We’re all rabbit lovers here, so we want to make sure our little bunnies have the best home to live in. Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation out there about what kind of enclosure a rabbit needs. You’ll see pet stores marketing cages and hutches that are much too small, simply because they can sell these for a high price.
The best kind of enclosure for rabbits is a pet playpen, not a traditional rabbit cage. The enclosure should be at least 2ft by 4ft for an average sized pound rabbit, but keep in mind that if you have a larger rabbit you will need to give them more space. The rabbit will also need extra time outside of the enclosure to get daily exercise.
Your priority should be to make sure you are getting a cage that’s big enough for your rabbit. While there are certain materials, floorings and types of enclosures that are usually bad for rabbits, you can almost always make adjustments to these after the fact as long as the actual enclosure is large enough for your rabbit.
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A pet playpen is the best enclosure for rabbits
Your rabbit’s cage is their home. It’s where they will be living for most of the day, so you want to make sure this is a place that will be safe and comfortable for your rabbit. It should be a place that they won’t mind going home to stay when you need to leave for work in the morning or go to sleep at night.
A rabbit playpen is a freestanding and collapsible fence that you can use as an enclosure. It gives you a lot of flexibility for how you shape the enclosure, so it will fit into unusual spaces. A pen also makes cleanup a lot easier, and it’s pretty easy to get a second playpen and connect it to the first if you want to expand your rabbit’s living area.
I started out my rabbit care journey using the more traditional cages. When I switched to using rabbit playpens, I couldn’t be happier with the change. It was so much more convenient. What’s even better is that my rabbits seemed happier too! They are excited that they have more space and have even been overall better behaved (less rattling on the cage bars).
More than any other reason, I recommend getting a pet playpen as your rabbit’s enclosure because it gives your rabbit more space. Most cages that are sold and marketed toward rabbits can really only be appropriate for the smallest of breeds. But even these smaller rabbits can benefit from the larger space that the pen can give.
Rabbits are active animals that are healthiest when they have space to hop around and play. They are much more likely to become bored and aggressive if they are kept in a small cage all day long while only being let out periodically to exercise. A large enclosure also gives your rabbit space to sprawl out and relax, helping them feel more comfortable and at home.
Most pet playpens are made up of eight 2ft panels. This means if you arrange them in a square, you can give your rabbit a maximum of 16 square feet of space in their enclosure. Even large cages and hutches that are marketed towards rabbits don’t even give them half as much space.
Not only does a pet playpen give your rabbit more space than most other options, but it is also a lot cheaper. Most of the cheaper cages that are marketed toward rabbits will cost somewhere in the area of $100, but they can potentially go for a lot more. Pet playpens, on the other hand, will cost you between $30-$50, depending on how high you want the fencing to be. I recommend getting a pen that is 30” or higher to make sure your rabbit can’t jump over it. (Check out the current price)
Easier to clean
When I switched over to using a playpen for my rabbits, instead of a cage, I was pleasantly surprised at how little work it takes to clean them. Instead of trying to take the cage apart and scrub it down to make sure it stayed clean, all I had to do was vacuum. It’s best to make sure you sweep up any large pieces of hay into a dustbin first, of course, but otherwise the process of cleaning is incredibly simple.
Sometimes you need to fit a rabbit enclosure into an awkwardly shaped space. You may not be able to find a traditional rabbit cage fits your needs without completely rearranging the room. Since a pet playpen is made up of eight individual panels, it can easily be shifted around into different shapes that can fit into just about any space in your home. You can even arrange for the pen entrance to be on whatever location is most convenient for you.
Easier to expand and move
If you plan on getting more rabbits later on or just want to expand your rabbits space, it’s a lot easier and cheaper to simply connect two playpens together than to purchase a whole new larger cage. It’s also more portable. Since it can be easily collapsed into a 2’ by 4’ rectangle, you can easily put it in the trunk of a car and bring your rabbits with you when you’re visiting family.
Flooring in rabbit pens
The one downside to getting a pen instead of a cage is that it doesn’t come with built-in flooring. Depending on the type of floors you have, you will need to get an area rug or mat to go with it. Rabbit paws don’t do so well with slick floors, so you’ll have to cover up any hardwood or tile floors. Or if your rabbit likes to dig into carpet, you may want to cover it up with a cheaper area rug. Try getting an area rug made of natural fibers (such as seagrass) so that you don’t have to worry if your rabbit chews on it.
For rabbits you are not yet litter trained, I recommend getting one of these reusable puppy pee pads. The size fits a playpen perfectly if you have it shaped in a square, and it will prevent your rabbit from damaging the floors while they are still being litter trained.
Taking size of the rabbit enclosure into consideration
The most important consideration when choosing the right rabbit cage is the size of the enclosure. It shouldn’t be so cramped that your rabbit just can’t wait to get out. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all hutch. Full-size rabbits can vary from dwarfs that weigh in at around 2lbs to some flemish giant rabbits that can weigh more than 25lbs!
