Domestic rabbits spend most of their lives in a cage. That sometimes strike people as sad, but the rabbits don’t seem to mind too much. Unlike dogs or other pets, they don’t rebel at the cage, so much as see it as a safe haven. Rabbits like warrens.
But there is one difference between a real rabbit warren and the typical cage. Rabbit warrens in the wild are a connected series of tunnels and small caves that the animals use to hide in. A cage often doesn’t offer the same space or even the same kind of protective atmosphere.
So, the first guideline is to get as large a cage as you can comfortably accept in your home. Rabbits are not, by nature, sedentary animals and they need room to move around. They love to run and jump in a fashion that rabbit owners call a ‘binky’.
They jump, twist and flick their heads in movement that is almost universally interpreted as an expression of joy. It’s hard to see how it could be anything else, since they do it when there are no threats around at all.
Few cages will accommodate that movement, but it’s still true that rabbits will benefit from freedom to hop. They’re exploratory animals and thrive on just looking around. A cage that is at least six times their size is about the minimum needed to accommodate that. Otherwise, they will become sedentary, which can lead to obesity, stress and even depression. Even rabbits need freedom.
Having a two story (or more) cage is a great way to make good use of limited floor space. It provides the rabbit with somewhere to go and gives them exercise against gravity.
There are some features of popular designs that are decidedly NOT good for the rabbit, though. One of the most common are wire floors. Often touted as being easy to clean, they can readily lead to sores on the pads and hocks.
Hocks are the ankle bone area, on which the rabbit rests some of its weight. Pads are foot pads just as dogs and cats have. Either suffer when the surface they rest on is a wire mesh. The pressure on the rabbit’s foot goes up dramatically when the area they rest on is reduced. That increased pressure leads to excess wear and tear on the hocks and pads.
The resulting sores are painful, can become infected and may be chewed on by the rabbit just as dogs do. That makes the situation worse, and it’s very hard to put a chewing-prevention collar on a rabbit. It’s even difficult to use gauze and vet wrap to treat the sores since rabbits are much more inclined to chew that than even dogs are. Prevention is the best method of dealing with them.
Keep the cage covered from harsh sunlight, but let some in on less bright days. Make it large enough to accommodate movement, a litter box and a sleeping area. Use a flat, solid surface to prevent discomfort and health problems. Keep it clean and well-stocked with interesting toys to chew on.
Your rabbit will be a happy bunny.