Anyone with a house rabbit will understand the importance of “Bunny-Proofing”. Rabbits can and will be quite destructive if given the opportunity. Prior to allowing your bunny free run of your home, it’s important to go around your home and take preventative steps to minimise damage to your house and protect your rabbit from harm.
Electrical Cords and Wires
Unfortunately, rabbits associate cords and electrical wires with vines and roots. It is a natural instinct for them to munch through anything that slightly reminds them of their natural habitat and they are not aware that doing this has potentially fatal consequences.
Firstly walk around your house and remove any unnecessary items plugged into mains sockets. For example, all of my electrical equipment upstairs is left unplugged and the cord is tied back behind the items, well away from reach.
Items that are used daily will need to be protected by wire covers. Polythene tubing is readily available at any builders’ merchants. The tubing can be slit down the middle to place wires inside. Most office stationery stores sell cable tidies that allow all cables to be bound together safely. Industrial strength insulating tape can be used to secure lengths of cable off the floor behind appliances. If possible, trail all cables under carpets. Also, it may be useful to contact an electrician to turn your sockets upside down, so your cables go up the wall instead of the normal hanging down. These can then be safety tucked away behind furniture.
If your rabbits are allowed free reign in your kitchen, gaps between your appliances are a magnet for mischievous bunnies! I learnt this from bitter experience, when one of my rabbits managed to get in-between the dishwasher and fridge to chew her way through the central heating ducts, somehow managing to avoid electrocution. A piece of chipboard cut to fit the gap and securing into place has solved this problem.
If you have a room that contains computer equipment, with the inherent trailing cables, it may be worth considering closing this room off completely and making it a bunny free zone. Use baby gates or fencing whenever necessarily. Please note though that baby gates are made for babies and if you have a smaller rabbit it may be able to get through the bars, so it could be worth covering the gaps with chicken wire or securing pond plastic mesh fencing with zip ties to make it more secure. Also remember to consider your telephone wires, television aerials and speaker wires while performing these tasks.
Remember, if you can see it the chances are your bunny will get to it.
Remove all houseplants from reach of your bunny as many are toxic. Your rabbit really doesn’t know which are good or bad. An attractive pot of flourishing green leaves is too much of a temptation, so make sure they are well out of the way. If the plant tends to shed its leaves, move it into a another room completely out of the way from your rabbit.
Protection of your soft furnishings
If you are very house-proud, then a house rabbit is not for you. With the best will in the world, nine times out of ten rabbits will find something to destroy. There are preventative steps you can take to ensure damage to your home is minimal, but these will not always blend into your décor.
Rabbits love to dig and your carpets may become a victim to this fixation. Cover the corners of your carpets with linoleum, carpet squares, or even cover the area with a litter tray to prevent your rabbit picking at them. It may be worth investing in a rug or even changing your flooring to a wooden or laminated covering, which is far more robust. It is very important that you do not to let your rabbit continue chewing the carpets, as the fibres could cause an intestinal blockage if ingested.
Alternatively, make sure your bunny has lots of toys to take their mind off digging the carpets up or provide a dig box (cardboard box, containing straw or hay) in which your bunny can have a dig in a confined dark space without it causing any damage to your living area. (see picture below).
Make sure there are enough litter trays around and your rabbit knows where they are to prevent toilet accidents.
Curtains and Blinds
If you have any curtains within your rabbits reach, it is advisable to tie them up out of the way. Blinds should also be secured, as things that hang down and move are also or great interest to rabbits. It may be worth hanging an old towel over a dinning room chair so they can run through and nibble that and hopefully leave your window decorations alone.
Furniture and ornaments
Prevention is always better than cure. Make sure that you block off areas that a rabbit would love to burrow behind, like sofas and wall units. Remove all books from lower shelves or bookcases. It may be worth leaving a telephone directory on the floor so the can chew that to distracted that from your much loved possession. Ensure all breakables are well out of reach; I’ve lost count of the amount of vases lost to the antics of over-excited bunnies!
I have a rule in my house: anything left on the floor is fair game as far as the bunnies are concerned. If you do not remove you shoes, clothes, etc.; as annoying as it may be you cannot be mad with your bunnies if they decide to destroy them. It is always worth investing in a water gun or bottle (do not use a bottle that has contained toxic substances) and spray your bunny with water when they are doing something they shouldn’t. Firmly say the word “NO” while you are doing this, as they will soon learn to associate the word no with getting wet and soon start responding to it.
There are also sprays on the market that you can use to treat your furniture. These products leave a bitter after-taste that is supposed to put your bunny off chewing. However, I have not found these very successful.
Owning a free-range house bunny is an enjoyable and a rewarding experience after the initial disruption to your home. Having a bunny live along side you is an experience that should not be missed.
Teressa Longhurst (Tree)
Owner of seven house rabbits
This article is based on my own experiences and the web sites below.