Want your bun to free-roam around your home but don't know where to start to make sure it's safe for you and your bun?
There are so many reasons to free roam your rabbit. Whether it be for the health and happiness of your bun, or because it increases your ability to enjoy your bunnies presence in your life and strengthens your bond with them. Whatever your reason is, I fully recommend and support your decision to do so 😁. While it may seem a little daunting at first, or maybe impossible - dont worry! I've broken it down into 5 key steps, which you can build on with time 🙂.
1. Litter training
Surprisingly, I've put this before bunny-proofing. This is because I believe working on litter training before trying to free-roam your bunny will make both yours and your buns life a lot easier and make the overall process a lot less overwhelming. If you immediately let a new bunny (especially a young un-fixed one) run around in a large area, it's very likely they will mark their territory all over, which means pee and poop everywhere. While bunny poop is not always too much of an issue, marking territory with pee all over your furniture and carpet can become quite difficult to deal with going forward. In order to teach your bunny to pee in their litter box, you need to clean up any 'accidents' ASAP and remove the smell so your bunny doesn't associate that place with toilet time & use it again. Cleaning these 'accidents' can become quite difficult if you have lots of rugs, soft cushions, your bed or sofa etc in the space your bun will have free-roam of. Hence, I'd really recommend starting off with litter training your bun in either a pen or a confined area at first. I started off by giving Peanut access to half of my room and once I felt his litter habits were improving and becoming more consistent I gave him free roam of my whole room. While your bunny is un-fixed, you will likely still get some accidents around your space until they are spayed or neutered. However, starting off with good litter habits will make this much more manageable until you are able to get your rabbit spayed or neutered down the line.
You can read more about litter training here.
2. Bunny-proof your home
This is probably one of the key points, one that you're likely already aware of. Not only is this important for keeping your home and furniture safe, but also important for keeping your bunny safe, as certain things around your home can put your buns at risk of harm. This means blocking off any areas your bunny could get stuck in and removing things such as houseplants or electrical wires that your bunny could chew on and potentially get harmed by. This also means protecting furniture/baseboards in your house if your bunny is a chewer. Some buns tend to be diggers - and your carpets might struggle - so you can put down mats or tiles to prevent digging behaviours. Not all bunnies are the same, so you can bunny proof everything from the start or you can wait and see how your bunny responds to your space before taking any action. However, at the very least, I'd definitely recommend keeping houseplants and electrical wires out of reach from the start.
Keep your paws peeled for a more in-depth post on bunny-proofing coming next week!
3. Slowly Slowly
Yes - this is honestly a step in my opinion. Take things slow. Don't rush the process. I'd recommend starting off with a small area that belongs to your bun, and slowly introducing them to more and more space with time, without giving them completely unsupervised access immediately. Like this you can suss out any issues or problem areas and then proceed to bunny proof these before they have free-roam of that specific space. Maybe you'll get an indication that they like to chew your furniture, or maybe they don't but they really like that expensive rattan basket you have on the floor with blankets inside. Maybe they can reach some of your houseplants you thought were out of reach. Either way - make a plan, take your time and don't rush the process. Like this, you're likely to have a much more pleasant experience, rather than coming home one day to find everything completely destroyed and a super proud bun waiting for you after a productive day, packed full of bunstruction 😅.
4. Provide safe spaces/a home-base
While you might start with a pen or a confined area for your rabbit, free-roaming your bunny doesn't mean you have to completely remove this space. Try keeping the space the same or similar but opening it up so your bun is free to go back and forth into that area. Like this you provide a safe space that feels familiar for your bun to retreat to if they are ever feeling intimidated or nervous. Moreover, it's like their own home, and hey - we all want our own space right? 🙂. Even if you can't keep their home base in the same area, still try to provide a dedicated space in your home or room that belongs to your bun entirely, housing maybe their litter-box, toys and other belongings.
5. Provide enrichment
While providing enrichment is important to keep your bunny happy and healthy, it's also key to maintaining your happiness and health... stay with me for a second 😆. As much as you'll love your bunnies, believe me... the bunstruction can really make you lose your sanity at times haha. I've had my carpet completely dug up, and I've seen peoples baseboards or sofas completely ruined 😆. But don't let this put you off getting a bunny! Providing plenty of enrichment for your bunny such as chew toys or digging boxes (along with bunny-proofing) will mean they are more likely to destroy their toys rather than your furniture. And not only will you be more happier for it, it will also mean less reprimanding of your bunny. Let's lets face it - nobody enjoys telling off a tiny adorable ball of fluff - let alone succeeds lol (they will just stare at you all cute after completely destroying everything and you will cave and give them a treat - trust me LOL).
So hopefully you now have a better idea of how to approach free-roaming. The main thing is to be prepared - have some sort of plan and don't rush it! For some buns it's really easy and with others it can be a little more challenging, but don't give up. Learn your bunnies behaviours and personality to help you figure out what you might need to focus on, whether that be extreme bunny proofing or focussing on litter training. Good luck friends and I hope you enjoy the absolute joys of having a free-roam bunny 🥰.
Lots of love, Tamara, Peanut, Butter & the Plants xoxo