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The Indoor / Outdoor Bunny

Updated on July 20, 2008

There are a lot of articles written on the Internet (including a fair few here) about how keeping a rabbit inside is the best way to keep them. This is true in many respects, but some people find that they just can't keep their rabbits inside. If we are to be completely honest, we have to admit that a house rabbit can make a stinky mess very quickly in its litter tray or cage, and you could end up spending a lot of time cleaning it out.

If you rent just a room, or if you're a kid and you want to keep your rabbit in your bedroom, things can get pretty icky pretty quickly. Rabbit urine is very strong smelling, and there is nothing less pleasant than sleeping in a small room which is filled with the odor of rabbit droppings. Even if you clean the rabbit out several times a day, things can get pretty gross pretty quick. Most litters are bad for rabbits, including paper based litters which can clog the rabbit's guts, as can clumping litters, and the special no odor litters they make for cats are not recommended for rabbits because they eat them. Quite often they'll even eat newspaper put in their cage, which is very bad for them indeed!

So then, after spending a few days in what seems to be a stinky sewer, and getting tired of cleaning up the hay which is invariably strewn all over the floor, a lot of people get thoroughly sick of the whole thing and put their bunnies back in the hutch outside.

I'm going to be realistic here. In some cases an indoor bunny is quite workable, in others, not so much. Instead of preaching to everyone and telling them to keep their rabbit indoors at all costs, I'm going to be practical and advise on how to keep the bunny outside, but let it have a run inside with you sometimes.

Firstly, a rabbit should spend sometime inside, getting used to its inside cage. This is what it will use as a bathroom when it is inside, so you should get it used to this space, otherwise you could have nasty accidents. I would recommend letting your rabbit live inside for at least a week to develop a sense of territory about its indoor cage. During this time things might get messy, but they will quickly improve.

The outdoor cage should be large and spacious. If you are going to keep a bunny outside, it needs to have enough height to be able to jump ( about three feet vertically), and enough length to run around a bit ( at least 6 feet, preferably more.) Outdoor cages of this size are not cheap, but if you want to humanely keep your rabbit outdoors then they must have room to move.

Once the rabbit is used to both enclosures, you can put it outside during the night and part of the day, and then bring it inside for a few hours a day. This will enable your rabbit to spend quality time with you, and enable you to enjoy your rabbit's company without the horrid stench that comes with having a part of your room constantly smelling of urine and droppings. The rabbit also gets the benefit of regular social interaction, regular handling, and also spending time outdoors in the sunlight.


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    • Stefanie Sanford profile image

      Stefanie Sanford 21 months ago

      I have a question about keeping bunnies together... My intact male bunny is about a year old. We had purchased him from a pet shop with another male (unrelated) friend and they got along just fine in the cage and free ranging in one room of the house. Eventually they were moved outside and were quite happy free ranging in the backyard with our awesomely sweet dog and the chickens. They established a dominant relationship with the cat and chickens (the chickens had a healthy respect for them and the cat was terrified of them, lol) and a playful relationship with the dog, taking turns chasing each other around the yard and snuggling in the shade. We had a terrible accident where someone stumbled over one of the bunnies and (to make a long story short) he passed away. Now Thumper is an only bunny and he pretty much stays glued to the dog when she's out there, but it's been a month and he still seems sad - the two bunny boys used to play together all the time, chasing each other, popcorning around the yard, humping each other, grooming each other and snuggling together. My daughters want to get him another friend but I'm concerned that he may not accept another bunny in his territory (even tho in the wild, bunnies live in colonies, right?). I don't have money to get any bunnies fixed (vets around here want $350 to fix a male bunny!!!). What's your advice? Is it possible to introduce another intact male and if so, how do I go about doing it correctly?

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      Sara 22 months ago

      My rabbit is an indoor outdoor bunny, he sleeps loose inside my home, never poops inside, when he needs to poop he scratches the door because even though he has a litter box he prefers going outside for that, my family says hes like a pet dog , he sleeps on his back but all rabbits are different i have had many rabbits and just like us humans, they all have different likes and dislikes. The one thing they all have in common though is the feeling of freedom, so i do believe indoor outdoor with a safe place at night is the best way as ive been raising my babies this way and they seem to appreciate it very much

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      Rachel 5 years ago

      wow. I wonder if every rabbit is different (urine odor wise), if breed plays into it, or if males smell less than females, etc. My rabbit is a lop eared, unspayed female and her urine odor is atrocious!! Even with a freshly changed litterbox/cage if she pees once, I can smell it from across the room within seconds. And after a day or two, the entire house smells like a sewer. She eats high quality food, has a huge double cage, and a corner litterbox which is changed daily. Her urine absolutely smells worse than the 4 cat's litterboxes and worse than the gerbil and two mice we used to have. hmm? She is the second rabbit we have had, too. And both have smelled this bad. Makes me wonder about these people that say their rabbit doesn't smell, which I hear often. Really? What are they doing differently than me?

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      Beth 5 years ago

      Wow. My bunny lives inside and I've never had a problem with his smell. His poos don't smell at all (they're only hay/vegetable matter really!) and the smell of his urine isn't that strong. No where near as strong as a cats or dogs. He sleeps with me on my bed at night, is litter tray trained and just hates to be alone. I love your hub but just don't want people to get the impression that bunnies smell because they really don't ! :)

      They smell less than guinea pigs or mice. Even if I don't empty his litter tray for a few days it's not that strong. That's like saying "oh my dog is a pain I'll keep him in a cage outside". Bunnies inside are so amazing! I wake up with my bun licking my hand!

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      Rabbito 6 years ago

      I have a rabbit that has spent most of her life in an outdoor cage. I have moved since and she has become an indoor/outdoor rabbit, but she actually prefers the outdoors instead. If she spends more than a couple days inside, she gets restless and starts scratching and chewing on the her cage. I agree with you that there are pros and cons for both, but I think it is ultimately up to the rabbit. My little 7yr old bunny prefers the outdoor life, but other rabbits might prefer indoor comforts.

    • Hikari-chan profile image

      Hikari-chan 8 years ago

      if there is screen that keeps the bunny away from oder-eating litter are they safe to use? or do they give off fumes that are bad for bunny?