Welcome to the wondrous world of rabbit ownership! There’s nothing quite like sharing your home with an energetic, affectionate bunny. If you’re a new rabbit parent, you likely have lots of questions about how to properly set up your rabbit’s home. Creating a comfortable habitat suited to your bunny’s needs may seem daunting at first, but we’ve got you covered! In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn insider tips to quickly transform any cage into a veritable palace perfect for your pet rabbit. From choosing the right enclosure, stocking supplies, to bunny-proofing the space, we walk you through a fool-proof step-by-step process for crafting an amazing abode. Get ready to be the best bunny owner ever with an ecstatic rabbit who can’t wait to hop home! Let’s get started on building your rabbit’s dream domain!
Choosing an enclosure
The most important part of setting up a rabbit cage is choosing the right enclosure. There are a few options to consider:
Wire cages – These cages made of wire mesh are inexpensive and easy to clean, but they don't provide much room for your rabbit to move around. Wire cages should only be used for short periods of time, not as a permanent home.
Plastic bottomed cages – These cages have a plastic bottom with high plastic sides. They provide more space than wire cages and are easy to clean, but can get warm in the summer months.
Wood and wire cages – These spacious cages have a wooden frame with a wire mesh front. The large doors make accessing your rabbit easy for cleaning. The wood frame prevents drafts while the wire allows ventilation.
All-wire pens – An all-wire pen that attaches to a plastic sheet spread on the floor is an good option. These allow you to create a roomy area while confining mess to the plastic flooring. The wire sides provide ventilation.
When choosing an enclosure, go for the largest size possible. The House Rabbit Society recommends a minimum space of 8 square feet for a large rabbit. The more room your bunny has to hop and play, the happier they will be! An exercise pen that attaches to a cage to create even more space is ideal.
If your rabbit will be indoors, look for a cage that is sturdy and well-constructed. Cheap cages may have wire spacing that is too wide, allowing small rabbit feet to get caught. Look for quality materials and proper manufacturing.
For outdoor hutches, be sure to choose a hutch made to withstand the elements. Cedar and plastic hutches hold up best outdoors. Be sure any wire mesh spacing is close enough to prevent predators from reaching in. Proper protection from rain, wind, heat, and cold is a must for outdoor rabbit living.
When selecting your rabbit's home, be sure to choose a cage that is easy for you to access for cleaning. Litter boxes, food bowls, and water bottles should be able to be removed and replaced with little hassle. Large doors that open fully are best for clearing out soiled bedding.
No matter what type of enclosure you select, be sure to provide lots of enrichment items for your rabbit to keep them active and entertained. Tunnels, grass mats, toys, and perches help make a small space seem bigger. With the right supplies, any proper sized cage can become a rabbit paradise!
Supplies you will need
Setting up your rabbit's cage will require gathering some basic supplies beyond just the enclosure itself. Here are some must-have items:
Litter box – Rabbits can be litter trained, so providing an appropriate litter box is essential. Choose a box large enough for your bunny to sit inside. Fill it with paper based litter made specifically for rabbits.
Water bottle – Rabbits drink a lot of water, so a mounted water bottle is more suitable than a bowl, which will get knocked over. Look for a drip-proof bottle with a metal ball bearing sipper tube.
Food bowl – Use a heavy ceramic bowl that can't be tipped over easily. These are safest for your rabbit when filling with heavy food pellets.
Hay rack – An all wire hay rack with small openings allows you to stuff loads of hay inside while preventing waste. Rabbits need constant access to hay.
Bedding – Line the cage floor with absorbent bedding to soak up urine. Paper based bedding or aspen shavings are safest choices. Avoid bedding made from pine or cedar.
Barrier – To keep messy bedding confined, install a barrier like a plastic panel or metal sheet around cage edges. This prevents your bunny from kicking litter out of the cage.
Brush – Rabbits need frequent brushing to reduce shedding and hairballs. Choose a slicker style brush to groom the coat and a shedding blade to remove loose fur.
Nail clippers – Rabbits nails grow quickly and require trimming every 4-6 weeks. Invest in rabbit specific clippers designed for their small nails.
Disinfectant – For cleaning, use a pet-safe disinfectant suitable for rabbits. Avoid harsh chemicals like bleach that can be toxic.
