Rabbitproofing your home, preferably before you introduce your rabbit, is essential to limit damage to your property and protect your rabbit from harm. In the beginning I recommend you keep your rabbit in an easily protected room where you spend a lot of time, e.g. the kitchen or living room. Choosing a suitable room will reduce the amount of bunnyproofing needed; naturally it is best to avoid rooms with carpet, wallpaper, expensive items or a lot of telephone/electric cables.
As a general rule, objects within 60 cm of the floor are at risk from bunny attacks and should be protected or removed. Young rabbits in particular can be very athletic and inquisitive, so you’ll need to be extra vigilant during exercise times. Remember that a bored rabbit or one who is left alone for most of the time is more likely to create jumping, digging and chewing diversions with your furniture and home decor.
For this reason it’s important to combine bunnyproofing with toys and exercise. It is also a good idea to decide in advance whether some rooms are to be no-go areas to your rabbit.
Rabbitproofing may appear laborious, but most of the work required is a one-off. Once an area is bunnyproofed, all you have to do is check from time to time that the rabbit hasn’t damaged or removed protective covers.
Protecting your home…
- Valuable books and documents should be moved out of reach if your rabbit enjoys chewing on them. Some rabbits seem to gravitate around the latest copy of your favourite magazine or TV programmes. Paper-trained bunnies may leave urine and droppings on anything made of paper left lying on the floor.
- Avoid leaving handbags, shoes and clothes on the floor or low furniture.
- It is a good idea not to let your rabbit hop around carpeted rooms until he is housetrained. Even then supply at least one litter tray in each room.
- Rabbits tend to dig at the end of tunnels (behind the sofa, between a piece of furniture and the wall, etc.). Put a straw mat or a piece of carpet at the end of the tunnel, holding it down with furniture on either side. Or leave an old Yellow Pages, a tub filled with paper, hay, straw, towels, etc. for your rabbit to dig in.
- Neutering or spaying your rabbit will help to reduce destructiveness. You should also check her front teeth and keep her nails clipped.
- If you do not wish to give your rabbit access to the bedrooms, the simplest way is to keep the doors closed. Rabbits love hiding under beds and also urinating on them. To prevent ‘accidents’ I suggest you cover the mattress with a water-proof sheet and put at least one litter tray in the room.
- If your rabbit loves gnawing on wooden furniture, offer him plenty of chew toys (untreated pine block, apple and pear tree twigs, seagrass mats, cardboard boxes). Avoid putting litter-trays near light-coloured walls and furniture to prevent urine-staining.
- A rubbish bag or aluminium foil may discourage a bunny from jumping on the sofa and urinating on the seats when you’re not around. Again I would recommend covering the sofa with a waterproof sheet and a washable throw. Alternatively you can cover it with some cardboard boxes when it’s unoccupied. Use these deterrents for a month or longer to help your rabbit break the habit.
- Upholstered beds and sofas that are raised off the floor are very attractive to rabbits and some will build a nest in the soft padding. A cardboard box or wooden frame lower than the base of the bed or sofa should keep your rabbit away. Alternatively, supply a box with shredded paper, straw and old towels for your bunny to dig in. If your rabbit likes chewing holes in the back of the settee, give him a closed cardboard box full of straw, paper, fabric and so on. Make a small gap in one of the sides to encourage your rabbit to chew his way in.
- Prevent access to a dangerous or non-rabbitproofed area by using furniture and other objects (cardboard boxes, straw baskets, etc.). Hi-fi speakers can be positioned to deter your bunny from hopping behind the hi-fi and chewing the cables. Use phone books or flat cardboard boxes to prevent access to the back of the cooker, fridge or washing machine.
- Baby gates and puppy pen panels can be used to confine a bunny to a room or part of it while still making him feel part of the family. You can use a similar gate to stop your rabbit from going in the garden if you can’t supervise her. Baby gates are also useful in preventing a rabbit from hopping up or down-stairs.
- Don’t leave your remote or cordless phone lying around or your bunny might chew the soft buttons.
- Rabbits find telephone, aerial and electric cables irresistible. Because chewing them may result in the rabbit (or a another pet or person) being burned or electrocuted, it is essential to conceal all wiring within his reach. Don’t rely on supervision or training alone, however useful, to prevent damage to your cables – a bunny can gnaw through them in a second as soon as your back is turned. The first step is to gather and conceal excess cable wherever possible (e.g. under a mattress, behind some furniture, etc). Don’t leave any dangling cables because it is normal for a rabbit to put them in his mouth and toss them out of the way. The easiest way to protect your wiring is with plastic water piping from a DIY shop. Cut it along its length with a Stanley knife and wrap around the cable. Water piping is sold by the foot and comes in various diametres. Some rabbits will still nibble on the tubing, but this gives you enough time to replace the tubing or use a stronger type of cable cover. I suggest you secure the piping with sticky tape near a plug, switch or adaptor to prevent slipping.
- In addition to cables, rabbits enjoy nibbling on articles made of rubber or soft plastic (garden hosepipe, shoes, inflatable sun beds, foam cushions etc.).
- Chairs should be pushed all the way under tables to prevent an energetic bunny from jumping on a desktop.
- If your rabbit likes stripping the wallpaper, cover lower wall areas with flat cardboard or plexiglas. Offer him plenty of things to shred, such as old magazines and telephone books.
- Protect skirting boards and other furniture by nailing a thin strip of untreated pine on them. Combine this method with chew toys and with training your rabbit not to gnaw on these items.
…and your rabbit
- Doors leading to non-bunnyproofed rooms should be kept closed at all times. Open and close doors gently to prevent your rabbit from getting caught. Drafts may suddenly slam a door shut, so use a doorwedge when you air the rooms. Slamming a door or bursting into a room will also frighten your rabbit. Under no circumstances leave your front door open or ajar because it only takes a few seconds for your bunny to escape.
- As your rabbit starts following you around the house, take care not to step on him or kick him accidentally. Get into the habit of looking before you walk and preferably wear soft shoes or slippers when you are at home.
- If your rabbit spends a lot of time in the kitchen, she may run between your feet while you’re cooking or using knives, scissors, etc. Take extra care when handling hot food and liquids. If possible, use the rings at the back of the cooker so if a liquid boils over it will not burn your rabbit.
- Rabbits can slip on smooth floors and they can catch cold on some linoleum/stone floors. Avoid this by giving your rabbit something to rest on, e.g. grass mats, towels, cotton or synthetic sheepskin rugs, or a dog basket.
- Be careful not to drop anything on your rabbit, especially hot drinks, food, sharp or heavy items. Avoid piling things high, e.g. magazines, books, dishes in case they fall on top of your rabbit.
- Keep all medicines out of reach.
- Pick up small objects that can lodge in your rabbit’s mouth, e.g. rubber bands, drawing pins, needles, paper clips, jewellery and so on.
- Many indoor plants are toxic, so move them to a high shelf or cabinet top where the bunny can’t reach them.
- Friends and visitors are probably not be used to having a house rabbit, and should be reminded to be vigilant.