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Some rabbits may require a specific habitat setup or accommodation, such as special flooring for a medical condition or fence height for an escape artist. MHRR always tries to make adopters aware of any specific needs in advance if they are known, and it is often posted on their adoption profiles. Here we will go over the most common reasons that your rabbit may need a unique housing solution.
Rabbits can’t bark or meow like a dog and cat would when they’re unhappy or want something, so oftentimes they will find more creative ways to get your attention - or just go get what they want on their own! Boredom is the most common reason for jumping out or escaping, and the typical solutions are:
While you try to get to the root of why they’re jumping out, there are a few easy methods you can try to keep them contained when you are not home to supervise. Exercise pens are larger (and usually cheaper!) than most cages that are large enough for rabbits, but just because you have a rabbit who’s prone to jumping doesn’t mean exercise pens can’t be an option for you!
The easiest thing to do would be to purchase a taller exercise pen (over 36 inches) but these are usually more expensive than the 24in and 30in pens. If that is not an option there are a few other things you can try.
The quick and easy method is a fitted twin bedsheet over the top. This still allows you to easily remove it so you can tend to them daily or fold up the pen and easily clean the floor where it was.
Another method you can try would be wire storage cubes. These can be zip tied together to cover just about any size exercise pen, and to help make it easy to dismantle for clean up, you can use reusable zip ties to attach the cubes to the pen.
(Can also work for tripod, arthritic, or splay legged rabbits in tandem with a low entry litterbox)
One of the things that rabbits are well known for, thanks to a certain animated character, are their large fuzzy thumpers! Unfortunately due to no fault of their own, some breeds of rabbits are more susceptible to developing a condition known as “sore hocks.” Mini Rex, Rex, and Velveteen rabbits are more prone to this than other rabbit breeds due to the shorter hair on the bottom of their feet. Other rabbits may develop this due to thinning hair, abrasive flooring such as carpeting, or fur that stays wet due to medical reasons. This condition can remain mild and won’t majorly affect them in the long run if accommodations are made to manage it, but each rabbit is different and if they have a prior history of sore hocks we make sure adopters are aware.
Sore hocks, also known as pododermatitis, are sores that occur most often on the back feet of rabbits. They can be quite painful if not caught early enough and treated.
Ideally you want to catch and make housing adjustments before an open sore develops. Once sore hocks get to the point of being a sore and having pus/infection it can easily reach the bone and become fatal.
Sore hocks can develop for a variety of reasons, but when we have “sore hock prone” adoptables it is because they have thinner or are missing fur on their bottoms of their back feet. Sometimes this is because they had sore hocks in the past and now the bottoms of their feet are scarred and fur cannot grow back, sometimes it is due to the breed that they are.
Sore hocks usually occur when rabbits have either been living in an area with wire mesh floor, or living in a damp, unclean environment. It can also happen to rabbits who have been living on a hard surface for an extended period of time as well, but most often happens with rex or rex mix rabbits unless the rabbit has a prior history of sore hocks.
Rabbits with rex fur (Rex, Mini Rex, and Velveteen rabbits) have uniquely soft, plush fur, but it is also short and that means they don’t have as much cushion on the bottom of their feet as other rabbits do. A callous develops much like someone who wears flip-flops a lot instead of shoes and socks.
Generally you do not need to prevent them from having access to hard surfaces, the main thing is making sure that their “home base” is adequately cushioned. Some rabbits naturally aren’t fans of slippery surfaces, so your rabbit may not venture onto those surfaces anyway.
Only in severe cases where the rabbit has an opened sore on its hock would you likely need to restrict what areas they can access, but you should be consulting your veterinarian if that was the case as medical treatment may also be needed in addition to husbandry changes.
Besides giving them an adequately cushioned area, make sure their nails stay trimmed!** Also make sure they don’t rest on any damp surfaces for an extended period of time. Common things that can irritate rabbits feet include:
**We do offer nails trims at our Adoption Days and Care Days, nail trims are free but donations are appreciated!
For rabbits that are prone to sore hocks there are a variety of ways you can set their area up to help prevent or manage the condition. Here we will cover two options you can use depending on the severity needed.
For rabbits that fit this description, we highly recommend laying down several layers of fleece and/or sherpa. Places such as Walmart usually have $2-$3 fleece blankets that fit in most areas. Fabric stores also usually have fleece and sherpa that you can have cut to length if you have a larger area. A few of these include Joann’s, Hobby Lobby, and Michaels. Sherpa can be a little harder to find, but in general you will want to avoid the luxury/plush types since they may not be as thick or absorbent as other kinds. Sometimes you can find it on Amazon for a decent price as well. Depending on if you have a large cage or exercise pen there are a few ways you can set this up.
