Cleaning of the rabbit’s habitat/cage is one of the main tasks when you keep these cute furry animals. When it comes to a frequency – there are daily cleaning and more detailed, weekly cleaning.
The cleaning is simply necessary activity which will :
- decrease the spread of potential disease caused by bacteria and viruses which can also affect your health
- reduce the bad smell
- reduce the number of allergens which can affect you
- keep your rabbits happy as they are fairly clean animals and like to live in such environment
- regular daily cleaning will make the weekly cleaning much easier for you
How does the rabbit’s cage cleaning look like? What do you need for cleaning? Is it necessary to disinfect the cage? Which parts? How often do you need to change the bedding, the litter, the water? Is there something during the cleaning process that can tell you more about your pet’s health? Do you need to check up its poop before you get rid of it? Is there a difference in cleaning the wooden, wire, metal cages and hutches? Which disinfection solution is the best for this purpose?
I am sure you know a lot about cleaning in general. I won’t pretend that rabbit’s cage cleaning is a complicated issue that requires some professional skills and techniques but I will be happy to share all my findings related to this topic including the answers to the questions mentioned above.
If some of the tips and information from this article help you to perform this task more efficiently and with better results, my mission is accomplished.
Daily Cleaning Routine
Regular daily cleaning will save you the trouble when it comes time for more detailed weekly cleaning. That is why you should never skip it.
The perfect would be to do the cleaning twice a day, in the morning and in the evening ( on 12 hours). This will take you only a few minutes but it’s worth it as both you and your pets will enjoy in the clean and fresh atmosphere.
The first step is to remove your rabbits from their cage. If your pets live outdoors then you can put them in some protected play area ( give them some food, water and put the litter box along with some toys) such as playpen or rabbit run. If your pets live indoors you can let them roam free but only in the bunny proof area of your home.
Bear in mind that a temporary area where you will rehouse your pets while doing either daily or weekly cleaning needs to be cleaned and disinfected afterward.
Next step is to remove all uneaten food, especially greens ( as the rabbit will not eat it later and if that food remains in the cage it can rot making a bigger mess)
You should also get rid of any broken or damaged toys.
Use small dust-broom and simply sweep up the floor of your pet’s cage removing all soiled hay and poop that didn’t end up in litter box. Be careful and always leave one corner with some used hay untouched (uncleaned).
Rabbits usually mark their territory with their scent and if you return them to a cage that has nothing to do with them( as you removed everything with their odor) they may become stressed. Of course, next time leave some other corner and clean the previously untouched one.
You can also change the hay inside of the litter box ( if you put it there, as many owners prefer hay racks placed just above the litter box). Provide fresh hay. Your pets should always have access to unlimited amounts of hay as this is a crucial element for their health.
You don’t have to change the litter every day, it is advisable to do that on 3-5 days but you should remove all poop you can find on a daily basis. When removing a poop, take a better look as poop can tell you a lot about your pet’s health. Any change in their poop can be a sign of a health issue.
Wash the food and water bowls ( or water bottles, depending on what does your rabbit use) and refill it with fresh food and water. While washing, take the opportunity and check how much food and water your pets are taking. Lack of appetite can indicate some disease and if your rabbit drinks small amounts of water that can lead to dehydration.
While cleaning take a closer look at the cage itself. Detect any damages and discover how they are made. If your pet is chewing on parts of the cage, that is not good. Either you don’t provide chewing toys or maybe your pets are depressed or bored.
For any waste from your pet’s cage use disposable bags and it is advisable to use gloves while doing the cleaning.
And this is mostly it. No big deal but gives great results!
Weekly Cleaning Routine
Rabbits cages require more detailed cleaning once a week. If you do your homework on a daily basis, weekly cleaning will require less time and effort. What else can make this task easier is the cages itself! So pay attention when buying a cage/hutch. It has to be easy-to-clean habitat ( the easiest for cleaning are those with wire mesh frame and a removable plastic bottom, but X-pen can also be quite easy to clean housing solutions)
The begging is the same, remove the rabbits by putting them in a safe play area while you do the cleaning.
First make sure you have all cleaning supplies you need. Prepare :
- disposable bags for waste
- some gentle detergent ( safe for animals if possible ) without scent
- vacuum cleaner or dust-broom with dustpan
- a stiff brush or sponge
- it will be good to have some smaller brush ( you can use an old toothbrush )
- disinfect solution
- new bedding
- new litter
- new toys*
Weekly cleaning means that you will thoroughly clean everything that is in the cage or hutch. People usually remove everything out of the cage and starts with the cage floor. If you have wooden bottom you can use a vacuum cleaner to remove hay, poop, hirs and other dirty stuff or you can use a dust broom instead.
If you run into some large piece of poop which is soft and moisten, leave it in the cage as that is most probably night poop ( cecotropes ). This night poop is very beneficial for rabbits as they eat it in order to use vitamins and other nutrients that day poop doesn’t contain. The chances you will ever find this poop is rather slim as rabbits usually eat it late in the evening early in the morning but just in case.
