Once you’ve decided a bunny buddy is the companion for you, your first consideration will be creating a suitable home.
Whether you choose one of the many sizes and styles of enclosures at your local pet store, build your own, or create a unique hybrid of bought and built, your Wooly must be housed indoors. Despite their thick coats, Woolies are very intolerant of changing weather.
As the Jersey is a dwarf breed, a cage as small as four square feet will provide sufficient space, but bigger is better. You can create a larger enclosure without sacrificing floor space by buying or building in levels connected by ramps.
Make sure your enclosure has an opening large enough for you to lift your bunny out. If bunny is allowed to roam inside your home (rabbit-proofed areas only!), a side opening will let it enter and exit the cage on its own. The opening should either be smooth or framed in plastic to ensure a snag-free passage. If your cage has multiple levels, multiple access points will make for easier cleaning.
Food, hay and water containers should be cage mounted to avoid spilling and contamination. Wire flooring allows droppings to fall into a removable tray, but even narrowly spaced wire can cause sores on bunny’s feet. Fortunately, Woolies are easily litter-box trained, making a wire floor unnecessary. Never use clumping litter or cedar chips, as both can be harmful if ingested.
Your Wooly’s home needn’t be an unsightly box in a corner of your living room. It can be an attractive centerpiece and even decorated appropriate to the season. Never use electric decorations on your rabbit’s cage. Any other decorations which could be harmful if chewed should also be kept well out of bunny’s reach. A good general rule of thumb is: what is safe is the crib is safe on the cage. There are exceptions, however. When in doubt, ask your veterinary doctor or other animal care specialist.
Even the most luxurious cage is still a cage, and your bunny will need additional room to romp and roam. The more space they are given, the more content they will be!
Indoor Play Paces
For the safety of your bunny and your belongings, indoor spaces must be carefully prepared before becoming rumpus rooms. Unless your rabbit has been properly trained, never allow it to roam unsupervised in your house.
Mornings and evenings are ideal times for out-of-cage exercise, as these are the times of day rabbits are most active. This is called ‘crepuscular’, as opposed to nocturnal (active at night) and diurnal (active during the day).
Bored bunnies misbehave. Even with loads of room to run they still need toys which will satisfy their need to chew. Magazines, sticks and cardboard boxes work well and are a good investment in the protection of your floorboards and furnishings. To prevent burrowing and nesting in the underside of couches and other low furniture, a frame of 2×4’s placed underneath will keep the space off limits.
If your rabbit persists in unwanted chewing, firmly saying “NO” while spraying with a water bottle acts as a good deterrent. Do not rely solely on training to keep bunnies from chewing wires, however, as they can be severely burned or even killed. Remove or secure any wires in your rabbit’s play space. Products to hide or wrap wires are available at most electronic and hardware stores. Never run wires under carpeting. This poses a serious fire hazard.
Among the other dangers your room may hold, many popular types of house plant are toxic to rabbits, such as violets, philodendron and dieffenbachia. Toxic plants should be hung from the ceiling (don’t expect them to be safe on counter tops) or removed from the area entirely. Again, when in doubt, ask a specialist.
If your rabbit cannot hop back into its cage on its own, have a litter-box and weighted water bowl available.
Outdoor Play Places
Outdoor play areas must provide protection from the elements, predators and other, less obvious dangers.
Safety will be your primary concern. Even if a rabbit is out of the reach of predators, it can still be frightened to death, so never leave your rabbit unsupervised. It only takes a moment for a dog to jump a fence or a bird of prey to swoop down. Other threats include possums, raccoons, dogs and even skunks. Your rabbit should also never be left in its run over night.
Functionality is second. A run should be large enough for your rabbit to run and play. A sufficient construction can be made from a heavy, wooden frame and wire sides, top and bottom. The wire bottom will be necessary to keep your bunny from burrowing out. Even if flush with the ground, however, wire flooring can cause sores on bunny feet. For additional comfort, cover the wire with a layer of straw, which rabbits love to nest in and chew. Don’t forget the water bottle.
An enclosed area within the run, such as a sturdy cardboard box, will give your rabbit a place to hide and rest. Some bunny-proof toys would be appreciated as well. Generally, what is crib safe is cage safe, although there are some exceptions. When in doubt, ask your veterinary doctor or other animal care specialist. Don’t forget the water bottle.
Be sure to design enough access points to allow for easy cleaning. A garden hose will only go so far. At some point you’ll have to be able to reach into corners. Include a litter-box and change it regularly. Straw should be changed weekly. We already mentioned the water bottle.
“Woolies” enjoy moderate temperatures. Your run should be at least partially protected from direct sunlight and chilly drafts, and well away from potentially poisonous plants, such as oleander, lilies and tulips. Never use the run when it’s cold, hot or raining.