If you are a new rabbit parent then you might be confused about proper rabbit housing solutions. Should a rabbit live outside or not? People’s opinions on this are quite divided so you might come across the people who strongly suggest either indoor or outdoor housing options.
There are many dangers lurking your rabbit outside. Although some people claim that rabbits that live outdoors can enjoy more freedom and a natural environment, the truth is that there are numerous threats that can harm your bunny. This is the main reason why a great number of rabbit’s parents decide to house their pets inside.
What Are Rabbit Hazards Outdoors?
1. Bugs – Different insects can be very harmful to your pet. Some of them can be harmful to humans as well, they are able to transmit some deadly diseases. For example ticks. One tick that is feeding on your rabbit will not cause great damage but several of them can kill your pet. Also, ticks can transmit diseases that can be fatal to rabbits. Especially deer ticks that can carry Lyme disease.
Fleas are also rabbit’s enemies. Pay attention to flies and conditions called Flystrike. This is a deadly condition that has to be treated immediately. It develops when a fly lays the eggs usually around the rabbit’s bottom. Maggots soon hatch from the eggs and find their way into the rabbit’s skin. Your bunny can die literally in a few hours.
Mosquitos also carry some diseases that can affect your bunnies. For example, the deadly condition RHDV2- Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease can be transmitted to a rabbit by mosquito bite ( among other ways of transmission). There is no vaccine available in the USA for this disease and it might happen you will not realize your bunny is sick until it’s too late.
Mites are fairly common causing skin irritation. Rats and mice can also harm your furry friends by contaminating their food and water so keep the hygiene on a very high level.
2. Animals – wild but also domesticated ones pose a threat to your pets. Rabbits are prey animals and dogs are predators by their nature. Even if you don’t have a dog, maybe your neighbor has. Also, some wild animals such as foxes or weasels can attack your bunny.
Even some large bird species such as hawks or owls represent the danger for rabbits. Don’t think that your pet is not in danger if you live in the city. Raccoons can be found in very urban areas and they are predators that can harm your bunny.
For example, you may notice your rabbit has died overnight and the lock of his/her hutch remained untouched. So what happened? No sign of any predator but yet your very lively and happy pet died. Rabbits can feel predators at long distances due to their great hearing, vision, and smell.
Maybe a raccoon showed up in your neighbor’s yard and didn’t even come close to your bunny but he felt the presence of a predator and died of shock or he injured himself trying to escape. Be aware of the fact the raccoons can open the lock.
3. Outside temperature and different weather conditions – Rabbits are feeling comfortable if the air temperature is somewhere between 55-75F. They will tolerate the temperature till 50F but below that, it is too cold for them.
It is also very dangerous to leave them outside if it is above 75F as they are really prone to heatstrokes. Rain and the melting of wet snow can also be very harmful to rabbits. You should not let by any means your rabbit gets soaked. Little rain will not harm him but very damp fur can provoke pneumonia.
4. Rabbits that live outside can suffer from a lack of human interaction. Your bunny needs you, he needs to spend some time with you every day even if he has his other rabbit friend ( which is strongly recommended, as rabbits shouldn’t live alone). If your pets live outdoors it’s almost certain that you will not spend the same amount of time with them as you would if they live in your house. Lack of human interaction is not only a physiological problem. Rabbits can get sick very suddenly. They die very quickly. If you are not around you will miss the first signs of illness and lose the opportunity to help them.
5. Grass and other plants found outside can be toxic to rabbits- grass itself is completely safe to rabbit but if treated with weed killers or some animals such as dogs urinated on that grass, then it can be very toxic for your bunny. What other plants can be toxic to rabbits? Apricot plants, Cherry trees, Calendula, Begonia, Avocado leaves, Tomato leaves, Sweet Pea and Potato, Violet and Apple seeds, Morning Glory, Primrose, Oak foliage… As you can see better to make sure your rabbit comes not even close to your garden.
Can I Let My Rabbits Play Outside Occasionally?
Of course, although there is no great necessity for that. Rabbits are not dogs, they don’t have the need to go out and play in your back yard.
If you prefer your bunnies playing outdoors bear in mind all the dangers we have mentioned.
Provide a proper X-pen for playing outside and be with your pets constantly to prevent any accident. Remember that rabbits are escape artists so even in a playpen they can dig a tunnel and run away. That is why it is important not to leave them playing alone.
If there is a great temperature difference between outside and inside ( 20 degrees or more), don’t let your pet outdoors. Rabbits don’t adapt so easily.
If you already have bunnies living outside because you are a teenager whose parents insist on this maybe you can first detect the reasons your parents think that your rabbits should live outside.
If they think that rabbits are smelly, can get dirty and make a mess try to reassure them with facts. By the way, rabbits are fairly clean animals and their poop doesn’t have any smell but urine does. The only smell that comes from rabbits actually comes from their litter box. Don’t forget that it is your job to keep the litter box clean.
Pet rabbits aren’t capable to protect themselves from predators that are lurking outside. Besides predators, harsh weather conditions, too hot or too cold weather are not good for your bunny. Plus, rabbits are social creatures, they don’t like to be alone. They need a certain level of interaction with humans. By living outdoors they won’t spend enough time with you. If you take everything into consideration there are more cons than pros for rabbits to live outside.