In addition to these essentials, any toys, tunnels, chews, and other enrichment items will help complete your new rabbit habitat. Shop pet stores for items made specifically for rabbits for safety.
Supplies you do NOT need
When shopping for your new rabbit cage, you'll find many products marketed for rabbits that aren't recommended. Here are some unnecessary supplies to avoid:
Exercise balls – Clear plastic balls for rabbits to roll around in may seem fun, but they are extremely stressful for rabbits and can cause injury. Rabbits prefer their feet on the ground at all times.
Rotating carousels – Carousels that rotate a rabbit around a central axis prevent them from having stable footing. Rabbits get no enjoyment from motion sickness!
Mineral licks – While provided in many pet stores, mineral licks are not necessary for domestic rabbits fed a balanced diet of hay, pellets, and vegetables. In fact, overuse of mineral licks can pose a health risk.
Yoghurt drops – Sugary yogurt drops should only be fed occasionally as special treats. Rabbits' main diet should be hay and leafy greens, not sugary snacks.
Wood shavings – Shavings made from aromatic woods like pine and cedar can cause respiratory issues in rabbits due to phenols. Stick to paper or aspen based bedding.
Pee pads – Disposable pee pads seem convenient but aren't very absorbent. They allow urine to pool on top, which can burn sensitive skin. Better to use fabric pads washed frequently.
Towels – Looping terrycloth can catch and tear out nails. Plus towels aren't very absorbent for soaking up urine. Non-abrasive fleece works better.
Bowl water – Bowls filled with water easily spill, and wet dewlap fur can lead to deadly fungal or bacterial infections. Always use mounted water bottles instead.
Salt licks – Rabbits don't actually need supplemental salt licks beyond their normal pellet diet. Excess salt can cause kidney strain.
Muesli Mix – Muesli style mixes with nuts, seeds, and corn kernels can lead to selective feeding. Pellets or compressed hay are healthier.
By avoiding unnecessary add-ons marketed toward rabbits, you can create a safe habitat without any hazardous products. Focus on providing only what your bunny needs to live their healthiest life.
Step 1: Let your rabbit out
Before setting up your rabbit's new cage, start by letting them out in the designated rabbit area for some exercise first. Setting up the cage while your rabbit is still inside can be stressful for them. Allowing them to roam freely will let them burn off energy before needing to be confined again. Bunny-proof the area fully by removing any hazardous electrical cords or poisonous houseplants. Block access underneath furniture and to carpeted areas to prevent digging and chewing. Scatter some fresh herbs or vegetable pieces around to occupy your free-roaming rabbit while you work. Be sure to keep an eye on them during this exercise period to ensure they don't get into mischief.
Step 2: Find a good spot
Choose an appropriate spot in your home to set up your rabbit's habitat. If housing them indoors, select a draft-free area that is free of direct sunlight. Near an electrical outlet is ideal for powering devices. Make sure to place the cage away from heating and AC vents that could create temperature fluctuations. Avoid spots next to loud appliances that cause noise disturbances or makes it hard to hear your rabbit. Steer clear of high traffic zones where your bunny could get startled by passersby. An enclosed room or quiet corner of the house works best. For outdoor hutches, select a sheltered, shaded area of the yard that keeps your rabbit protected from wind, rain, and predators. Make sure to place their hutch above damp ground and snow level during winter.
Step 3: Cover the floor
Start setting up your rabbit cage by covering the floor. Place a plastic tarp or corrugated panel underneath the enclosure to protect your floors from any accidents. For indoor setups, interlocking foam play mats also work great at absorbing urine and preventing slippage of the cage. Outdoor cages likely have wire mesh or wood flooring that allows waste to fall through. Place a litter pan underneath to collect droppings if the hutch is elevated. Top the cage floor with a layer of absorbent paper based bedding, recycled paper pellets, or aspen shavings. Do not use aromatic cedar or pine shavings, which contain harmful phenols. Pour an even layer 1-2 inches deep across the whole floor.
