One of the most common pets kept in the UK, and North America, is the rabbit. They are cute, fluffy and aren’t too challenging to look after. However, where they live is still debated by many. Many rabbits owners keep their collection outside. But, I prefer to keep mine as house rabbits.
There are arguments for and against both. In this article, I will go through the arguments that will help you make an informed decision.
1. House Rabbits Lifespan
I’m going to start with lifespan. This is where the benefits of keeping your pets as house rabbits can look really attractive. According to statistics, house rabbits have on average a longer lifespan.
This is generally because there are so many dangers to keeping rabbits outside. There are diseases they can catch from wildlife or just the environment, predators (foxes can go for them) and even just noises.
The trouble is that rabbits are fragile, anxiety driven prey animals. In the wild there are lots of predators after them. So many, that their average wild lifespan is less than two years. In captivity, we can keep them alive for up to eight years (the record being 18). However, those that are housed outside are still at risk from many elements that can make them ill and even kill them.
You’ve also got to think about heart attacks. These are very common in rabbits and just a sudden loud noise next to their enclosure that is unexpected can cause a heart attack. Inside, they get use to the noises and this can reduce stress.
Generally speaking I’ve found interaction levels increase as any pet is kept indoors. Our guinea pigs and rabbits have been kept outside and inside and we’ve had a much more rewarding experience from keeping them inside. This is because we’re walking about, always nearby to remind them who we are and that we are looking after them.
In addition, I’ve found that house rabbits tend to treat us as lookouts. This is very much like meerkats have lookouts on the plains of Africa. If I’m around, they’re looking more relaxed, eating and sleeping naturally.
When I’m not nearby, I can hear my rabbits thumping and moving things around. They are obviously more alert. If they’re kept outside on their own, I wonder if the same high alertness is constantly applied and therefore, they have higher levels of stress which leads to more early deaths.
That interaction is important for both us, as guardians, and the rabbits.
When outside, you remove that element. You become less of an important part in the life of the rabbit and this can have a detrimental impact on your relationship with them. This can lead to behavioural problems such as scratching and biting which makes it hard to do health checks.
3. Dangers In The House
However, it isn’t always easy in the home, where house rabbits are at danger from every day objects that we see as benign but are very dangerous. The first one is power cables. This are, for some reason, very attractive chew toys for rabbits. As a result, rabbits can be electrocuted.
Other items around the home can also be dangerous like cleaning products, craft items and even some foods that are dropped.
Rabbit-proofing a house can be just as hard as baby-proofing a house, if not harder because at least babies grow up. You have to maintain this for the life of the rabbit, which could be a long time. When housed outside, there are dangers, but because housing is usually a wooden run or hutch, the dangers are more manageable.
The alternative to this is to use a dog crate inside to house rabbits in a safe environment. You can then allow them to exercise in one room that you’ve proofed when you’re around to watch them. I often feel this is a good standard of living as rabbits are generally not explorers by nature.
When I walk across the fields near my home I can see where rabbits live because there is a semi circle of where they’ve eaten farmer crops. The centre is their burrow entrance.
Keeping rabbits outside can be better if you’re very sensitive to smells. Of our all animals, the rabbits are probably the most smelly. I don’t know why, but it seems that they need to be changed more regularly. This is even if you use a litter box.
However, I have found that the smelliness is often confined to when cleaning out. So you won’t be holding your nose every time you’re with them. This smell is often more pungent when housed outdoors. I don’t know why this is the case either, but it is an observation I’ve made.
5. Exercise Area
House rabbits and outdoor rabbits needs plenty of exercise. This can be achieved in some enclosures, but if you keep yours in a hutch, they need regular access to a run or other alternative exercise area.
This causes some concern as so many people start out with good intentions and plan to give their rabbits daily exercise. However, what tends to happen is that life gets in the way and they forget a few times a week and the rabbits are kept in their hutch.
This is a controversial subject. Rabbits are social animals and having a partner is definitely best for those rabbits who live outside. They need company and I’ve seen how two rabbits can bond and live a happy life together. For house rabbits, people seem to think the companionship doesn’t need to be there, that their own presence can be a substitute for another rabbit.
In my opinion is that a house rabbit still needs a friend. There are going to be times when you’re not around and the rabbit should have company of its own kind.
Should You Keep House Rabbits Or Should They Go Outside?
Hopefully, with the information provided you can make an informed decision about whether you should be keeping your rabbit outside or as a house rabbit. If you have any questions, you can use the comments below to ask them and we’ll do our best to answer them.