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Should rabbits live indoors or outdoors?

Should rabbits live indoors or outdoors?
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This is one of those topics you don’t bring up in polite conversation with rabbit owners…like discussing politics or religion. Many rabbit keepers have strong opinions in this area and they aren’t afraid to share them.  Let’s look at the pros and cons of each setup, and more importantly how to give rabbits what they need no matter where they call home.

 Indoor Rabbits

Indoor rabbit sitting on a rug

Pros of keeping rabbits indoors

The biggest pro to keeping rabbits inside with you is they are safe from predators (assuming your other pets are well-mannered).  Keeping them inside also means they don’t have to live in harsh weather and for the most part, parasites are not a problem.  Inside, you can easily monitor your rabbit’s health & play with them.  

Rabbits are great house companions and can be happy in even the smallest home or apartment.  They have sweet personalities and spending time with them can be a relaxing & entertaining part of your day. As prey animals, they are excellent at hiding pain or illness.  The more time you can spend with your rabbit, the more likely you are to notice subtle changes in behavior that could alert you to a problem.  When litter box trained and with a properly rabbit-proofed house, they can be allowed to roam the house like a dog or cat (although most people still keep a cage or secure area for when they are not there to supervise).

Cons of keeping rabbits indoors

Rabbits are very curious and their instincts tell them to dig, chew, burrow, and explore.  These destructive habits could be unwelcome in your home when they chew the cord off yet another expensive electronic item, burrow through your couch, or chew up rugs, woodwork, or furniture.  

Other pets in your household could pose a danger to your rabbits.  They generally do well with cats and smaller dogs, but every animal is different.  Some dogs (especially hunting or herding breeds) will never get used to having a prey animal in the house.  If you are afraid to take the rabbit out of the cage to run around and socialize because you can’t trust your other animals, you are not doing it any favors by keeping it inside stuck in a cage.  If you are concerned about rabbit damage or finding random piles of poop on your rug, you are going to be more inclined to leave the rabbit bored & inside a cage for days on end.

How to happily keep rabbits inside

Prepare your home for rabbits just like if you were bringing home a new baby.  Secure cords out of the way and block access to areas (like behind the couch or under beds) where you might not want them to go.  If it is too overwhelming to rabbit-proof your whole house, designate a “rabbit room” where the rabbit can have free reign and you can visit often.  

Rabbits are very social, if you don’t think you can devote lots of time every day to hanging out with your rabbit consider getting a second rabbit. click here for tips on introducing a new rabbit  Provide things your rabbit can chew on: blocks of wood, commercial rabbit toys, paper towel tubes, wicker baskets, cardboard boxes, etc.  

Wild rabbits spend a lot of time digging & tunneling.  An indoor rabbit will enjoy plush cat tunnels, contractor tubes, and a few cardboard boxes taped end to end.  Provide them with some loose towels or old shirts for them to push around and burrow into.  Give them some natural sisal mats to dig and tear apart.  If your rabbit is kept busy mentally & physically in constructive ways, they will be less likely to take their boredom out on your furniture.

Outdoor Rabbits

Should rabbits live indoors or outdoors?

Pros to keeping rabbits outdoors

Keeping rabbits outdoors can allow more people to enjoy rabbits in their life.  Some reasons people choose to keep rabbits outdoors include: living with someone with allergies, having a dog with a high prey drive, not having enough space inside for a proper rabbit room, or having a landlord with a no indoor pet policy.  

Outdoor rabbits with a proper enclosure can live a more natural life – digging, tunneling, chewing to their heart’s content without damaging human property, and enjoying the freedom of living in the fresh air.  Most people can provide a much larger area outside for a rabbit exclosure than can be provided indoors.  Happy rabbits have plenty of room to run and access to dirt for digging.

Cons to keeping rabbits outdoors

Protecting your rabbits from predators & harsh elements are the biggest challenges to keeping rabbits outdoors. Serious thought needs to be given to keep them safe.  Secure & dry housing is important to the rabbits, but you also have to be prepared to tend to your rabbits in all types of weather.  Even in the snow, rain, & wind your bunnies need social interaction, food, fresh unfrozen water, and clean, dry, bedding.  Keeping your rabbits outside means you must be committed to attending to them every single day, year-round in every type of weather.