A correctly sized enclosure will give your rabbit room for three to four hops along the length of their enclosure. The width should be at least one hop length, and the rabbit should be able to stand all the way up on their hind legs without bumping their head against the top.
How do you estimate the hop length of your rabbit? Measure the full length of your rabbit when they are sprawled out on the floor. For an average sized, five pound rabbit, this will probably be somewhere around one and a half feet. For an average sized rabbit you want to have an enclosure that is at least 4ft long by 2ft wide by 2 ft tall.
Remember this is a minimum size. You can always go bigger! In fact, I’m sure you’ll find that the more space you give your rabbit, the happier they are and the less likely they are to keep you up all night rattling the sides of their enclosure.
What if you already have an enclosure that is too small?
It’s okay, don’t panic! I made this same mistake too. Your rabbit might already be attached to the cage they have, so moving to a completely new enclosure could be a little stressful for both of you. The best solution is to get a rabbit playpen and attach it to the outside of the cage. This will instantly increase the space your rabbit has and help them be a happy and healthy bunny all day long!
What if I have more than one rabbit?
Believe it or not, you don’t need a significantly bigger space for two rabbits. If you give them an enclosure that is big enough for the larger of the two rabbits, they’ll still have plenty of space to play without bumping into each other. When you’re introducing a smaller rabbit into the home, then you can stick with the same setup you already have, but if you’re bringing home a second larger rabbit, make sure to increase the size of the enclosure appropriately.
If you have three or more rabbits, I would start to increase the space a little. If you have four rabbits I would double the space. At this point, you could also consider rabbit-proofing an entire room for your rabbits to live in together.
Other appropriate enclosures for rabbits
There are a lot of different types of enclosures to choose from for your rabbit. While the pet playpen is the one that I use and recommend, these options could be the right choice for your situation. Consider each of these options to decide what is best for you and your bun.
Another great, but unconventional option is getting a large dog crate for your bunny. The four foot dog crates that are made for very large dogs. These can be the right option for rabbits who are struggling with their litter training. Unlike the playpen, dog crates have flooring that can be used to keep a rabbit’s mess contained.
You do want to get a crate with flat flooring, rather than wires. This is better for your rabbit since wires can end up causing sores of rabbit feet. These crates are also easily collapsible to make it convenient for transporting and not a nightmare to clean.
Many people also opt to create a DIY enclosure for their rabbit. If you’re handy with wood and tools, you can create an enclosure that’s as large and unique as you want it to be. The easier option for those of us who are less creative is to create an enclosure using DIY storage cubes.
You can create a multilevel enclosure in whatever shape you want by combining the square pieces of fencing. Just be sure to put mats down on any wire flooring that your rabbit will have. These DIY enclosures are even more versatile than the pet playpen, but they’re also more difficult to collapse and remake when necessary.
Terminology: Enclosure instead of Cage
You may have noticed during this article that I’ve been using the word ‘enclosure’ rather than cage. This is a deliberate choice to help you alter the way you think about keeping a pet rabbit. Rabbits are active and social animals that need a lot of exercise and interaction. Even though it’s often necessary to keep a rabbit in an enclosure, I want to challenge you to stop thinking of rabbits as ‘cage pet,’ and instead think of your rabbit as a ‘companion pet.’
The enclosure is just there to keep your rabbit safe and out of trouble when you’re not around. Otherwise, it is most rewarding to allow your rabbit as much time to socialize with you as possible. Think of rabbits more like the way we treat pet cats and dogs. They become a part of our everyday lives and are free to spend time with us as much as they want to.
What about traditional rabbit hutches?
Some wooden hutches are too small, but there are many sold that are a good size for rabbits. Some of them are even two or three stories tall. Many of these hutches were made for the outdoors, but they can easily be used for indoor living as well (learn why I recommend keeping pet rabbits as house pets).
Wooden hutches are the most aesthetically pleasing option, but keep in mind that most hutches are not designed to be easy to clean. You’ll often have to awkwardly scrub at the walls and corners of the hutch to get rid of any splashing urine stains. Hutches are typically the most expensive option also. They can be sold for hundreds of dollars while not giving your rabbit much more space than they would get from a simple playpen.
You also want to be careful about the type of wood used for the hutch. Cedar is a common material used for these hutches, but cedar is poisonous to rabbits when they ingest it. Since rabbits have the instinct to chew on wooden objects, a cedar hutch can be a real danger to your rabbits.
What rabbit enclosures should you avoid?
While there are always exceptions, I generally recommend avoiding products that are marketed as rabbit or small animal cages. These are almost always too small for rabbits, and would do better as enclosures for smaller animals, such as guinea pigs or rats. The two more traditional options for rabbits that I would usually avoid include metal cages and plastic cages.
