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In Defense Of The Outdoor Bunny

Updated on September 27, 2008

When I started out keeping rabbits, I read everywhere that keeping them indoors was the best thing for them. They developed friendlier personalities, could be better cared for, and would be better pets. In many respects I still agree with these points, but not in all cases.

I kept Wicket as an indoor pet from the time I got her from a private breeder until she was a year and a half old. Now she lives mostly outdoors, and I think in her case, that was the better decision. When she lived indoors the place stank like rabbit urine and she was perpetually in a half moult, at one point looking like a monk because the top part of her body had moulted and the lower half hadn't. She wasn't particularly friendly either, even though she was handled gently and often. Her temperament is simply what it is. Rabbits all have different temperaments, and whilst some might be friendly and cuddly, others are simply more aloof. Like a pretty fluffy princess, that description fits Wicket's personality much better.

I moved her outside primarily so that she would get more sun and fresh air. She's been out for two months now, and she has never looked healthier. I feed her on a combination of pellets, mixed grasses and water, and she gets visitors every day. Generally speaking she doesn't want to get too cuddly, but she occasionally deigns to allow the odd head pat. This is pretty much exactly the same behavior she exhibited indoors.

My experiences have lead me to believe that an outdoor life isn't as terrible as I and many other writers on the subject have made it out to be. A few caveats however.

1. The bunny must have a large cage. Wicket's allows her to run and jump, and is about 5 foot long, three feet wide, and three feet high with an elevated sleeping chamber accessible by a ramp. Too many outdoor rabbits are kept in tiny cages where they can barely move, and this is cruel.

2.She is not left alone for days on end. she is fed daily, and checked to make sure that she is in good health and has not developed any matts in her fur ,tears in her skin, or any other problem. Having an outdoor rabbit means that you need to get your butt outside and spend time with them regularly.

3. Be mindful of the seasons. A bunny can get damp and sick in winter, and more dangerously, overheat and die in the summer. Rabbits don't do well in high temperatures, so if your rabbit lives outdoors, be careful to ensure that they are kept cool on hot days, and that there is somewhere dry for them to escape to when it rains.

Only you can make the decision as to what is best for your rabbit. Some bunnies make excellent indoor pets, loving to be close to their owners and smothering them in bunny love. Others are just not wired that way, and no matter how much you lavish time, attention, and affection on them, their base personality is unlikely to change. It would be an excellent idea if breeders were to start selecting not for looks, but for personality, creating bunny breeds that are designed purely to be good companions. As it is, most rabbits are bred purely for looks, which means that temperament often suffers.


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      dog rose 5 years ago

      I agree, rabbits can be happy indoors or out. I read that they value companionship (of another rabbit) as much as they value food. Makes you think. Also the rspca say that a rabbit should have a MINIMUM of 6 foot by 4 foot by 2 foot high cage with a permanently attached 8 foot run. Mine have half a bedroom at the moment but I intend to build a large run for them outside in the spring.

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      Aurora 7 years ago

      I am looking into adopting two bunnies from a local zoo, and they have lived outdoors their entire lives. My sister works closely with the bunnies at the zoo and she and the rest of the keepers, actually think that outdoor living is best for all of their bunnies. Of course when the temperatures get freezing, they bring them inside. If I am able to adopt these bunnies I plan to keep them outside and mimick the environment they had at the zoo as much as possible.

      Thank you for the article, very helpful!

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      Jenny-rabbit 8 years ago

      Sounds good. As long as the animal is happy and healthy that is that point. I love my indoor rabbit and wouldn't want it any other way but that is what is best for our sittuation. Just like i love my daughters long curly hair but one day if she want's to cut then it is about what makes her happy not me. Good article i just hope people don't use it to justify putting their rabbits and a small cage all winter and summer long. Read what she writes not just the titles people!

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      Bunnybaby 8 years ago

      Thanks for the advice, especially the last paragraph. Very insightful for a bunny-owner in the making like me ;-)