Move over dogs and cats - rabbits make excellent indoor house pets and in many ways are easier to look after, especially if you have access to an easy to use rabbit litter to minimise the few problems associated with keeping a rabbit as an indoor pet.
Cats and dogs are two of the most popular choices of pet in the UK. According to the Pet Food Manufacturer’s Association there were 8.6 million pet cats and 8.3 million pet dogs in the UK in 2011, coming second and third only to fish, which numbered over 40 million. Rabbits, on the other hand come in at a respectable 4th place with 1 million of them in UK homes, although not all of these will live inside the house.
While we can completely see why cats and dogs are so popular, we think rabbits are rather under-rated as pets - so here we will list the many ways in which rabbits can make excellent indoor house pets.
Rabbit Litter - visit our online shop
They are Easier to Contain
While a dog or cat will generally be allowed the run of a house (with consequent problems when they want to be where you don't want them to be) a rabbit can be allowed to run free or put back in its hutch when it suits the owner. Many cat and dog owners have the perpetual fear of their pet running out of the house and getting lost, or worse. Similarly, many cat and dog owners are subject to all kinds of unwanted disturbances from their pets, especially during the night and especially from cats who are rather nocturnal creatures.
A rabbit, however, can be returned to its hutch at any time, either to protect it (e.g. when unknown dogs, cats or children visit, or when non-rabbit-friendly activities are going on such as cooking or vacuuming) or to fit in with the owner's routine (e.g. to get an undisturbed night's sleep, or simply to allow you to get on with the housework).
While restraining a dog or a cat inside a cage for any length of time would be seen as cruel, it is in a rabbit's nature to enjoy being in an enclosed space, for sleeping and for a feeling of safety. Provided your pet has a good sized hutch (so it can stretch out or sit up on its hind legs comfortably) which is kept clean and dry with an absorbent rabbit litter and a good supply of food, water and comfy rabbit bedding, your rabbit will not mind at all being placed in there whenever you want.
A Rabbit Can Be Litter Trained
Rabbits that live inside the house can be litter trained and this is essential if you want your rabbit to be free to run around the house for extended periods of time. Rabbit litter training should be done at a very early age, just as for puppies and kittens - it will be harder to house train an adult rabbit.
Even when they are inside their hutches, rabbits will naturally tend to urinate and do their droppings in the same place, usually choosing a spot well away from their food bowl and their sleeping area.
You will need a litter tray filled with suitable litter, which initially will be placed inside the hutch in the place that your rabbit has already shown a preference for. Once your rabbit is generally used to the tray itself, as well as the litter, you can start moving the tray outside of the hutch and then progressively further away until your rabbit becomes completely used to finding the tray wherever you have placed it.
They Are Less Likely to Cause Allergies
Allergy to rabbits is very rare compared to allergies to cats and dogs, making them an attractive choice for anyone who needs to avoid dogs and cats for allergic reasons but would like to have a pet around the house.
And for any owners for whom allergies are a factor in their choice of pet, it's just as important to use non-allergenic rabbit bedding and litter, so that cleaning out doesn't produce any irritating dust. SmartBedz rabbit bedding is sterilised and dust-extracted during manufacture, making it a virtually dust free product. It is also completely free of perfume or any other artificial chemicals that might cause allergy problems for owners or rabbits.
They Have Less Natural Odour
It is usually very obvious if you are entering a household which has dogs or cats present, because of the smell. Even a dog that is shampooed regularly (e.g. every month) will still start to be distinctly odorous in the week or two before its next wash is due. Cats don't smell quite so much, generally speaking, but an unneutered tom cat can create a quite powerful smell at times. Cats (especially those who have not been neutered or spayed) can also decide to "spray" around the house to mark their territory, and this can be hard to clean up thoroughly, especially from carpets and other soft furnishings, resulting in a continual background smell that can be hard to eradicate.
Rabbits, by contrast, generally don't have much natural odour. As well as making for a more pleasant atmosphere for you and your guests, this also means you don't have to worry about bathing your rabbit (except for localised cleaning if fur gets dirty or matted, especially on its underside).
They Don't Need Exercising
Most dogs need a daily walk, which can be an onerous task for owners, especially during bad weather. Cats are often preferred as pets by people who are not able to commit to this level of exercise - but rabbits offer just the same advantage. Within a house, the amount of space in an average sized living room is more than adequate for a rabbit to get all the exercise it needs. In good weather, providing an outside run (with adequate protection from predators) is ideal - but apart from taking your bunny outside and putting him in it, there is little time or effort needed from the owner.
The Cuddle Factor
Let's face it, as beautiful as pet fish may be, you can't cuddle a fish! And for many pet owners a big part of the appeal of a pet is having a creature that you can...well...pet. Regularly stroking and cuddling a furry animal has been proven to reduce stress in humans and it has even been linked to longevity in elderly pet owners.
While dogs can't get enough petting and love to be in physical contact with their owners, cats are notorious for coming and going as they please, and their fickleness applies to being petted also. Even when they do deign to cuddle up with you there is an ever present risk of them digging their claws into you as they settle down - some even dig their claws in and out in time to their purring, to let you know just how relaxed and comfy they are!
But rabbits can be great to stroke and cuddle, especially if they have been regularly handled from an early age and are very familiar with the person doing the cuddling. The cuddle factor does vary a bit by breed however. The Polish is quite skittish by nature and requires a lot of handling when very young to get them used to being cuddled. In contrast, breeds such as the New Zealand or Sussex are much more docile and are more likely to sit contentedly on your lap and have a doze while you stroke them.
However, even with all these attractive characteristics behind them, keeping rabbits as house pets, even if they are house trained, does pose the very real problem of how to control toileting odours coming from an indoor hutch. The answer is to use a super-absorbent form of rabbit litter such as SmartBedz which locks away liquid and prevents the formation of ammonia - the chief cause of those unwanted smells. Wet pellets can be quickly and easily scooped out daily, along with any solids, and topped up with a handful of fresh pellets. You will still need to do a complete clean out of all rabbit bedding and litter sometimes, of course, but not as frequently as you would with less absorbent litter.
Rabbit Bedding - visit our online shop