live shorter lives. Other than these generalizations, rabbit personalities cannot be categorized by breed. Most rabbits have their own personalities based on prior experiences, rather than predisposed breed characteristics.


Rabbits age almost like humans! Younger, baby rabbits tend to more destructive and playful. Young rabbits have not yet reached reproductive age, so it is almost impossible to tell their personality at this point. Teenage rabbits can be difficult as nature tells them it is time to reproduce. While, older rabbits tend to be less active. Older rabbits at local shelters and rescues may be ideal for pet owners seeking a mellow pet.

Where to Adopt:

Where you adopt your rabbit from may also indicate whether your rabbit was previously spayed or neutered. Whether or not your rabbit is spayed or neutered is extremely important. Regardless of a rabbit’s gender, breed, age, or previous experiences, a spayed or neutered rabbit will be better behaved and healthier than a reproductive rabbit. Many animal shelters and rescues have rabbits that have been previously fixed. While pet stores almost always have unfixed rabbits. Potential owners may save money and a rabbit by adopting a previously spayed or neutered rabbit. Additionally, male rabbits are sometimes preferred as they are usually cheaper to neuter. Spaying female rabbits involves a major surgery.       

Deciding to adopt a rabbit is only the first step in successful rabbit ownership. Choosing your rabbit should be a deliberate and carefully planned decision. Rabbits will be happier and better behaved pets when owners provide adequate care and attention at all stages of rabbit ownership.