Bunny proofing is essential for both the safety of your bunnies and for the safety of your home. It’s a time consuming process and you will find that it is also an ongoing process. It will be necessary to review and possibly change the way you bunny proof over time. For instance, when I first got my bunnies and they were living in the dining room, I could put anything on the dining room table as they could not reach it. But now, at one year old, they can jump pretty high so I’ve had to re-evaluate where things are placed. The table is no longer safe to place high risk items.
By high risk items, I mean things like:
- Electric cables
- Plants that are potentially poisonous or plants you do not want grazed on
- Anything that contains liquid that you would not want all over the place
- Cutlery or sharp objects such as scissors
If you consider how many cables you have around your house, you can begin to see the enormity of the task. However, do not feel put off! If your rabbits live in the house, you should always start by just proofing the room they are in and slowly working out towards other rooms you wish them to have access to. Starting out with just one room is a good idea in many ways, it allows your bunnies to explore the room and become familiar with it so when they are finally allowed in other parts of the house, they will view that room as theirs and see it as a safe base from which they can begin their explorations. It also means you can litter train them in a confined area whilst you prepare the rest of the house.
In this article, I will describe some ways you can bunny proof your home. There are plenty of other ways and with some creativity; you might come across some unique ideas (which I hope you would share with fellow rabbit owners!). You will need to remember that not all methods will work with your rabbits and that some methods might stop working in the future. You know your rabbit best so you will have to try and out think them. Good luck and play safe!
Rabbits are natural chewers and because of that, they are at risk to being electrocuted in home environments. For their safety and yours, it is essential to keep them away from wires. You can not presume that by watching your rabbit closely, no accidents will happen. It only takes a few seconds for a rabbit to chew into a wire. I will list some ideas for preventing shocks.
The area where your TV is will have an immense number of cables, particularly if you have things like sky boxes, free view boxes, game consoles etc. My advice will be to block that whole area off. A million wires hanging around, it’s like an accident waiting to happen. You can cover each individual wire but if you have as many wires as I do, it would be easier, more cost effective just to impose a bunny ban in that area. You can use pet pens to block off access. If you are handy at cutting mesh, you can make a perfect mesh cover for those gaps that a rabbit can squeeze in to attack cables. Another option is to make use of hard plastic like Perspex sheets. These are quite nice as you can get see through ones that do not impair the look of your TV area as much as a play pen might. I use cardboard to cover up my TV area when I let my rabbits out as I live in my parents’ house and they would not appreciate me changing the layout of the room. Luckily, mine are not crazy about cardboard so they rarely attack it.
For standalone wires, such as your phone charger or laptop charger, you can cover these wires with hard plastic. Some options are:
- Plastic tubing – you can buy plastic tubing (mainly the transparent kind you see in fish tanks although there are black ones available) and make a slit all the way down the tubing so you can slot your wire into it. You can also buy some that are already slit down the middle. Ensure the tubing goes all the way along the length of the wire. If needed, use strong tape to secure the tube shut at intervals.
- Spiral cable wrap – these are sold as cable tidies but you can use it to protect cables from those strong teeth. Dee Millen’s bunny shop sells them but you can also find them in most hardware stores.
You can also run cables behind furniture such as sofas and beds etc provided that your rabbit can not reach those areas. Please make sure you do not create a fire risk though!
Rabbits just love tearing bits of paper. Why buy a paper shredder when you can have a rabbit? Sometimes they love shredding so much, they will target your walls. It doesn’t take a lot, just a little bit sticking out is enough to attract their attention. To protect your walls from destruction, you can place plastic sheets over the wall. You can find clear ones and you do not have to cover the whole section of the wall. The bottom feet or two should be enough to prevent them finding something to tear at. You can cover sections with furniture too. Placing toys or distractions where there is a chance of rabbit destruction may also be an effective method.
These wooden bits that stick out of a wall appeal to rabbits. Mine just cannot resist taking a chunk out of the board. You can use wooden boards to place over a skirting board so your bunny can bite on that instead. Some chewing deterrent sprays may be helpful when sprayed on skirting boards and other areas you do not want to have chewed. Just be sure to make sure it is safe for the rabbit and safe for the furniture. It should be noted that your rabbit might actually like the spray you use so you may have to trial and error if you wish to use a spray.
