Pet rabbits can live happily either indoors our outdoors. So long as you cater for their physical and behavioural needs, they'll stay happy and healthy.
Keeping a single rabbit alone in a hutch cannot even begin to meet the requirements of a social and active animal like a rabbit. In fact, it's cruel: rabbits living in caged solitary confinement develop all sorts of physical and behavioural problems.
Don’t feel guilty about using a cage. Houserabbits regard their cage as home, not prison. Wild rabbits spend hours underground in very confined warrens. Your rabbit won’t mind being based in a nice roomy cage, so long as he can come out for several hours every day. You can build up his freedom gradually without sacrificing your home.
Even once your bunny is perfectly trained, cages can still be useful.
Features to look for in a houserabbit cage
Minimising mess from hay & litter
Rabbits must have access to hay at all times - it's vital for both their digestion, their teeth, and to reduce boredom and behavioural problems.
But there's no denying that hay can be messy stuff indoors! Hay racks help a bit, but most people just pile hay in a deep-sided litter tray - bunnies love to munch and poop at the same time! Or, you could put hay inside a cardboard box with a pop hole cut in the side. Your rabbit will love to hide in the box, where he can eat and dig to his heart's content.
What about choosing litter for your rabbit's tray? You need something that will absorb urine and odour, be easy to handle and dispose of, and that isn't hazardous to your rabbit.
Stick to wood, paper or straw-based cat litters are the most popular choices for UK houserabbit owners, although even simpler is a layer or newspaper with a handful of hay or straw on top. Newspaper isn't all that absorbent, though, so this combination needs to be changed every day to avoid a nasty whiff from the litter tray.
Always avoid dangerous 'clumping' type litters - if rabbits eat these litters, they can develop intestinal obstructions. Clay-based cat litters are the usual suspects, but problems have also been reported with products made from hemp and corn cob.
They're available in several colours if you shop around, silver or black being the most commonly found alternatives to brass. Because these are designed for dogs, they have brilliant head room, but the larger sizes are proportionately very bulky indeed.
How about a big playpen instead of a cage?
There are two main sorts of playpen design. The first is designed for puppies, and consist of a modular systems where a varying number of mesh panels are linked by clips. Alternatively, a traditional wooden-framed chicken or rabbit run (choose a rectangular rather than triangular design) could be used it you have sufficient space.
The quality of most pet shop hutches ranges from poor to abysmal, but whereas flimsy hutches are totally unsuitable for an rabbit living outdoors (who need a sturdy, weather-proof, predator proof home raised off the ground as well as a large run) thin plywood is perfectly adequate to contain an indoor bunny when unsupervised.
Baby gates and custom-made cages
Don't forget the other options - using a baby gate to block off a utility area, for example. You'll probably need to adapt most gates with chicken wire or weld mesh to keep your bunny the right side of it!