Keep Your Bunny Inside
Do Not Put Your Bunnies Outside!
HRC is adamant in its belief that companion rabbits should be kept indoors. The fact of the matter is this: Indoor rabbits live longer because they are safer and happier. Nothing else really needs to be said. However, if you know someone who needs convincing, here are a few things that you can tell them:
Cold, wind, snow and freezing rain
All are common parts of an average New England winter and all pose health risks, whether from low temperatures or weather-related diseases, for hutch rabbits. Wild rabbits use shallow depressions in the ground or heavy thickets in an attempt to keep warm, options that are not available to hutch rabbits. Chances are, if you don’t want to be outdoors because of the weather on a particular day, neither does your rabbit. Most people would not leave their other companion animals — cats and dogs — outdoors in the winter, so why their rabbits?
Hutch rabbits are more likely to be attacked by predators. Because rabbits have acute vision, hearing and smell, the predator does not even need to be nearby to induce anxiety. In fact, a rabbit can die of fear — heart attacks are not uncommon — without being touched by a predator.
A rabbit that runs madly about its hutch in response to the presence of a predator can injure itself, even break its own back. In the case of a hutch rabbit, maybe this fatal panic happens because they know they cannot run or hide. In this sense, an outdoor hutch, instead of providing safety, acts as a trap.
Dogs, feral cats, raccoons, coyotes, owls, hawks, snakes, opossums and weasels are among the animals that pose a danger to outdoor rabbits.
A determined attacker can bend or break the wire on a hutch, or perhaps, as in the case of raccoons, open the hutch, to get access to a terrified and cornered rabbit.
And don’t forget the dangers posed by humans, especially younger, immature pranksters who may be tempted to “set free,” steal or tease a rabbit in an outdoor hutch.
Rabbits, being social animals, enjoy companionship
Whether it’s with another rabbit, another pet – even some dogs! – or humans, rabbits thrive when they have interaction with other creatures.
They are, by their very nature, gentle, intelligent, social and loving animals with distinctive individual personalities. Given a chance to bond with you, an indoor rabbit can become an active and enjoyable part of your family.
On the other hand, a hutch rabbit is going to be bored, lonely and, due to the lack of social interaction, may appear to be less friendly when all it needs is an indoor home and time to get to know your family.
Rabbits are very good at hiding an illness
As every rabbit person knows, it’s vital to act quickly when you suspect a rabbit is sick. You’re going to be more familiar with a rabbit that shares your home, making it easier to identify the first signs of trouble. An outdoor rabbit, because he or she is getting less attention, could mask an illness until it is too late.
Outdoor rabbits are at greater risk of illness
Insects pose a problem. Fleas can cause flea anemia. Myxomatosis, a deadly virus, can be transmitted to rabbits by mosquitoes. The disease is often fatal and no vaccination is available. Fly strike is one of the uglier dangers. A fly lays eggs in stool stuck on a rabbit. The eggs hatch a day later into hungry maggots that eat the stool, then begin feasting on the rabbit. Fly strike takes only hours from infestation to possible death for a rabbit.
And another thing (or two)
In a similar vein, outdoor rabbits are more likely to be exposed to poisonous plants, toxic pesticides and fertilizers and bacteria in dirt. All can be fatal to a rabbit. Their water bowls can freeze in winter weather.
Look at it this way: In poor weather, you are indoors, where it is safe and warm (or, in the summer, cool). Your rabbit is outdoors where it is cold, lonely and possibly being stalked by predators.
There are, of course, people who go to great extremes when constructing an outdoor hutch. Their hutches are roomy, secure from predators and weather extremes and well-maintained. For these kind-hearted people, we have just one question: Wouldn’t it be easier to invite the rabbit indoors?