Stair Safety for Pet Rabbits

rabbit stair safety

Many rabbits love going up and down the stairs. Stairs provide a unique environment for pet rabbits to engage in physical activity, allowing them to get the exercise they need to stay healthy and happy. When they zoom around and hop up and down the stairs, it not only satisfies their curiosity but also helps them maintain their agility. For the most part, this is completely fine, but there are some safety concerns to consider.

While watching your rabbit play on the stairs can be entertaining, it’s important to be aware of the potential safety risks involved. Just like other pets, rabbits are susceptible to accidents and injuries. Ensuring that the stairway is a safe place for your rabbit is crucial to prevent falls and other accidents. 

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1. Avoid slippery stairs

Slippery stairs pose are probably the biggest hazard for pet rabbits. Rabbits do not have pads on their feet like cats or dogs but instead have fur, which offers very little resistance against smooth surfaces. On slippery surfaces, such as uncarpeted stairs, rabbits cannot get the grip they need, which can lead to slips and falls. 

To prevent injury from slipping, you’ll want to make sure there is some traction to the stairs. This could mean only allowing your rabbit to hop on carpeted stairs. If installing carpet is not feasible, consider applying non-slip stair treads. These are an excellent alternative to give your rabbit the necessary grip.

block of the banisters on the stairs
If the banisters are too wide, you can place fencing along the stairs to keep your rabbit from slipping through.

2. Make sure rabbits can’t fit through banister rails

The other super important thing to look into is the spacing of the banister rails. Rabbits are agile and can squeeze through surprisingly small gaps. Rabbit depth perception isn’t all that great, so they don’t always recognize just how far down the ground is. You don’t want your rabbit to try to jump off the top of the stairwell or slip off the side of the steps.

Measure the gap between the banister poles. In general, that gap should be less than 2.5 inches, but it may need to be smaller if you have a particularly tiny rabbit. 

If the gap is wider, you can place some fencing along the bottom of the banister to block your rabbit’s access. My first thought would be to zip ties squares of those DIY storage cubes (one of my favorite rabbit-proofing tools) as guards to block access.

You also want to make sure the banister is tall enough so that your rabbit doesn’t attempt to jump over it. A good rule is to have them at least 3 feet tall, but if you know your rabbit likes to jump over high obstacles, you may want to add extra height to the banister.

3. Be careful when walking on stairs with a bunny

Unlike cats and dogs, rabbits are not as adept at maneuvering on stairs. There’s a higher chance of knocking into them in the stairwell if you’re not careful while you’re walking. 

My rabbits tend to quickly bound up multiple steps, then stop suddenly to move side to side and adjust their position before continuing up. If you’re not expecting this, or if your moving too fast on the stairs, you could accidentally end up stepping on your rabbit when they stop or jump in an unexpected direction.

4. Don’t keep any clutter on your stairs

Ensuring the safety of your pet rabbit involves keeping your home environment, particularly the stair area, free of clutter. Stairs can be dangerous for rabbits due to the risk of slipping or falling, and the presence of objects on the stairs increases the likelihood of such accidents.

Keeping the stairs clear helps your rabbit more easily see where it is hopping and prevents missteps. It also gives your rabbit more space to maneuver and catch themselves on the stairs if they do happen to trip a little.

5. Block off unsupervised access to stairs if your rabbit is not careful enough

Some rabbits are just not careful enough. When your rabbit exhibits behaviors like zooming or binkying near stairs with a complete lack of caution, it’s a clear sign that they’re unaware of the potential danger. Your instincts are a vital tool for your pet’s safety—if you feel anxious about your rabbit’s stair-related antics, it’s better to block off any unsupervised access.

To prevent any mishaps, it’s generally a good idea to place a barrier at the top or bottom of the steps. You can still open up the stair area when you’re around to watch your rabbit, but better to be safe and keep it blocked off when that’s not possible.

Personally, I find that a baby gate is the best option. Just like the banister, you want to make sure the gaps in the gate are small enough that your rabbit can’t fit through. This gate is the one that I use, but if you have a particularly small rabbit (less than 3 pounds or so) the gaps might not be small enough. I know other people use a pet exercise pen to block of the area too.

This is also a great option for any rabbits that have mobility issues. For example elderly rabbits who have arthritis or tri-pawed rabbits (rabbits missing a leg). These bunnies are more likely to have trouble on the stairs, but might not realize it, being determined to do everything on their own. Rabbits who are blind or partially blind should be kept away from staircases altogether.

Remember, it’s always better to be overly cautious when dealing with the well-being of your pet rabbit. By restricting their unsupervised access to stairs, you’re not only keeping them safe, but also giving yourself peace of mind.

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Amy Pratt

Amy Pratt is a lifelong rabbit owner who has been specializing with rabbits at the Humane Rescue Alliance. She helps to socialize the rabbits and educate volunteers on the care and behavior of these small mammals.

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