Why It Is Dangerous to Keep a Pet Rabbit Outdoors

Learn why it is dangerous to keep your pet rabbit outside 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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So Mary, a lot of people have bunnies and they keep them outside? What are your thoughts on that? They keep them on rabbit hutches and it's so sad to me when I see a little bunny all alone out in the hutch. These are social animals, they live in social groups in nature and when you keep your rabbit in a hutch in the backyard, it's like keeping a dog in a dog cage in the backyard. It's forgotten, no social interaction. Out of sight, out of mind. If you're lucky, your child or your husband or your wife remembers to feed the rabbit once a day. Sometimes the water gets filthy, bugs get in it, raccoons can get in it. And there are a lot of other considerations for outdoor rabbits too. In the winter their water can freeze, in the summer the heat can do them in. Rabbits will really succumb quickly from heath stroke, their body temperature is very high to begin with and when the weather is really hot outdoors it's hard for them to keep cool. Think about it. They have fur coats on all year round. If you let them out to hop in the yard, very often your neighbors will have used pesticides, which will leach over into your lawn, could be lethal for your rabbit. Owls can come by and snatch it up. Predatory animals. Rabbits can actually die from fear, from a hearth attack. People will come out in the morning and find their rabbit dead in the hutch and they will say 'I don't understand why he died. Nothing touched him' and in fact all that needed to happen was for a raccoon to crawl in that cage and that is so terrifying for a prey animal that they actually can have a hearth attack and die from that. very, very scary thing for a rabbit to be outside in a cage with no opportunity to escape when a predator comes by. And a predator is not just raccoon. It could be a dog or a neighborhood cat. I mean, nothing vicious but just the presence of a predator and a rabbit in a cage where it can't escape is a bad combination. One other thing about rabbits outdoors is you never get to see what's normal for a rabbit. You don't know its normal activity patterns, unless you have binoculars. You don't watch their normal activity patterns or what his normal eating patterns. You don't know how he chews so you won't know if he's chewing normally. That's a big deal. Sounds, rabbits are very, very sound sensitive. You can have a sudden motorcycle start up or thunder. Very, very scary to a rabbit. Even indoor with music blasting, the TV, it drives them nuts. And when they're in backyard hutches, they get very little exercise for the most part. Most people don't let them out or let them out very little. Or they have wire bottoms which bother their feet. Their feet are very sensitive and they're living on wire bottoms because people don't want to clean up the poop, they just let it dry through and they don't realize that their heels are like our elbows. There's no cushion there and those heels are pressing down on that sharp wire. That can really hurt their feet. So all in all, it's a much better idea to keep rabbits indoors, not outdoors. You'll have a much more satisfactory relationship with your rabbit and you'll enjoy your rabbit in a way you never will if you consign him to a backdoor hutch. It's not fun for them and it's really not fun for you.

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.