After you remove uneaten food, soiled hay, poop and other stuff from the floor you can do the washing. Use the gentle detergent with no scent as bunnies are very sensitive to scent, warm water and a stiff brush or sponge to scrub the cage. A smaller brush is used for some parts which are harder to reach.
If your cage has a dropping tray, you should remove waste from that part as well and wash it thoroughly.
Don’t forget to wash all other parts of the cage beside the floor including walls/wires, locks... Washing of the cage is followed by disinfection. Rabbits excrete significant amounts of calcium carbonate through their pee. Calcium carbonate can be dissolved by acid. That is why for this purpose, you can use a white ( or apple vinegar even better, especially to kill the bad odor) winger solution as the most natural and not harmful option. This solution will also help you neutralize the odor of urine that comes from ammonia. Use a clean bottle with spray and a mixture of vinegar and water which you can make by yourself. Mix 1 part of water and 1 part of vinegar. Don’t be afraid that this mixture will be too strong, it is just as it should be. If the strong smell of vinegar solutions frightens you, don’t worry the smell will fade quickly, leaving perfectly disinfected cage. Apply disinfectant generously and leave the cage for 10 minutes before you start rinsing thoroughly.
Another option is to use a bleach which is recommended if you have rabbits that suffer from some parasites or bacteria. Regarding bleach – mix 1 part of bleach and 5 parts of water say the experts.
The use of bleach is more appropriate if you clean the outdoor habitat. After using bleach, the hutch should be left air and sundry in a ventilated area for at least 24h before you return your bunnies inside. Bleach is a less practical solution for cleaning indoor cages though.
Rinse well with water paying attention not to leave any residue. If you use a vinegar solution, the residue will not harm your bunnies but if you use any other options such as bleach then rinsing is crucial as residue might be harmful.
Avoid any commercial chemicals for disinfection as they can really harm your gentle pets.
For any solution, you use it is important to let your hutch or cage sundry. Sun/UV rays are excellent disinfectant and help in killing germs. Some owners suggest that you should leave a hutch couple of days in the sun to achieve maximum effect.
I have to outline that if you have a wooden cage then the use of water and vinegar solution can be tricky for the wooden floors ( wires/mesh, of course, can be treated with a solution with no problem). Wood will absorb vinegar and water easily so you need to let this kind of hutch longer time in the sunshine to dry well.
If you let your bunnies return to a wet place, they wouldn’t feel good. Make sure your wooden hutch is completely dry before you let your rabbits in. One of the tricks that can help you is that you don’t use large amounts of water for rinsing but moderate.
After you have finished washing the cage, it’s time to take care of the items from the cage.
Throw away any broken or damaged toys. Even if they are not broken, replace them with other toys. You should give 3 toys to your bunny to play with them for a couple of days then you can put them away and give them another 3. After few days rotate again. Toys that you will put away, wash and disinfect so they are ready to use in the next couple of days.
Some owners suggest avoiding toys made of old paper as it has a specific odor that can make your cage stink more. So if you have planned to give your bunnies old phone books, books, magazines, don’t do it. It is better to provide other chew toys ( wooden sticks, toilet paper tubes, cardboard boxes…)
Replace complete litter in the litter box. Always use bunny safe litters such as paper or wood-based litters but avoid cat litters or those based on pine or cedarwood.
Put fresh hay in the cage and in the hay rack if you have some. Don’t forget to wash the hay rack as well before you put fresh hay in it. By the way, it is much safer to use packed hay for bunnies than cheap farm hay instead. That hay from a local farm may contain fleas.
Replace the bedding. If you use paper or wood-based bedding, to put a new one. If your rabbits have some old soft blanket or other kinds of fabric as bedding do wash them in a washing machine at least once a week and change with the clean ones. Bedding should be washed with unscented detergent to avoid irritations. Dry the bedding using high temperatures to make sure all bacteria are killed.
Although it is recommended to wash the food and water bowls every day, many people don’t do that. In that case, washing food and water dishes are obligatory during weekly cleaning. If your bunnies use a water bottle, after washing it in warm soapy water, I suggest you sterilize it by boiling it in a pot. After washing, all bowls and bottles have to be dry before you make a refill.
If your rabbit’s cage has a litter tray, take it out and wash it thoroughly. First, you empty the tray, wipe it with the cloth or paper towel and then soak it in the vinegar-water solution for 20-30 minutes while you do the rest. The solution should contain less vinegar then disinfectant. Mix 1 part vinegar with 4 parts of water. Rinse the tray and dry well before you refill with litter or hay and put it back.
Don’t forget to clean the area around the cage as well. Note that outdoor hutch will get dirty quicker then indoor cage simply because it is placed outside, in the open.
Be very detailed while you do the weekly cleaning, especially when it come to urine stains, as urine is the biggest source of bad smell coming from the cage.
I appreciate you have taken the time to read our article. I hope you got some answers which will make the cleaning of your rabbit’s cage easier and more satisfying.
Although bunnies are clean animals, they know how to make a mess. However only in a clean and fresh environment, the rabbits can be happy and healthy. I am sure you will put some extra effort and do the best for your furry friends.