More and more rabbit owners are bringing their rabbits to live indoors and become part of the family like a dog or cat. To make the smooth transition from a hutch rabbit to a house rabbit, you first need to prepare your house and then gradually introduce your rabbit to living indoors.
A houserabbit is a pet rabbit that lives inside its owner’s home and not in an outdoor hutch.
With preparation, patience and time, any rabbit can become a houserabbit. It can be a big change for a rabbit – especially if that rabbit is timid – but with an understanding owner, your rabbit should be able to adapt. Older rabbits are sometimes easier to introduce to living indoors because they are easier to housetrain than young rabbits.
If you have other pets that already live in your house, e.g. cats and dogs, be wary about introducing a rabbit. Rabbits are the natural prey of cats and dogs and your rabbit could be attacked.
Also, think carefully about whether your home is the right environment for a rabbit. If you have young children, a rabbit may be scared by the noise and activity in your home. Rabbits have very sensitive respiratory systems and should not be exposed to cigarette smoke or aerosol sprays.
There are some pieces of equipment you may need to buy or make for your houserabbit. An indoor cage will provide your rabbit with somewhere safe to retreat to, and it will allow you to confine your rabbit if necessary, e.g. when you are out at work. The cage should be as large as possible (at least 150 x 60 x 60 cm). Inside the cage you should provide a litter tray filled with wood, paper or straw-based litter (N.B. do not use a clay-based litter as this can be harmful if eaten). You may also need a hay rack.
Perhaps the most important preparations you can make is to ‘rabbit-proof’ your home. Rabbits like to chew and in your home this chewing can get them in trouble! Move valued wooden furniture and rugs into rooms where your rabbit will not be allowed. Carpets, especially in the corners of rooms or in small places underneath furniture where your rabbit can get, are also likely to be chewed. Protect these vulnerable areas with plastic mats.
Rabbits will also chew cables (e.g. from the TV, lamps, telephone, etc) and are at risk of electric shock from these (which can be fatal). Move and secure cables out of the reach of your rabbit or cover them with hard plastic tubing used for plumbing (available from DIY stores). Provide things to chew such as old telephone directories and cardboard boxes.
You need to introduce your rabbit to living indoors very gradually. Allow it to spend a few hours a day in the indoor cage and afterwards return it to the hutch. Gradually increase the amount of time your rabbit spends in the indoor cage.
When your rabbit is living inside, you can then introduce it to your home outside its cage. Always leave the cage door open so that your rabbit can retreat to it if scared. Start off allowing your rabbit out of the cage for an hour a day, and gradually build this up as before. Your rabbit should return to its litter trayto toilet, but do be prepared for some accidents initially!