Rabbits are moving out of their hutches and into our homes without a cage in sight. Welcome to the wonderful world of house rabbits...
What is a house rabbit?
A house rabbit is one that lives indoors with no restrictions on its freedom i.e. it is not confined to a cage at any time. The rabbit uses a litter tray like a cat and has free run of a room or the whole house.
This is a growing phenomenon, with more and more rabbit owners choosing to free their rabbits from cages and hutches and give them the same freedoms and respect as you would a cat or dog. In return they give us their unique and quirky personalities. Clever, affectionate, inquisitive and bossy; house rabbits are never boring.
Why house rabbits?
The house rabbit movement started in the USA and is growing fast in the UK and Europe. However, to a lot of people it is still incomprehensible. The preconception that rabbits live outdoors in hutches is hard to shake off. There is still a huge gap between general public perception i.e. hutch bound, cheap, child's pet, and what house rabbit owners have discovered i.e. a wealth of personality and very real needs such as companionship and healthcare that must be provided to keep a rabbit happy.
The truth is that rabbits made ideal indoor pets for many reasons, such as:-
Easily litter trained....once trained a rabbit will always use its tray
Clean......................rabbits groom themselves thoroughly several times a day
Crepuscular.............active at dawn and dusk i.e. when you are around
Quiet......................no barking or meowing
Affectionate.............rabbits show love and appreciation in many ways
Entertaining.............rabbit high jinks have to be seen to be believed
What are the benefits for the rabbit?
A rabbit's key needs are companionship and exercise. House rabbits live in much closer proximity to their owners and therefore form deeper bonds with us. At the same time they are able to take as much exercise as they want, leading to a much healthier, happier rabbit. Rabbits are intelligent creatures but unfortunately they rarely get the chance to show this - house rabbits are able to express their personalities and display a wider range of behaviour.
Rabbits living in pairs or groups also tend to get on better as house rabbits, living a more natural life where they can choose to spend time together or have "time out" on their own when needed.
What are the benefits for us?
Living with a rabbit in this way leads to a deeper, more mututally respective relationship. If your rabbit wants love and attention, it will seek you out - choosing to spend time with you rather than being forced to. This feeling is head and shoulders above any pleasure to be gained from simply holding a rabbit, knowing that the second you release it it will run away. House rabbits are fully interactive pets, for example they may wake you up in the morning, hassle you for their dinner or sit beside you on the sofa and "watch" TV.
What are the downsides?
Certain safety measures such as protecting cables must be taken as everyone knows rabbits love to nibble. You might also have to expect a level of damage to your furniture. However, those who have crossed the line and let rabbits in rarely go back. Somehow even the worst habits of a house rabbit, such as "accidentally" cutting off the telephone line, are forgivable when they snuggle up to you or lick your face.
Free range... a unique experience
It is difficult to explain to someone who has not experienced it the fundamental difference there is between keeping a rabbit caged and keeping it free range. The rabbit is free to do exactly as it pleases and sets its own timetable. It is truly a meeting of equals in this respect, with the humans in the house respecting the rabbit's wishes and compromising where necessary.
House rabbits - the way of the future?
House rabbits are growing in popularity, with the USA leading the way where they are often referred to as "urban" rabbits. The higher urban population and lack of outside space means that rabbits are well placed to become popular house pets and have several advantages over cats and dogs - they are quiet, sleep during the day and don't need walking. It was not so long ago that cats and dogs were kept outside in sheds and cages; now it is the rabbit's time to take its place in the house. House rabbits are here to stay!