Rabbits and guinea pigs can live happily either indoors or outdoors. We don’t believe that one option is better than the other – provided you give them a loving home and cater for their needs, your furry friends can thrive in either situation. If you decide to keep your pets indoors, there are lots of things to think about when you’re setting up their home. Read on to find out what you’ll need to know to keep your indoor pets safe and well.
Where should you keep indoor rabbits and guinea pigs?
If you choose to house your pets indoors, the first question to ask is where to set up their home? When you’re deciding where to keep your furry friends, it’s important to factor in how much space they’ll need to exercise. The RWAF advises that indoor rabbit enclosures should have a minimum floorspace of 3m x 2m, making a 6m2 area for a pair of bunnies. For guinea pigs, the RSPCA advises that the living space should be at least 2.5m2 for a pair. However, these are just the minimum areas required, and ideally enclosures should be larger to give your pets lots of space to run and play.
Where this space should be depends on the layout of your house. Some people will keep their pets in an area within a large room – guinea pigs often live happily in large indoor cages, whereas rabbits often have an area of the room penned off. In other houses, though, it may be practical to devote a whole room to becoming a pet paradise! This will often be a spare room, utility room or conservatory. A word of caution though: conservatories can get very hot in the sunshine, so it’s best not to keep your pets in there unless you’re able to control the temperature.
Some people allow rabbits to roam throughout most or all of the house. This is great for giving them loads of exercise and fun, but it does involve a bigger commitment in terms of making the environment safe and ‘bunny-proof’. In general, if you go for this option, it’s best to start off keeping your bunnies in a smaller area to litter train them and get them used to the space, then extend their roaming area once they’re settled in.
How to bunny-proof your house
However much of the house your pets are allowed to be in, it’s important to make sure this area is safe for them. This means that you’ll need to identify and remove various dangers. Electric cables are one such hazard – these are very tempting for small pets to have a nibble on! So make sure that any wires are protected, for example by using protective tubing or boarding them up.
A second potential problem is houseplants. Rabbits and guinea pigs love to graze on vegetation, and potted plants are no exception. Unfortunately, many houseplants are actually poisonous to our herbivore friends. It’s best to keep houseplants well out of their reach, but do remember that rabbits like to climb onto furniture, so ‘out of reach’ may be ‘out the room’! To be on the safe side, always check whether a plant could be poisonous before bringing it into your home.
Another thing to think about is the unfortunate tendency of our furry friends to chew on furniture. And it’s not just furniture – door frames, skirting boards, rugs and carpets can also be nibbled on! To deal with this, it’s worth protecting or removing anything that you don’t want to find tooth marks in. Remember that chewing is a natural behaviour, so be sure to provide suitable alternatives to keep your pets satisfied. There are lots of toys available that happy herbivores will love to get their teeth into.
A final thing to remember when bunny-proofing your house is that rabbits are great at getting where they’re not allowed! They can jump surprisingly high and can squeeze through very narrow spaces. Baby gates and dog gates can be useful, but do keep an eye out for your bun sneaking through.
Setting up an indoor rabbit habitat
So, now you know what to keep out of your furry friend’s indoor space, what should you include in their home? First things first, indoor rabbits and guinea pigs will want a cosy shelter to sleep in. This should be set up comfortably with good quality bedding and should be large enough for two pets to share. It’s very important to keep two pets together if possible – rabbits and guinea pigs are highly social creatures, and even though they’ll spend a great deal of time with you if they’re kept indoors, they’ll still need a companion of the same species to keep them happy.
As well as a sleeping area, your pets will need places to hide. These can be as simple as cardboard tubes or boxes with holes cut into them. All hiding places should each have two entrances and exits so that your pets feel safe and don’t get trapped inside by their friend! In addition to hiding places, you can liven up the living area with toys to keep your pets busy. There are a huge range of toys that you can make or buy – balls, tubes stuffed with hay, wicker toys and stackable toys, to name just a few. It’s important to encourage natural foraging behaviour in herbivores kept indoors, and puzzle toys that can be stuffed with food or healthy treats such as our Selective Naturals Meadow Loops are a great way to cater for your pet’s natural instincts.
You’ll also need to provide food and water bowls and an area for toileting. It’s possible to litter train both rabbits and guinea pigs and you can clean the litter tray out every day to keep the area nice and fresh. Rabbits will also like a ‘digging tray’, which can be as simple as a large plant pot or litter tray filled with earth, sand or shredded paper.
A final thing to consider is the type of flooring. Carpet can be difficult to clean, but some hard floors can be slippery. Non-slip or textured hard flooring is a good option for indoor rabbit enclosures, and you can add mats and give a fleece or vet bed for a comfy place to sit. If you’re setting up a guinea pig cage, remember that they can get sore feet on hard flooring, so you can line their enclosure with newspaper and towels, fleece or bedding.
What’s the best diet for house rabbits?
Rabbits kept indoors have slightly different needs than their outdoor friends, and ideally their diet should reflect this. In particular, indoor bunnies get less exposure to sunlight so they will be less able to make Vitamin D. To meet the needs of house rabbits, our Science Selective House Rabbit diet is fortified with Vitamin D. The food is made of timothy hay, grass and thyme to closely reflect natural grazing patterns for indoor bunnies. With a high fibre content and no added sugar, it also helps avoid weight gain, which can be an issue for house rabbits who don’t have to expend so much energy keeping warm. This diet has recently won a 2020 Pet Business Industry Recognition Award, so you can be confident you’re choosing a great option for your bun!
Packeted food should only be a part of the diet for small herbivores – they’ll also need lots of hay and some fresh greens to keep their delicate digestives systems healthy. To learn more about the best diet to keep your small pet happy and healthy, check out our blog.
A bit of both worlds
Finally, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t have to be either/or when it comes to indoors and outdoors. Indoor pets can still take a trip into the outside world if you’ve got a garden and you’re able to set up a safe area for them to run around in. Remember that pets who normally live indoors will be less hardy than their outdoor friends though, so keep them safely snuggled up inside in bad weather.
An alternative to a standalone run is to have an outdoor enclosure attached to the indoor living space in your house – for example via a tunnel in the run. This isn’t always practical to set up, but if you’re able to do this then your pets can choose when they spend their time outdoors or indoors, getting the best of both worlds.
That’s our guide to keeping indoor rabbits and guinea pigs! If you decide that the indoor option isn’t for you, take a look at our 10 top tips for setting up outdoor hutches.