On the Bunny Trail
Approximately fifteen years ago, I adopted my first bunny from the SPCA. Never having had a pet bunny before, I read everything I could find about taking care of them. After about two weeks, I realized that I had really been missing out. Bunnies are fabulous pets! They have personalities that are similar to dogs. They come when called and like to play with toys. Some will even initiate and play games like peek-a-boo and hide and go seek. They can also be litter trained. Rabbits have huge personalities that are rarely truly appreciated.
Above is a picture of my bunny Oliver who passed away right before we were ready to launch the blog. He was eight years old and went very peacefully. All of the articles feature him so I decided he should still be a part of the pet corner. He put a lot into On the Bunny Trail and he was just plain awesome and deserves to be here.
Toys are important to your bunny’s well-being. They need mental stimulation and exercise just like any other animal. Rabbits have natural urges to dig and chew so keep this in mind when looking for toys.
Cardboard boxes, tissue boxes (with any plastic removed), cardboard paper towel or toilet paper rolls and chew sticks are popular with most bunnies.
Willow is a favorite among bunnies. I have a willow tree and used to cut a small branch (without leaves) for my bunnies occasionally and they loved it.
A digging box filled halfway with hay, shredded paper or dirt is another big hit.
Every bunny I’ve had has loved towels and blankets. I always made my own. Sherpa is good material to use to make bunny blankets. They like to roll them and burrow in them. Below is Oliver burrowing in a blanket that I made him.
You can also buy toys made just for bunnies at most pet stores. Beware when shopping though; a lot of store-bought toys will have tiny bells inside that can harm your bunny if they chew through to the middle. I would recommend staying clear of those.
I have bought several toys from pet stores throughout the years. Oliver had a store-bought sisal carrot and toss toy that he liked.
Apple chew sticks are also a good toy. As with any pet, each bunny is an individual and will have personal preferences.
The bottom line is you don’t have to spend a lot of money on rabbit toys if you don’t want to. They tend to like simple things you can find around the house. Even store-bought toys aren’t too expensive. Below are some other store-bought toys that my rabbits and friends of mine with rabbits have liked over the years.
I would like to start by emphasizing that housing should be indoors. Bunnies are wonderful and social creatures. I hope you will take this into consideration when deciding to get one.
Obviously, everyone has a unique living situation. You’ll have to come up with what works best for you and your pet using what you have available and what you can afford. Here are a few things to consider before purchasing or building a cage or enclosure:
Bunny Personality – Not all bunnies are the same. Some are more timid than others. One may thrive in an environment where they can roam freely about the house. While another may feel more secure in a cage or playpen. It’s not an exact science so trial and error is part of the process.
Bunny Size – Are you getting a Dwarf rabbit, a Giant Flemish or something in between? Bunnies come in all different sizes.
Time – How much time will your bunny spend outside of their cage or enclosure? If they will be confined most or all of the time, than it will need to be larger.
Litter – Is your bunny litter trained? A bunny that is not is most likely going to be confined all of the time. A bunny that is, needs plenty of room for a litter pan.
Other Animals & Children – Consider the dynamic of your household. Do you have dogs, cats or other animals that you may need to protect your bunny from. In a household with children (especially small children), your bunny will need to be confined for the bunny’s safety.
Cage Supplies – There are quite a few things that need to fit inside whatever you choose. They should always have something soft to lie down on. Most bunnies love blankets. It is also very important that they have a place to hide. You can use a cardboard box (which bunnies love) or a store-bought house. A litter pan. Food and water bowls, hay and toys.
Placement – Make sure to place cages in areas that avoid drafts. You want your bunny to be part of the social structure of the household but in a place that allows for a quiet retreat if he needs it. The ability to look out a window is great, just make sure he’s not in the direct sunlight from the window that could overheat him.
Now it’s time to decide on roaming free around the house or in a room, an enclosure or a cage. Basically, bigger is usually better. They should have as much room as possible to hop, jump and play. If you decide on a cage, don’t use one with a wire bottom because it can cause ulcers on their feet. It is best to use a cage with a solid floor to it. A large dog crate is a good option.
