The Basics of Rabbit & Cavy Housing
Important points for housing your pet rabbit
Indoor or outdoor?
House rabbits are becoming increasingly popular with the rapid expansion of apartment living – so rabbit proofing your home becomes the most important item of business! Removing access to fun, chewable items like power cords can be an arduous task. Many indoor rabbits will have an enclosure or room sectioned off for them when their owners are out, to keep them out of trouble. When looking for a caged enclosure, which is the best?
Rabbits are crepuscular, meaning they will generally sleep during the day and night but will be ready for play and excitement during dawn and dusk. An important point to note is that rabbit feet are not designed to live on wire floors. They don’t have thick paw pads like cats or dogs, so a solid base is best for your rabbit.
Bigger is better! Your rabbit’s enclosure should be about 6 times their size when fully stretched out, and tall enough for them to stand on their hind legs. It should be even larger if they are not let out to stretch and exercise for a few hours every day. Two story cages are definitely a winner with rabbits.
Young rabbits will generally litter train quite well. Having your bunny desexed at 5 or 6 months of age will discourage any mature “marking” behaviours. Placing a litter tray in the corner of your rabbit’s enclosure can often be enough to litter train; however some rabbits can take a little more work. Reward/positive reinforcement based training should be the only way you train your rabbit. There needs to be enough space in your rabbit’s enclosure for enrichment toys and chew items.
If your rabbit lives outside, it is essential for your enclosure to be mosquito proof. Mosquitoes can carry Myxomatosis and Calicivirus, which are highly infectious diseases and will almost always result in a painful and distressing death.
There is a vaccination available for Calicivirus, please speak with your vet about a vaccination schedule. Rabbits are best kept as pairs, although there are of course those few rabbits that do enjoy being single bunnies. Allowing enough cage space and considering appropriate genders is also crucial to have a happy, hoppy rabbit.
More than one?
Rabbits are best kept as pairs although there are, of course, those few rabbits prefer their own company. Allowing enough cage space when there are multiple rabbits and considering appropriate genders is also crucial to have a happy, hoppy rabbit. Each rabbit will need sufficient space to stretch out and move around. Desexing your rabbits when they are housed together is important to remove the risk of unwanted pregnancies.
Important points for housing your guinea pig
Indoor or outdoor?
Guinea Pigs are sensitive to heat stroke, so allowing your pig to have an indoor and outdoor enclosure is ideal for most Australian climates. Being able to bring your cavy inside during extreme weather and place him or her into an enclosure that is safe and comfortable is best.
If keeping your pig outside ensure that their cage is predator proof and provides plenty of space to exercise freely. Guinea pigs enjoy having a safe place, or a couple of safe places they can retreat to when scared or tired, so the use of hides and other environmental enrichment inside the cage is important.
When keeping your cavy in a cage inside, cage substrate is important to consider, a wire floor is not idea and can lead to infections in the feet and toes.
Once you have your solid based cage the next thing to consider is cleaning, you will need to use a easily replaceable substrate in the cage and will likely need to change your pigs substrate two or three times a week depending on how many pigs you have.
Newspaper or puppy pee pads will work as a liner for the cage base and an absorbent but digestible substrate for on top will work well, alternatively sheets of fleece are very popular and make for easy washing, with many colour and pattern choices available for fleece it can bring colour to any cavy cage.
Guinea Pigs housed outside can fall victim to pests and parasites, with fly strike being rather common especially here in Australia. So a pest proof cage is just as important for cavies as it is for rabbits.
More than one?
Cavy are exceptionally social beings and should do very well in group settings, gender consideration is essential for harmonious living, castrating and speying female guinea pigs is increasing in popularity and will remove the risk of unwanted litters, desexing also reduces risks of certain reproductive cancers and ailments as well.