For a cage area you can lay it down or double up the fleece or sherpa and place in a cage, and then conveniently place the litterbox and water/food dishes in the opposite corners to help prevent them from digging up the blankets. You can also try paver stones.
In an exercise pen, you can purchase foam gym mats at most stores and wrap the blanket over the mat and then place the exercise pen over it. Make sure that the mats and blanket/sherpa extend past the edge of the pen, or place paver stones on the edges to keep them from digging it up. If your rabbit is still learning how to use the litterbox or has the occasional accident, it’s not a bad idea to place puppy pads under the fleece or sherpa. This way any pee or spilled water will be absorbed by the puppy pad. The top layer of fleece or sherpa will still need to be changed out and washed, it will at least help protect your floors if you do not have vinyl floor remnants protecting it.
Sometimes you can layer things in such a way that only select parts need to be cleaned, for instance: Foam gym mats -> Sherpa -> Layer of puppy pads -> Fleece. In this type of set up if the rabbit pees outside the litterbox or if the area needs to be cleaned, all you will need to do is remove the top layer of fleece, change out any soiled pads, then place a clean fleece blanket back on top.
Water bowls are generally recommended for rabbits but if you are using a water bottle and it is leaky and causing damps spots in their area, you can position the bottle over the litterbox for easier cleanup, or swap out for a Choco Nose water bottle.
If you have a rabbit with very sensitive feet or open sores, keeping the feet dry and lots of padding with careful layering are the primary goals. This option is a little more aggressive approach, and can be used all of the time or until open sores are healed.
2-3 extra layers of sherpa: Sometimes adding just one or two extra layers will do the trick. Foam gym mats -> Sherpa -> 2nd Sherpa layer -> Layer of puppy pads -> Fleece. Again, making sure that you have that layer of puppy pads covering the sherpa completely will help make cleaning easier in the long run.
Add memory foam: Adding two layers of 1 inch memory foam or 2 inch memory foam sometimes makes a world of difference, especially if they’re on a particularly hard floor, anything higher than 2 inches usually is a bit too much for them to be able to hop properly. This makes the layering look more like this: Foam gym mats -> Memory foam -> Sherpa -> 2nd Sherpa layer -> Layer of puppy pads -> Fleece.
Vet beds: If your rabbit is having litterbox issues (specifically pee issues) and puppy pads/fleece as your top two layers simply isn’t cutting it, sometimes this is a good option. Vet beds are designed to wick moisture away from the top layer, and if you have puppy pads underneath the vet bed that helps to absorb moisture even better. For the original vet bed, click here. You can also check Amazon for sherpa/bedding specifically designed to help with bed sores that performs the same function of wicking moisture away. If you decide to give vet beds a try, this is the layering order to try: Foam gym mats -> Sherpa -> 2nd Sherpa layer -> Layer of puppy pads -> Vet Bed.
How often the area needs to be changed is largely dependent on the rabbit and their litterbox habits, those who are not great with the litterbox will likely need daily changes. For those who need it more frequently, vet beds are often the best route since they will stay dry much longer than fleece or sherpa will so only the puppy pads would need to be changed out daily. Vet bed would still need poop/hay shaken or vacuumed off when puppy pads are changed, but may go a few days without needing to be completely washed.
The Area type 2 set-up is generally the most ideal for these types of special needs bunnies, but especially with arthritic and spay legged bunnies be careful not to make any cushioning too deep as it can affect their joints (think of how much more difficult running in the sand is vs on grass). Low entry litterboxes are recommended, there are some that you can purchase or you can make your own by cutting one of the sides down.
Tripods generally do not require a special area unless they have known sore hock issues or medical issues. If they do not have great litterbox habits you may want to use a vet bed/puppy pad combination just to help keep them from potentially sitting in moisture.
If your splay legged or arthritic bunny does not have a history of sore hocks but litterbox habits are lacking/they are prone to sitting in moisture, the best combination is usually foam mats (help protect flooring) with puppy pads and a vet bed on top.
Finding the right setup for your rabbit, especially those with special needs, is a matter of trial and error, but these were some methods that have worked successfully for us! DisabledRabbits.com also has some more tips and tricks that you could try as well.