When I use a large dog crate, I always drape a sheet over the back one-third of the cage. This helps them to feel more secure. If your bunny is comfortable enough, it can also provide a secure hiding place without cutting into the limited play space. That will not work for every rabbit. Most rabbits will also want a box or house to hide in addition to the cover. It depends on how secure they feel.
Oliver is pictured in the dog crate below. He does not have a hiding place because he was very comfortable in his surroundings and never used it when I put one in. The green container is his litter pan. Since Oliver is in some of the pictures, just to give you a point of reference for size, he was a dwarf rabbit and weighed 4 lbs.
Many people allow their bunny roam free around the house or in a room. You will need to bunny proof if you want to do that. They are chewers and will chew on wires. Chewing on wires doesn’t usually turn out well. That being said, once you have bunny proofed, it is a wonderful thing to let them roam free. Even if you are unable to do that, your bunny still needs to have some time outside of his/her cage every day or an enclosure large enough for adequate exercise.
My favorite option is the playpen. They are large enough for all the bunny supplies with plenty of room for toys and play. The only downside is that the top is open. This may be an issue if you have other animals (especially cats). You can always put something on top.
Due to my other pets over the years, cats and dogs, I was hesitant to let any of my bunnies roam the house freely. I used a combination of cages and playpens. This enabled them to have plenty of room to jump, play and interact with everyone while remaining safe.
At nighttime, they slept in an elevated cage or dog crate. Rabbits are prey animals. Feeling secure is essential to their well-being. I have found that all of my bunnies over the years did very well having an elevated cage or crate at night. Bunnies are curious creatures and get bored.
Alternating between a daytime and nighttime cage can give them something to look forward to. Mine were transferred into the playpen during the day with different toys etc. Not all bunnies will like this. I would suggest that if you do this, you maintain a daily routine with the same cages/playpens. To keep them feeling secure, routine and familiarity are important.
It made the morning really easy. After I put them in their nighttime cages, I cleaned the playpens for the next day so that all I had to do was put them and their greens in in the morning.
I have always used towels and blankets for my rabbit’s cages. I made my own blankets out of Sherpa and fleece. They seemed to love the blankets and it saved me from having to deal with bedding. It will increase your laundry quite a bit. I did one load a week of just rabbit towels and blankets. However, it allowed me to change the cage and playpen daily. Hygienically, I think it is a nicer way to go. My bunny Oliver loved to play with the blankets! So in essence they serve as toys too.
Bunnies are fragile creatures and have sensitive respiratory systems. It is important to take this into consideration when choosing a bedding/litter. You never want to use pine or cedar shavings or clay cat litter. I used Care Fresh as litter and changed and washed out the litter pan daily. Changing it daily is just my preference. They do make a litter just for bunnies which are small white pellets. It is usually sold in pet stores.
They need to have access to fresh hay and water at all times. I used a hay rack and water bottle that hung on the cage and playpen. This keeps the water and hay clean. It also keeps from cluttering the play area. For the food pellets, I used a heavy ceramic bowl. They will chew on plastic and if the bowl is too light, it will get knocked over constantly. And, of course, don’t forget the toys! If you are interested in what to feed your bunny, check out my article on bunny diet.
I keep a spray bottle with 2 parts water and 1-part white vinegar for daily cleaning of the cages. It is safe, neutralizes any urine odors, and cleans really well. Whenever it needs it, I wash the cage and playpen with antibacterial dish soap and hot water. It is important to make sure that you rinse it very well and let it dry completely before letting the bunny back in it. Avoid using any chemicals near your rabbit.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to creating a living environment for your bunny. I have seen some amazing bunny habitats on Pinterest. Use your imagination and have fun!
I do want to make a note. The playpens are hands down the best pet accessory that I have ever bought. Each playpen uses a mat that can be machine washed as often as you like. You can purchase replacement mats as needed as well. I purchased mine over fifteen years ago and they are both still going strong. I have used them for more situations than I can even list with all different types of animals. They are not only great for bunnies, they are very handy to have around if you have multiple animals.