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Why Keep Your Rabbit Indoors?

By: Margie Wilson

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As temperatures rise or fall with the season, you may be tempted to let your rabbit enjoy the outdoor weather. But domestic pet rabbits are highly susceptible to changes in outdoor temperatures.

Spring and fall are noted for wild swings in the thermometer. Temperatures under 50 degrees and over 80 degrees Fahrenheit can have a dangerous effect on your rabbit's health. Any temperature under or over this range should prompt you to bring your outdoor rabbit inside, or provide him with a home that stays comfortably within 50 F and 80 F. Even in the proper environment, you need to check on him frequently. Rabbits can get sick and die quickly from heat or cold. It is far better and healthier to keep your rabbit indoors.

Illnesses

Illnesses easily go unnoticed in outdoor rabbits because the signs are subtle. Owners of outdoor rabbits that have passed away often say he was fine when they saw him last and then "just died." Illnesses that can begin without warning include:

  • Heat stroke or hypothermia (when the body's temperature has risen or fallen to life-threatening levels)

  • Bladder stones (straining while urinating, perhaps with some blood, requiring immediate veterinary attention and often surgery)

  • Hairblock (a sudden digestive blockage that often has subtle signs such as decreased appetite, decreased elimination or smaller droppings, often unnoticed in an outdoor cage)

  • Pasteurella (a bacterial infection evidenced by runny eyes, nose, difficulty breathing, requiring immediate veterinary attention)

    Predators

    No matter how safe you think your hutch is, it isn't safe enough unless you have a locked stable or double-enclosed area. Year after year, bodies of rabbits are brought into shelters after being killed in their "safe" hutches by predators (raccoons, owls, hawks, snakes, dogs). Raccoons and dogs tend to be the biggest concerns. Some people feel that rabbits are extremely sensitive to fear and can be "scared to death." It has been reported that raccoons have killed bunnies, untouched, in their outdoor cages. Many have reported, "I saw a raccoon just crawl over his cage which is totally secure, and the next morning, my bunny was dead – no blood, no marks."

    Companionship

    Rabbits are social; they enjoy companionship and having their owners nearby. Leaving a bunny outdoors all day causes him to close off to humans and develop more of the wild instinct. Many owners complain of the backyard bunny not being friendly to them when they or their children go out to play or feed him. The rabbit, left outdoors, does not bond with his owner or understand that the person who comes out now and then loves him. A true bond develops when you spend time with your rabbit, as with any animal.

    Other Safety Concerns

    There are other hazards to your bunny outdoors. Rabbits have been reported stolen from backyards, let out by neighborhood children, and escaping from yards/hutches. Unfortunately this leads to very sad results.

    Why risk a precious life you have purchased by allowing him to be alone outside without you? Keep your bunny inside so you'll notice any changes that could end up costing you much more at the veterinarian's office, or worse yet, your bunny's life.

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