What’s the minimum?
The RWAF state that the minimum acceptable size a pair of rabbits (as you shouldn’t keep rabbits alone) should have 24/7 access to is 6ft by 10ft (3 metres by 2 metres) or roughly 60 square feet. This space should be a single, continuous level because it allows them to display positive behaviours, for example, to run rather than just hop.
This size requirement is an absolute minimum for passable welfare but is often sadly promoted as ‘the size to aim for’. Animal behaviour experts everywhere know that the bigger, the better for enclosures. In the wild rabbits would roam freely in social groups over vast spaces; digging, foraging and jumping. If you want your rabbits to be as happy as possible and thrive, offer them the largest space you can. Take a look at our Pinterest for some indoor and outdoor bunny home inspiration.
But the pet shop said my cage was big enough?
You will often see pet shops selling tiny cages and hutches, often just a few foot wide. The sale of these cruel cages is justified by small print stating they are ‘starter cages’ or ‘only suitable for temporary use’. It’s common that people walk out of the pet shop thinking that if you let them out for ‘exercise’ for an hour or two, you’ll have happy, healthy bunnies. This is far from the truth. The majority of hutches/cages manufactured for rabbits are completely unfit for purpose, even with some time out of the cage. Sadly, many caring people are unknowingly keeping their rabbits in very cruel conditions. Finding appropriately sized rabbit housing in pet shops is almost impossible.
What if I let them out to exercise?
Even if you were home and attentive to you bunnies all day, every day, they are still penned in for the hours when you sleep, work and shop. Being penned into such a small space for any amount of time is stressful and uncomfortable. Can you imagine shutting a cat or dog into such a small space for hours every day? If not, why should it be different for rabbits?
Can you imagine shutting a cat or dog into such a small space for hours every day and night? If not, why should it be different for rabbits?
Rabbits are very active when we are sleeping. Being crepuscular animals, they are most active at dawn and dusk, when the sun is rising and setting. From observing free roaming rabbits, we can see they nap in short bursts, with periods of short activity in between. They need to be able to move and explore when they choose, not when we choose.
Hutches and cages for meat rabbits?
We are used to seeing rabbits in hutches. Designed by the Victorians for fattening up meat rabbits, they had little concern for their happiness and welfare. Pet shops thrive off this historic imagery, allowing easy sales of small and convenient cages and hutches that slot into the average living room or garden. The truth is that keeping rabbits shut up for long periods of time in inadequately sized housing is cruel and leads to mental and physical suffering.
What’s in it for us humans?
Joy to watch
Witnessing natural behaviours is part of the joy of caring for rabbits. Binkys, jumping, hopping and digging are unique and fascinating bunny which you will be rewarded with much more frequently when rabbits are living in a suitable enclosure.
Healthier rabbits, less vet bills
Just like us, rabbits need exercise and mental stimulation. Giving rabbits space to move around freely will result in them being healthier physically and mentally. Obesity is common in rabbits kept in small enclosures. They can become bored, lethargic and depressed. This shortens their life span and increases health issues such as GI stasis.
Allow them to thrive, not just survive
All good rabbit carers love their rabbits very much and want them to have a great life. Although your bunny may not be completely depressed and lethargic if they don’t have 24/7 access to a suitable space, they certainly won’t be thriving. Even if they binky, run and jump when let out of their small cage, they should have the right to do this any time they choose, not just when you decide to let them free.
their lives don’t stop when you’re not around
Enclosure size is just one of the elements that make up a healthy and happy bunny life. Take a look at our rabbit resources page for tips on health, diet and companionship. Have you considered allowing your indoor bunnies to free roam? With some simple rabbit proofing many people find it is a great solution is to allow resident bunnies to take over an entire room 24/7!
Remember the space you provide is all they get for their entire existence. They’re completely reliant on you to make their lives as enjoyable as possible. Their instincts and desire to play and exercise doesn’t stop when you’re out of the house or sleeping.