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I am thinking about getting a rabbit and during my research I learned about bunny proofing, litter boxes, and have heard about cages for the bunnies and that they need to room to run. There seems to be conflict between the having a cage and having room to exercise. I did a search for 'Rabbit Condo' and found lots of different images.

If I bunny proof the whole house can I just let the bunnies have free access to the whole house all the time?

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The act of bunny proofing your home is about providing a safe and comfortable place for your rabbit(s) to play and exercise while protecting them and your home from incidental damage from the rabbit's natural tendencies and needs (e.g. chewing). The practicality of doing this to your entire home depends, of course, on your home and that's where the caveats/considerations come in:

  1. It's very difficult to ensure that you protect everything. For the most part, if you're okay with a bit of chewing on some wood furniture or such, then no big deal. Electrical, however, is where it gets a bit scary. You might miss something (easy enough to do in a larger space) or the rabbit might eventually chew their way through the defence. Regular inspection helps, obviously.

  2. Stairs and other high surfaces in the home can present a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. I agree with her general assessment (in the linked article), all of my rabbits liked to get up on things (especially after being brought up to them once), despite people trying to tell me that, as prey animals, they would avoid that. It's anecdotal, but I've seen a lot of such anecdotes... My concern in this environment is risk of injury from falls or miscues with more slippery surfaces. Rabbits, in my experiences, have a hard time with slippery surfaces and while they tend to have powerful muscles, their bone strength is not as good, and so I would have some care about where they might leap and slip and cause injury.

My general feeling, at least, is that having a large, but more confined space may be better and easier to do as it's also easier to supervise your rabbit(s) in that environment. Having said that, if you take some precautions and inspect your proofing efforts on a regular basis and repair any showing signs of being breeched, then I think you can allow them to roam freely. That is, after all, the best way to interact with them and, I think, keep them healthy and active.

(I never could give mine free run, my house was just not practical for it, so I set up a huge space in the basement for them (about 100 sq feet), which was shared with my home office and so allowed for me to be with them very frequently and interact while giving them plenty of space to do the bunny 500 at will.)

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John Cavan has some very good points in answer to this question. But there are more things to consider. Bunny proofing and litter box training are the two most obvious issues. But as you expand the bunny space to the whole house there are other considerations.

  1. Socialization: Is your bunny used to interacting with people, will they come dependably when called or will they be hiding in a "safe place" every time you approach?

  2. Safe place: Does the bunny have a safe place? House rabbits come from the descendents of burrow living wild rabbits. They need to have a safe place to relax and feel secure.

  3. Secure place: Households cannot be 100% bunny safe all the time. Kids, other pets, deliveries, recliners, visitors, and other life events, can impact the safety of the bunny. Even if you and the bunny are fine with bunny having access to the whole house, there will be times when you need to limit the bunnies space. The safe place and the secure place should be in the same area, and some means of keeping the bunny restricted to that area provided. This can be anything from a carrier to a bed room.

  4. House hold barriers: Slipper floors, and stairs can both be barriers for some bunnies, some bunnies will travel stairs and cross slippery floors, others will not, but neither scenario should be considered an absolute. Your bunny at any time may choose to start or stop crossing these barriers. Both sides bunny barriers need to be bunny proofed, for occasional barrier crossing bunnies, hay and litter should be provided on both sides.

  5. Training: Teaching a bunny what is and is not appropriate behavior (including what not to chew on) requires your supervision and interaction. Teaching a bunny not to chew on furniture is fairly easy, but it does require your presence with the bunny while they are learning. If you and the bunny are in different rooms, you will not be able to modify misbehavior.

  6. Health issues: If the bunny gets sick, is the area to big for you to notice? Can the bunny get anyplace where you cannot access them (i.e under big heavy beds)?

In Summary, once you have identified and addressed all the concerns, your bunny can have access to the whole house all the time, with brief restrictions during times of non-bunny safe events. You should find your bunny seeking you out for grooming and petting, on a regular (several times a day) schedule, and you should not see any damage to your home above normal wear and tear. If needed, restrict the area while re-addressing issues. It is much easier to teach acceptable behavior early, then to modify inappropriate behavior after it has become a habit. Start in a small area and expand as you and the bunny become comfortable with more.

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