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Happy Indoor House Rabbits
Barney Pookah (know the Jimmy Stewart movie 'Harvey'?) as a baby.
Bunnies are excellent indoor companion animals - there are many reasons why your bunny should live indoors alongside you. Firstly, rabbits are highly social, are intelligent and responsive, and if your bunny lives indoors with you, then you are the one who he will become bonded with. As the saying holds for dogs, it also holds for rabbits - you will be gaining a new best friend. In fact, our bunny’s nickname is “Puppy Bunny”, because he is so affectionate and bonded to us, such a good friend to us. The more time that you spend with your bunny, the more he will get to know you, become familiar with you, and enjoy your companionship.

Interestingly, rabbits are “crepuscular”, that is, they prefer to be active in the morning, just after dawn, and at night, around dusk, preferring to rest in the middle of the day and the middle of the night. This “crepuscular” behaviour is great news for a human companion, since bunnies are at their most sociable when we are at home and most relaxed, particularly in the evenings, when we humans really get the opportunity to enjoy our bunnies’ company.

It is not just in your own interests to have your companion bunny indoors with you - it is also in the interests of, and far preferable for, your bunny, too. An outdoors rabbit will not only be less active than an indoors bunny, but considering rabbits’ sociability, he will also be very lonely ... your rabbit will be much healthier and happier indoors with you, interacting with you, and will grow to consider you as his family, his “warren”, that is, his social group, who bunnies spend a lot of time interacting with; this is in contrast to a bunny’s “burrow”, which is his own personal space, his cage or hutch.

Furthermore, whenever an indoors rabbit becomes unwell, you will observe this immediately, in his changing behaviour - an indoors bunny’s increased interaction with you ensures that his illness or health will be observed and acted upon straight away. This is of course much preferable to the outdoors hutch rabbit, who only sees his humans a couple of times a day, and whose health or illness is often only spotted when it has become really severe.

Of course, an indoors bunny is also much safer, does not have to worry and stress about predators - both dangerous animal predators such cats, foxes, dogs, birds of prey such as kestrels and eagles and owls; or the sinister insects and bacterial predators, such as the deadly myxomatosis which can be so tragically spread via a mosquito or flea bite by any infected insect; or the really horrific fly-strike, which can kill a rabbit in just a few days, a result of the larvae of flies eating into the rabbit’s body, after blowflies lay their eggs on a poor unsuspecting and unprotected rabbit. Horrific tragedies such as these can obviously be watched for and avoided a lot more safely when your bunn lives indoors with you.

Indoors bunnies need to be protected as well, of course ... most importantly, be careful to cover any electrical cords where your bunny may run, because bunnies have a dangerous penchant for chewing plastic and rubber. It is a good idea to lay down on the floor yourself, and take a look at your world from a bunny’s viewpoint, and remove any tempting chewable plastic and so on. Also be very careful to keep potted plants up high and well away from curious bunnies - many indoor plants are deadly poisonous to rabbits.

Pookie, our eight year old Netherland Dwarf bunny, lives inside our home with us (as have all our three bunnies). He lives in his “burrow”, his cage/hutch, on his own table, in the quietest corner of the lounge. And every evening he is free to run around the lounge for several hours (we close the doors, and block behind the couch with cushions, and cover all the electrical wires very well, of course, with cushions and rugs). During these daily runs, Pookie races up and down the room with happiness, often leaping through the air, binkying - this is when a bunny expresses his joy by leaping through the air and shaking his whole little body, from the tips of his ears to the tip of his tail!

And we play “chasey” - when I run up and down the room, he chases me back and forth. And also circles around my feet and makes his very quiet hooting or buzzing noise (some times louder than others!) ... this is how bunnies flirt with and impress their mates or fellow bunnies, and really reveals how Pook accepts us as his fellow “warren”, trusts us, loves us! He also often runs up to me when I’m sitting on the couch and stands up tall on his hind legs and looks up at me, as if to make sure I’m still in the room ... and if I do go out of the room, he stands and listens at the door for me. He also occasionally digs furiously at my ankles and feet when he wants attention ... and I sit next to him on the floor and pat him, and he gets SO relaxed - I can feel that he’s relaxing all his little muscles of his entire body - and often he gives a sweet little sigh. And he will occasionally “puppy-roll” ... this is what we call it when he’s out running around the loungeroom, and he’s so happy that he rolls onto his side and back, and kicks his four little feet up in the air. Also, when Pookie’s tired of running around and binkying, he will often sit next to me and actually lean against my feet or legs and kiss me (lick, that is ... as with dogs, this is how bunnies groom and show affection to their fellow bunnies!) He’s so beautiful, such great company, such a wonderful and true friend, and very very special.

Pookie’s “burrow”, his own personal space, is his cage in the corner of the lounge, the type which has a wire top, and a plastic base. We cover the base with wood shavings (which you can buy at any pet shop, and which are also used for mice’s cages), and then top this with plenty of fresh hay. We used to use newspaper at the bottom, underneath, but ceased using newspaper when we became concerned after hearing of other bunns who may have become ill from the lead in the newsprint. We do sometimes still use white “butcher’s” paper, and try leaving around half the flat paper clear of shavings so that he can stretch out on the smooth paper. And, of course, at least one large corner of his cage is always tucked full of hay, which of course must be constantly available to all bunnies. We throw it all away (the hay is especially good to use as mulch in the garden!), and rinse out the plastic base, several times a week.

As mentioned, his “burrow” has a wire top, which has a side-door, so, when we’re ready for him to come out into the loungeroom, we simply carefully place his cage on the ground, open his side-door, and quickly drape a doubled-up towel well over the door’s metal bars, so that he will never catch his feet in the wire. He then jumps up and races out himself, extremely enthusiastically! After racing up and down the room a few times, Pookie goes to his litter tray in the corner, and crouches there with a look of concentration on his face, while he makes an important pile of “hraka”, as they say in “Watership Down”.

Yes, rabbits can be toilet-trained ... whether in his hutch, or free in your home, you’ll notice that your bunny usually pees in the same corner. So, get a flat tray - we cover Pookie’s litter tray with a couple of pages of newspaper and more wood shavings - and put the tray directly where he’s peeing. He then begins to associate the tray as the toilet. (Just a word of warning - NEVER use mineral cat litter, because if a rabbit ingests this, it can swell in his stomach and he will die. Much better are wood shavings or shredded paper.) The trick is really to put the tray where you observe him peeing, rather than try to get him to go wherever you place the tray ... that will not succeed! He will eventually associate the tray with pooping as well, but this is relative to the individual bunny ... some bunnies are easier to toilet train than others, and you must remember that, from a rabbit’s point of view, depositing a small pile of droppings, and their regular corners where they pee also, reassures your bunny that this is his territory, and that no other pesky renegade rabbits are going to try and claim it as theirs. Anyway, bunnies’ pellet-like poop isn’t very offensive, and is easy to sweep up! You can gather up the pellets which bunny deposits around the room, and place them on his litter tray - this will encourage him to recognise the tray as the place to deposit them in future. But rabbits can indeed be toilet trained because, to reiterate, they like to go in the one place ... so when you find the place that they like to go, that is where you place the tray, and they will learn to associate the tray with their toilet. If they’re also peeing in a different spot, especially in a large enclosure or a big room, you simply place another, second tray in that new spot too - so bunny may have two trays, in a larger enclosure or room.

     Dasher resting.
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