Almost all metal cages on the market are too small for rabbits. There are some tiered metal cages that may work if you have extremely limited floorspace, but these cages are better suited for climbing animals, such as chinchillas.
Metal cages will also usually have a wire flooring. This is bad for rabbit feet. They are forced to distribute their weight in an unnatural way which can cause problems, such as arthritis, over time. They can also get large sores on the heels of their feet (called sore hocks), which can be quite painful. If you do happen to find a metal enclosure that gives your rabbit enough space, you’ll want to make sure you put a mat or towel down on the bottom to cover up the wires so your rabbit doesn’t have to stand on them.
There are a number of plastic cages on the market, but almost all of these are too small rabbits. If you have a very small rabbit, you might be able to use one of the very large plastic cages that are available. But at that point, the plastic cage will cost at least three times as much as a pet playpen, so you might as well avoid them. You could also get a plastic cage in addition to a playpen to expand your rabbit’s living area. This is what I would recommend if you already have one of these plastic cages for your rabbit and want to expand their living space.
How to provide enough exercise space
In addition to the space in their enclosure, rabbits need time in a larger area to get exercise. For most rabbit caretakers, you won’t need any additional fencing to create an exercise enclosure for your rabbit. A room in your house will do just fine.
You’ll want to make sure you bunny-proof the exercise area thoroughly, so your rabbit can’t get at any wires or chew on anything dangerous. If you haven’t fully bunny-proofed the room, make sure to supervise your rabbit closely. They can be little troublemakers if they want to be.
It’s best to give a rabbit at least four hours of exercise a day, but more is definitely better. This doesn’t have to be all in one go. For example, let your rabbit out for a couple hours in the morning, and then again for a couple hours in the evening. Rabbits are most active in the morning around dawn and in the evening around dusk, so it’s best if you can let them out to exercise around one (or both) of these times.
Personally, I try to make sure my rabbits have time outside of the enclosure whenever I am home. This helps ensure that they get enough exercise and allows your rabbit to be integrated into your normal everyday life. They can hang out with you while you watch TV or zoom around the room while you’re getting some work done.
What if you don’t have enough space in your home?
For a while I was living in a very small apartment with my rabbit, so I had to find some creative ways to make sure she was getting enough space. I chose to get a loft bed and use the area underneath as my rabbit’s enclosure. This automatically freed up the entire area under the bed for my rabbit without losing any living space!
You can also play with the idea of creating vertical enclosures. While rabbit’s aren’t climbers and it’s best to give them a larger amount of floorspace, they also enjoy hopping up and down on platforms. Look for a cage that uses a slightly smaller amount of floorspace but has multiple levels with ramps and platforms. If you can’t find an enclosure that already has the platforms built in, you could try your hand at the DIY cage option so that it fits exactly into the space you have available. Just be sure everything is secured and sturdy. The last thing you want is for your structure to collapse and your rabbit to fall down.
Free roaming a rabbit
Instead of keeping your rabbit in an enclosure, you can choose to allow them free access to your home, similar to the way we keep cats and dogs. I still recommend keeping an enclosure as a home base for your rabbit, but you can keep the door open and let your rabbit roam around at will. Many rabbits are well behaved and can really benefit from living a free roam life.
Letting your rabbit loose in the house full time is a great option, But rabbits can be troublemakers, and that trouble can put your rabbit into some dangerous situations.
If you are bringing your rabbit home for the first time, you want to make sure to keep a close eye on them for the first few weeks while you let them roam. Keep them in an enclosure whenever you can’t watch them.
This will give you the chance to learn their habits and quirks, and figure out just what kind of trouble they like to get into while you fully bunny-proof your house. You can find their favorite hiding places, figure out what furniture needs to be moved, which wires need to be covered, or where barriers need to be put up to make sure important and dangerous objects are outside your rabbit’s reach.
Of course, you will also need to ensure that they are litter trained, so your rabbit doesn’t pee and poop all over your house. Even if you choose to have a completely free range rabbit, it’s still a good idea to make sure they have a home-base enclosure set up. This will be where you keep their litter box and give them their hay and daily pellets. Having a home base gives your rabbit some stability so they have a safe place to hide when they’re feeling scared.
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It is a little more difficult to litter train a rabbit than a cat, but with a little patience it is entirely possible. It is much easier to litter train a rabbit who has been spayed or neutered, since this will limit the amount of territorial spraying of the rabbit.
It is much safer to keep a pet rabbit indoors. In a hutch outside, rabbits are faced with many dangers, including predators, parasites, and extreme temperatures. Your rabbit will be a much happier and healthier part of your family if you keep them inside.
- “Housing.” House Rabbit Society, rabbit.org/faq-housing