Understanding your rabbits behaviour and what changes you can make to your home to live more harmoniously.
Bunny proofing a sofa to stop playing underneath
The way to successfully share your home with your house rabbit is through the understanding that although it would be nice if your bunny was happy playing in the middle of the room with the toy you bought them or jumping onto your lap for a cuddle in reality there natural behaviour is very different. It is in fact more about exploring the boundaries and corners of where they live which they typically do by chewing and digging at things. Its about competing for the places you share like beds and sofas often by peeing on them when you back is turned. And because rabbits are after all a ‘prey species’ it is always about keeping a constant weary eye on their surrounding and making sure they they feel comfortably out of harms way.
It is essential to understand this because if you don’t allow for the way rabbits behave and try and force the behaviour you want on them what’s likely to happen is you will become more and more frustrated with having to leap up every five minutes to tell your rabbit NO! and more and more damage will be done being every time your back is turned. Ultimately this will lead to you spending less time with your rabbit roaming freely and this lack of socialisation can make your rabbit unfriendly and in the end it can make keeping your bunny more of a burden then a companion.
If however you adapt you home by making a few compromises to your living space mindful of rabbits instinctive behaviour then its quite possible to stop any unwanted damage before it happens and give your rabbit the freedom it wants. This in turn will build your bunnys confidence and make the time you do spend together playful and relaxing.
So how do you adapt your home with a rabbit in mind? The answer is with a combination of bunny proofing methods and in this article we look at each type of behaviour that can be at the root of a problem and give you tried and tested home improvments that veteran bunny owners use that have allowed them to live with their companion rabbit successfully for years.
Decide what areas of your house out of bounds
Always provide a pen or large enclosure in your home where your rabbit will spend time when its unsupervised or you don’t want it roaming freely, for instance when you are at work or at night when you are in bed or even when you are doing something like the hovering. It needs to be in a quiet spot that can be totally secure where you can be certain your rabbit will not come to any harm. It should be large enough to stretch and exercise in and contain all the things needed such as food, water, a litter tray and various toys to keep it occupied. Its best if access to all the other areas of you home where your rabbit can roam freely can be reached from there and your rabbit can return to it when it wants. If its always accessible then it can then double up as an inner sanctum for your rabbit in your home. Having its own space will help your bunny be more relaxed when it is out knowing there is a safe place it can go to, it will develop better litter trained habits if its litter box is there and feel less disorientated when it comes out to play.
It can be hard to bunny proof your whole home so decide what areas of your home you want to make safe and what areas are out of bounds and make sure you and your family stick to this. It takes a lot of effort to be mindful of your rabbit all the time so its a lot easier to get in the habit of keeping a door shut on a rooms where you have furniture that you don’t want damaged or you can leave things out and have other areas in your home you share that’s 100% bunny proofed. If you need access to a room or corridor but want to keep bunny out it can be helpful to put a child safety gate across the entrance.
Sometimes it can be easier to divide a room up with one side being fully bunny proofed and the other with all the stuff that could be a problem. Sections of a pet pen can be used to stretch across a room. This can be easily packed away if you want full access again.
Rabbits like to explore the edges of your room where we like to keep things
The boundary’s of a room are very important to a rabbit and they are likely to explore these areas over and over again. They have a natural instinct to forage which they can exercise amongst the furniture we push to the edge of the room and the sheltered spaces makes them feel safe. Anything laying in the path of this boundary is probably going to be much more interesting to them than the toys you leave in the centre of a room and unless you bunny proof this area you will fight a constant battle to keep your bunny away and out of trouble.
Always check to make sure no exposed electrical cables can be reached. Rabbits would naturally chew back rots that grow into their burrows or shoots that grow in their path and seem to find electrical cables that are draped in their path equally irritable. Rabbits have razor sharp teeth and are adept at chewing through tough materials. The soft insulation covering electrical cables will offer no resistance and can be chewed through in seconds if left exposed. All cables need to be tide away either by blocked it off behind furniture which in most cases simply be positioned in front of it. Cables that cannot be hidden can be covered in wall conduit or split length tubing. Always block access to the space behind your TV by putting all you electrical equipment in a cabinet and blocking entry around the back.
Rabbits also tend to like to explore covered over areas and will often like to rest under furniture like sideboards and sofas. In most cases its best to block off these spaces for a number of reasons. They can have unfinished materials, nails and staples that can harm your rabbit. Bad toilet habits can develop there if they get adopted as a second spot other then their litter tray. Damage to carpet and walled surface can go unnoticed. If a noise spooks you bunny they can often come darting out which can cause harm as they struggle out of an awkward space and get under foot. These area can be filled in with a storage solution or the sides can be blocked off sliding some lengths of wood under them. Alternatively they can be fence off by re-purposing some wire grids from storage cubes or sections of a pet pen. Always provide lots of safe and acceptable alternatives they can play with instead such as a cardboard box, tunnel or tubes toys or tents and hideaway.
Keep possessions out of reach
In the areas your bunny can roam always make sure possession are not left out or its likely a curious rabbit will want to explore them and their sharp teeth can do a lot of damage very quickly. Get in the habit of finding places for things to live permanently in your home on a high shelf or table and return them there when not in use. Keep tech like phones and tablets out the way when you are not using them and keep a charger in an area out of reach on a kitchen work surface or room where you rabbit does not have access. Never leave shoes, bags or cloths out where they can be accessed so find a place out of reach to store them and always put them there when you come in. Its best to keep most surfaces clear in case your rabbit jumps up on them or pulls stuff off it and over itself.
Be especially careful of you rabbits behaviour around your sofa. The space underneath, especially on wooden frames sofas can contain many unfinished materials such as nails and staples and if your rabbit can get inside it becoming trapped which can not only be incredibly dangerous but may leave you virtually dismantling your sofa to get them out.
It is an important bunny proofing job to block off this unsafe space under your sofa by filling in the gap and this should be done before you let your rabbit roam in the room. You can simply put some things under there like storage boxes to prevent access or place some length of wooden blocks around the edge to restrict access.
If you have a sofa with a reclining mechanism these can be hard to make safe either from you bunny getting easy access to the inside or by being caught in the mechanism. We would suggest that you consider if this type of sofa is the best choice.
We are a community of house rabbit enthusiasts with a specific interest in sharing our experiences of living with these special pets. We like posting tips on enriching our rabbits environments, preventing damage to our homes and making them safe for our rabbits to inhabit.