How to happily keep rabbits outside 

The first and most important step in keeping rabbits outdoors is to provide a large, predator-proof area for them to live.  You should have wire buried around the perimeter to stop animals from digging or chewing their way in and the rabbits from digging out.  Use strong, hardware cloth wire, not flimsy chicken wire which a raccoon or other animal could bend and break.  

The rabbits should have an exercise run that is at least 35 square feet per rabbit and at least 2 feet high. Making it 6 feet high will allow you to come into the enclosure and visit with them. Ideally, the enclosure will be covered on top to prevent aerial predators.  They should have a secure, weatherproof house that is at least 7 feet long x 2 feet wide x 2 feet tall (this is enough for 2 large bunnies to be secured at night).  You should be able to lock them in the house at night when the predator danger is highest and when you will be away from home for an extended time.

rabbit exercise yard attached to our barn
rabbit exercise yard attached to our barn

 Rabbits that are housed outdoors should NEVER be kept alone.  They are social creatures and will be sad if they are stuck in an enclosure all by themselves most of the time. Giving them a bunny playmate is necessary. Two females can get along, as well as two males (they will get along better if they are both neutered).  Males & females also can get along but please make sure they are both fixed! 

Outdoor rabbits should be kept near your home, not off in the woods so you can easily check on them and tend to them.  Their exercise run should be accessible to them year-round for several hours every day, so in harsh weather you may have to cover the sides or roof.  Having the run weatherproof & human size will make it more enjoyable to tend to and socialize with your rabbits year-round.  In the winter, you will have to find a way to keep their water from freezing, you can either change it a few times per day or buy a heated water bottle.  Either way, it is necessary to always have liquid water available to them.

Should rabbits live indoors or outdoors?
Outside they can chew on sticks rather than your coffee table

My thoughts

Rabbits are adorable and make wonderful pets. They can live very happily inside or outside with the proper care.  You could keep your rabbit in your house, never let it out of its cage, and never visit with it aside from basic care. That does not make you a good rabbit caretaker just because the rabbit is inside. You can keep your rabbits in a secure, roomy outdoor enclosure with lots of time for exercise, and visit with them every day tending to their needs both socially & physically. That does not make you a bad rabbit caretaker because they live outside.  Every situation is different, and both can be good or bad.

My rabbits for many years lived outside in a roomy enclosure attached to my house.  When we moved we were able to give them a large area inside the barn where they can live and play.  I have two 120 square-foot stalls for my rabbits (one for girls and one for boys) to run around. In addition, they have nearly 400 square feet in a secure outdoor area. We would never have that amount of space to dedicate to them inside.  There are benches where my family and I can sit and visit them, and plenty of places for them to dig, hide, jump, and climb.  

They are very used to humans & are friendly. When they hear the clink of the gate they come running to see us.  I have litter box trained my outdoor rabbits (click here to learn more about litter training) so that I can also bring them inside to visit.  It makes it easy to socialize with them more even if the weather isn’t the best.

In short, ensure your bunny gets plenty of exercise, give them quality food, lots of hay, clean water & bedding, and lots of love and you are being an excellent bunny companion 🙂

Should rabbits live indoors or outdoors?

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Mary Joy

Tuesday 21st of February 2023

Love this topic! I think the debate over whether rabbits should live indoors or outdoors is a complex one and depends on many factors. I believe that it is important to provide your bunny with a safe and comfortable environment that best fits their particular needs. After that you should consider their individual personality some bunnies may prefer the outdoor life while others might want all the cuddles they can get indoors!And, My bunny loves to cuddle so I stay her indoor but of course I also let her enjoy the outdoor experience.


Wednesday 22nd of February 2023

I absolutely agree, people get hung up on those that keep outdoor rabbits poorly. But there are also tons of people that keep them indoors poorly (stuck in a small cage all the time with no interaction). The most important thing is that the rabbits are happy and well cared for! Enjoy those bunny cuddles :)


Wednesday 2nd of March 2022

Hi! My name is Abby and I might be getting a bunny, and I was wondering if it would be bad if the bunny was living in my room? But I would get a harness and leash for it so I can take it outside, but do you think that it would be a good idea to do that? And also are bunnies aloud to go outside in the winter time?

