Size Matters! Choosing the Right Cage for Your Rabbit
By Chandra Moira Beal
Housing options for house rabbits are many and varied. Rabbits can live in everything from a pen in the kitchen, a room with a baby gate across the door, stackable crates, and even the entire house. Metal cages are still a popular way to meet your rabbit's housing needs, particularly rabbits that spend a lot of time at home alone.
Before you invest in a cage, be sure that it meets certain criteria. Size really does matter! A cramped cage can lend to a shorter lifespan, depression, refusal to eat, digestive illnesses, wire-pulling and aggressiveness.
First, measure the cage. It should be at least 24-30" wide x 16-18" high for rabbits up to 6 pounds; 24-36" wide x 16-18" high for rabbits up to 8 pounds; and 36-30" wide x 18-24" high for larger rabbits or a pair of small rabbits. The cage should be twice as long as the fully outstretched adult rabbit, and wide enough to allow them to fully stretch out.
Don't be misled by cages marketed to small animals in pet stores and pet supply stores. These are almost always way too small for any rabbit. If your rabbit is confined to a cage for most of the day, they need plenty of space to stretch out, stand up, hop, jump or climb. Think about what it would be like to be stuck in your bathroom all day. Give your rabbit as much room as you reasonably can, and supply him with toys and mental stimulation.
Now take a look at the wire floor and sides. The floor wire should be1/2" x 1" 16-gauge welded cage wire with the 1/2" spaced wires facing up. The side wire should be1" x 2" 14-gauge welded cage wire. The floor should have a metal support bar. If the floor wire is made of hardware cloth or chicken wire, or the floor sags and bounces with light hand pressure, this is NOT the cage for a rabbit. Thin wire gauge can lead to sore hocks.
Next, inspect the opening. No matter what size cage you have, the door should measure at least 14" x 16 ". You should be able to fit a litter box through the door. Smooth-filed edges or plastic guard strips are also a nice addition. Side doors that swing out are preferable to top doors because it is easier to lift the rabbit in and out properly, and it encourages the house rabbit to come and go at will (and as permitted by his housemates). Doors should not swing into the cage.
Finally, see if the cage has a metal or plastic pull-out tray for litter. Make sure that it fits flush with the cage floor wire (but watch out for bunny's toes when sliding it).
The advantage of using a metal cage is having a place to hang a water bottle and hay trough. They are easy to clean. They allow you to confine your rabbit to one area when he cannot be supervised. And it gives the rabbit a room of their own where they can store their toys and goodies, take a nap, and enjoy the security of an undisturbed space.
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