Step 4: Set up the litter box
Rabbits can be litter trained, so provide a dedicated litter box. Place the box in one corner of the cage floor. Use a high-sided cat litter pan or purchase one made especially for rabbits. Fill the box with paper litter made from recycled newspaper or paper pellets. Do not use clay litter, which can be harmful if ingested. Pour a few inches of litter into the box. You may wish to put a handful of hay in one corner of the litter box to encourage your rabbit to spend time inside. As your rabbit uses their litter box, you can add some of their poop and soaked urine clumps back into the litter box so they associate the box with going to the bathroom. Maintain the litter box by scooping out soiled areas and adding fresh litter frequently. Dump everything, wash, and refresh weekly. Having a properly maintained litter box makes cleaning the rest of the habitat much easier!
Step 5: Give your rabbit lots of hay
Hay is essential to a rabbit's diet, providing roughage to promote healthy digestion and grind down teeth. Place a hay rack in the cage and stuff it fully with fresh timothy, orchard grass, oat hay, or other rabbit-safe hays. Refill the hay rack daily, allowing your rabbit unlimited access. You can also scatter loose handfuls of hay across the cage floor to forage in. In addition to food value, hay provides enrichment by satisfying nibbling urges and promoting natural burrowing behaviors. Rotate between different hays or mix blends to keep your bunny interested. High-quality hay should make up the biggest share of your rabbit's daily diet. Having unlimited access inside the cage prevents bad behaviors like chewing on cage wires or bathroom habits outside the litter.
Step 6: Place food and water bowls
Provide your rabbit with bowls for their main diet. Use a heavy, tipped over proof ceramic bowl for their rabbit food pellets. Place a daily portion in the bowl, based on package directions or your vet's instructions. Refill as needed, or transition to scheduled feedings a few times a day. Always make sure empty pellets are replaced with fresh ones before they go stale.
Include a water source like a mounted bottle or water dispenser. Avoid bowls, which easily spill. Make sure the bottle tip is functioning properly to dispense water when licked. Refresh water daily. Position both the food bowl and water bottle close to the ground and accessible from inside the cage. Place them a distance away from the soiled litter box to avoid contamination. Having free access to hay, pellets, and water inside the cage means your rabbit has all their dietary needs met in a sanitary setup.
Step 7: Provide a hiding house
To make your rabbit feel secure, provide them with a little house for hiding and sleeping. Place a small cardboard box, wood shelter, or fabric burrow space in one corner of the cage. This gives your bunny a place to retreat and rest comfortably. Line the floor with soft hay or fabric scraps to cushion it. An enclosed shelter makes rabbits feel less stressed and vulnerable when they need down time. Alternatively, you can lean a wooden plank against the side of the cage to create a nook underneath. Adding a hideaway contributes to your rabbit's overall sense of safety in their environment.
Step 8: Give your rabbit toys
Though it may look small, your rabbit's cage should be filled with enrichment opportunities. Provide a variety of toys to keep them stimulated and prevent boredom. Place chew sticks from willow, apple, or hazelnut wood in the cage for gnawing. Add a handful of safe, untreated wicker balls or seagrass mats to nibble on. Stuff empty toilet paper tubes with hay or treats. Set sturdy tunnels or cardboard concrete forms on their sides to run through. Hang cabbages or romaine lettuce heads with clips for swinging leafy greens. Rotate novel toys from their collection to mix it up. Having activities inside the cage prevents destructive chewing behaviors from developing.
Step 9: Let your rabbit into their new home
After fully outfitting your rabbit's cage with all needed supplies, lure them into their new domain! Set out a food trail leading up to and inside the open cage door. Once they are fully inside munching away, slowly close the door so they don't get startled. Sit nearby and talk soothingly as your rabbit gets used to their new surroundings. Open the cage door after a while so they don't feel trapped immediately. Allowing exploratory exits and re-entries will build your rabbit's confidence. Pretty soon they'll regard their well-stocked cage as a safe and entertaining space! Reward your rabbit for entering the cage willingly with snacks and affection. With time, patience, and positive associations, your bunny will happily hop home to their habitat.
There you have it – a step-by-step guide to quickly and properly setting up an enriching home for your pet rabbit! Follow these tips and you'll have a healthy and happy hopper. Always provide ample space, clean litter habits, enriching activities, and proper diet. With the right setup, your rabbit can thrive inside their comfy cage.