Thanks, Abby


Sunday 6th of March 2022

Hi Abby, Your bunny could certainly live in your bedroom as long as you can give her enough space to run around. Rabbits can be mischievous and will chew cords and furniture, so you will need to be sure the place she is living has been "bunny-proofed". Many people keep rabbits in their house and let them have free run around the house, like a cat. You could do that in your room as long as you make it safe for her. Or you could section off part of your room as the "bunny area". I've seen people use wire shelf dividers or playpen panels to do things like that. Then you could let her out to run around when you are home to supervise her. And rabbits are fine outside in the winter. If you rabbit lives full time outside, they will start putting on weight and growing a thicker coat in the fall naturally. If they live inside all the time, they won't get that natural cue, so you should keep outside time to short exercise times in the winter so they don't get too cold


Saturday 15th of January 2022

Hello, I have a rabbit that lives outside in a hutch and I have a few questions about how to keep her warm. Currently she has two boxes with hay and straw inside. I am working on putting plexiglass on the sides of the hutch to block out the wind. I have also been looking into heating mats and lamps for her. Do you think she is warm enough without them, or would it be a good idea to buy a heating element? I live in Pennsylvania, so it is pretty cold outside and we are expecting snow. Also, I bring her inside sometimes where I have a small pen for her so that she can warm up. I keep her inside for a couple of hours, but I’m not sure if it is hurting her or helping her. Is it shocking her system when she goes back outside? Really I’m just asking for advice on how to keep her warm. The last thing I want is for her to get sick. She is a Dutch rabbit and her fur isn’t very thick. Thanks, Livy (Yes this is the same Livy from a year ago:)


Tuesday 12th of October 2021

Thank you so much for responding. The hutches do not have much run area but they do have enclosed wooden spaces with floors at both ends for shelter. The girl (13 almost 14 yrs old) says she will come by daily to clean, feed, exercise and play with them. I just worry about the predator stress and temperature extremes. The hutch wire was more of a dog crate look and the holes and spaces looked big enough certainly for snakes or possibly paws of predators to enter so my husband suggested they use a mesh also. The hutches are raised about 5-10 inches from the ground. Is that sufficient and I assume the mesh should go underneath the wire cage on the bottom also? There are two males in one hutch and a female with 7 babies in the other. I really appreciate your experience and help. I love animals and would hate to see any little animal be scared or suffer. We have rescued cats and we feed all of our wild birds , squirrels and chipmunks.


Sunday 10th of October 2021

Hello. We have been approached by a neighborhood teen and her mother who have bunnies but can no longer keep them in their rental house and do not have a yard. They have asked if they can keep them on part of our land ( they have 2 hutches each about 6' x 2' ). The proposed area is by a shed that has an eave overhang to provide some protection from wind and sun. The problem is that we live on a state park in MD and have a lot of foxes, snakes, raccoons, owls and hawks as well as coyotes and a rare lost bear. I cannot see how they can protect them from the predators. It also regularly soars to 90 degrees here in the summer. They tell us they will walk over daily to care for the rabbits. I am terrified that the bunnies will have heart attacks or suffer undue stress from the constant predator visits and the weather extremes. Also that the rabbits will attract even more predators closer to our home. We want to be nice neighbors but I am afraid that the bunnies lives will be cut short and that I will be contributing to it by allowing them to live on our land. I have been reading a lot about the predator stress and weather issues and I am not sure it is smart to move the bunnies outside as we head into winter even putting all of the other issues aside. My additional fear is that the family will lose interest and I will be left with the rabbits and have to rehome them. Any advice? Thank you.


Tuesday 12th of October 2021

Rabbits can live happily outside, but every situation is different. Where you back up to a state park, the threat of predators is obviously much higher than a standard suburban backyard. They can have heart attacks just from being scared. A 6x2 hutch is a fine inside space, but it's not enough if it's the only space they have to move around in. When keeping rabbits outside they should have access to a protected hutch (that can be locked up securely at night) AND an exercise run of about 30 square feet per rabbit. It's really not a great life for them to be kept in a cage, alone, all day and night. Where you live near a state park, the exercise run should be made of hardware cloth on the sides, a hardware cloth or solid roof, and the wire would need to be buried at least 2 feet into the ground all around the perimeter to deter digging predators. A proper hutch would have at least part of the space completely enclosed with a solid floor, roof & walls. They need somewhere to hide and feel safe. If the entire cage is wire, a predator can pull at their feet from the bottom or sides. It is also not good for the rabbit's foot pads to live on wire all the time. So I appreciate that they are trying to find a way to keep their pets and you are very nice for considering allowing them to be kept in your yard, but it sounds like they might need to give some more thought to the setup to make sure the bunnies have everything they need to be happy & safe

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