Training your rabbit to leave those areas alone is also possible. You can use a water mist spray but this is only effective if you catch them every time. You can also use a word to signify that you do not like what they are doing. For my rabbits, I say ‘No’ in a firm voice that is reserved for naughty buns only. They seem to recognise this to some extent and will usually stop what they are doing. Never shout, always tell them in a firm way and never hit your pet.
If you have floor length curtains, your rabbit may see them as an interesting place to hide behind. Your rabbit might also think that your curtains are lacking exits. And consequently create some. The only effective method would be to take up your curtains so they no longer trail on the ground or to make use of shorter curtains. Another method is to provide distraction toys.
House plants have to be out of reach. Placing them on a table may not be good enough as rabbits have strong legs and can reach heights that you would not have imagined. House plants can be very toxic and the best thing you can do is to put your house plants in a room that your rabbits are not allowed in. Play pens can be used to block of areas of the room with a plant in it. Be sure to check if your rabbit can reach fallen leaves or flowers as these may also be toxic. For a list of common poisonous plants, see here.
If you have sofas or beds that are raised, you will have to watch out for bunnies that burrow underneath and into the soft fabric. To prevent that from happening, you can use cardboard to block off these areas that your rabbit might crawl under. Even crawl spaces between a wall and a long sofa can be problematic. Rabbits can chew into a sofa and hide inside or they can become squashed between a sofa and a wall. Block off access to these crawl spaces.
Do not leave any items that can be dangerous on sofas and beds as rabbits are able to jump onto these surfaces. Rabbits can be rather clumsy so try not to put things like magazines or loose cushions on leather or slippery surfaces as they are likely to jump on and slide back off (maybe due to the fact that they have furry feet and no rubber paws like cats and dogs). Sharp objects, hot drinks or food should all be placed out of a rabbits jumping reach.
If you have furniture that moves like reclining armchairs, be mindful of how and when you use them as your rabbit may get trapped or hurt. It’s best to not use the mechanisms if a rabbit is out and about. This applies to rocking chairs too.
Use a chew preventing spray if your rabbit enjoys destroying your furniture or offer them toys that are more interesting.
Bathroom or kitchen
I recommend not letting your rabbit into the bathroom if you keep all your cleaning products in there as they may become curious and play around with these chemicals. It is also a good idea to block access to this room as a bunny can easily jump into a toilet or into the bathtub. Bathtubs are slippery places and rabbits will jump in regardless of what’s on the other side. They may even try to balance on the bathtub ledge and that can be disastrous if they slip and fall off.
The kitchen can be fine if they have no way of reaching counter surfaces where you may keep glasses, knifes etc. But you will have to keep the floor spotless as rabbits do not always know what is good for them. Do not let them in the kitchen whilst cooking in case you trip over your rabbit and your dinner flies across the room. Cooking fumes are probably not too healthy for a rabbit’s delicate lungs. If you feel that it will be difficult to keep the kitchen a hazard free and clean environment, then I would advise you place a baby gate in front of the door or keep the door shut when your rabbits are out.
By providing toys, you can reduce the chances of your rabbit destroying your house. Toys need not be expensive; they can be made from household items like tissue rolls stuffed with hay. If you have an apple tree, twigs from that can make nice distractions. Willow toys and cardboard castles can make fun toys for your pet. You can buy cardboard castles or better yet, you can recycle any boxes you have and make a castle.
If you place these toys in areas that are at risk of being chewed, your rabbit might attack these toys instead. You will need to swap toys around to keep your pet interested. I like to put all my rabbit toys in a box and choose a few to place out, swapping them around every few days. If you do notice your rabbit ignoring the toys you have up, try swapping them as they might be bored with those toys or they might not like those toys.
Bunny proofing may seem like a tedious task that requires a lot of thinking like a rabbit and rearranging things. If something looks dangerous, it probably is. Everything will need to be assessed and then assessed some more. However, your rabbit will thank you for it as they will be given a safe environment where they can binky to their heart’s content.