How to Rabbit-Proof Your Home

Learn how to rabbit-proof your home in this Howcast video featuring bunny lover Amy Sedaris and rabbit expert Mary E. Cotter.

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Rabbits make wonderful pets. If you're thinking of getting one, check out these videos: Actress Amy Sedaris, who is a loving mom to her own pet bunny, helps rabbit expert Mary E. Cotter, Ed.D., LVT answer all your questions about how to take care of a pet rabbit. It's not always easy, but it's worth the work.

 
 

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Speaker 1: So, rabbit-proofing when you live with an indoor rabbit is incredibly important because rabbits can literally kill themselves on household objects, and we want to talk about that a little bit. The biggest danger with having a rabbit indoors is electrical wires and computer wires, and this is what it looks like. Speaker 2: This is one that I had. I mean, I don't know. You turn your back for a second. It's like they know where the cords are, they love computer cords. But this one, you see, and I had no idea. If I had plugged this one, whatever it was to, you know I could've really hurt myself. So a good thing to do is, you can get this plastic tubing at your local hardware store and you just use like a blade to cut... Speaker 1: You can actually use a scissors. Speaker 2: And then you just fish the cord through here, you know, and fish it through so it's completely protected. So they might chew the plastic, but that's OK, it's protecting the cord. Speaker 1: And they will still chew the very end of this even when you, there's some things you just can't help. Speaker 2: Right. But this is the fun part, they get a jolt from it. You know? So. Speaker 1: Yeah, more than a jolt. Speaker 2: Living with your addictive rabbit. Speaker 1: Yeah, in the veterinary clinic, as you probably remember, I'm a veterinary technician, and we see rabbits come in to the clinic sometimes with charred mouths. Very sad. The owner will just say 'My rabbit is not eating anymore, what's the matter?'. And the first thing I'll ask them is what does your rabbit have access to? If their rabbit is free range in the house and they haven't done adequate rabbit-proofing, very often what's the problem is that the rabbit has chewed an electrical cord and burned its mouth and it's too painful to eat. So we look in the rabbit's mouth right away thinking maybe he has a tooth problem, and before you even look at the teeth you can see the burn in the mouth, and that really hurts. Speaker 2: But you shouldn't have exposed cords in your house anyway, it's unattractive. You know? I mean, straight guys do it all the time, you know, you go to their house and there's cords everywhere, and you're like 'geez'. So it looks better anyway when you fish it through and you hide it behind your sofa. But yeah they love cords, telephone cords, any kind of cord. And also baseboards, they love to chew against resistance. So I covered my baseboards with 2x4's, and just made that the baseboard and painted it to match the wall, but... Speaker 1: And I covered mine with furring strips and didn't paint it and now I have all chewed furring strips, which is great. As long as you cover it. Speaker 2: What are furring strips? Speaker 1: Furring strips are, well I'm not a construction person, but they're used, as I understand it, they're used as like standards on a wall and then you put wallboard on top of them or something like that, don't hold me to this, but they're thin pieces of wood, they're not heavy like 2x4's. Speaker 2: OK. Speaker 1: So it's easier to handle. And it's easier to get them on and off the woodwork if you're working alone just with little nail tacks. It works really, really well. Speaker 2: And also, whatever you drop on the floor, they're going to find. Sometimes I get down on the floor and see things at their level and I'll find needles, I'll find all kinds of things. They can get in the springs of like, if you have a relaxing... Speaker 1: A recliner. A recliner, yeah. Speaker 2: A recliner, they can hide up in the springs of that. Or your bed. What I did was, I had a rabbit that lived up in my springboard. Speaker 1: Yeah this is not unusual, I don't allow my rabbits in my bedroom at all anymore, because they can get underneath your bed and they chew the fiberglass covering that's under your box spring and then they work their way up into the box spring. Speaker 2: Right. Speaker 1: And the fiberglass covering itself is dangerous, and if they're living in the box spring and you don't even know it, you can't find your bunny, this is another big problem with rabbit-proofing. If you don't have adequate rabbit-proofing and you don't have areas closed off that should be inaccessible to a rabbit, if you have a sudden emergency like a fire in your building or something where you have to evacuate quickly, you're not going to know where your rabbit is because you haven't rabbit-proofed to the extent that you closed off areas that weren't safe for the rabbit. You want to be able to get the rabbit at all times. And the other thing you want to watch out for with rabbit-proofing is toxic plants. Believe it or not, a lot of houseplants, a lot of ordinary houseplants, are toxic to rabbits. And they eat, you know, a few leaves that people think 'that's not a problem,' and it is a problem. I remember early on, when I first had rabbits, this was 30 years ago, I gave my rabbit a houseplant. I was so naive about rabbits and I had this nice, I thought 'green plant, rabbits eat green, right?' So I gave my rabbit this plant, it was some sort of an ivy plant, and the rabbit stopped eating by that night, and the next day was just laying flat out. Thankfully he did not die, but he could have because of my ignorance. So now I try to use my ignorance to help other people not be ignorant and let them know that you've got to get those plants away from the rabbit. Speaker 2: And also furniture legs. I just put toilet paper tubes around the furniture legs. Speaker 1: Which is great. The rabbit-proofing tips could go on and on and on. The main thing to remember is: anything that is out is accessible to the rabbit. So nothing should be out that you can't afford to lose or that could hurt the rabbit. If you have bookcases, for example, and you have books on the bottom shelf, you can expect the books to be chewed. It's going to happen. One thing you want to watch out for with rabbits too is lead paint. So, if you have woodwork, again, and you haven't put something over it and the rabbit has chewed it and is getting sick, that should be something that you report to the vet if you take the rabbit to the vet. Speaker 2: And carpets too. Speaker 1: And carpets. I had oriental rugs in my Manhattan apartment when I lived in New York City, and I came home one day, I didn't really notice what was going on under the furniture, and the rug fringe was all gone. And they were starting on the wool. Speaker 2: That's funny. Yeah. Speaker 1: So we like, when we're rabbit-proofing, we like to recommend this kind of flat rug... Speaker 2: Yeah like the cotton, you can wash. Speaker 1: Yeah, in any area. Exactly. They're washable, you can put them over other rugs. If you have rugs with pile, for example, rabbits are likely to chew the pile, if they have access to it. Years ago I had an adorable little lop named Daniel and he lived in my back bedroom which had brand new wall-to-wall carpeting, and again, I didn't know any better then. He didn't chew the carpet early on, so he lived there for close to a year and I came home one day and there was a piece of carpet missing the size of a small plate. And it didn't come from the edge, it came from the middle. Somehow he had gotten bored and chewed the carpet. Thankfully he didn't die, but he could have. Speaker 2: Right, OK. Speaker 1: So, all of these near disasters are life lessons for us with rabbits. And we try to let other people learn from our experience so they don't have the same vet bills and the same health risks that our rabbits have had. Speaker 2: Right, so protect your home. Speaker 1: Yep.

Expert

  • Mary E. Cotter

    Mary E. Cotter, M.A., Ed.D., LVT is the founder of the NY-based Rabbit Rescue & Rehab. She serves as chapter manager of the NYC House Rabbit Society and is vice president of the International House Rabbit Society. Involved with rabbit rescue since 1982, she speaks and writes frequently on rabbit-related topics, addressing owners, veterinary professionals and shelter workers. Mary is an adjunct assistant professor in the veterinary technology department of LaGuardia Community College (City University of New York) and co-manages a 7,000-member Internet mailing list focused on rabbit health, care and behavior.