Indoor guinea pigs and house bunnies
Once traditionally always housed outdoors, many people enjoy keeping their guinea pigs or rabbits as indoor pets – and there are all sorts of reasons why
The idea of a rabbit or guinea pig kept alone in an outdoor hutch is completely and utterly outdated. Today, we have a much better understanding of what these small pets need – including lots of space, company of their own kind, plenty of things to do and the right nutrition.
What’s more, lots of bunny and piggy devotees now enjoy caring for these intelligent and social small furies as indoor pets.
Bunnies about the house
Rabbit rehoming website Save a Fluff states: “More and more rabbits are being kept as house pets, and why not – cats and dogs live indoors too! Having your pet rabbits in the house makes it easier to interact with them and makes them more sociable, as well as easier for you to keep an eye on them for any changes in their health or behaviour. It also gives you peace of mind that they are safe from predators at night or when you are out. House bunnies are fun to watch and play with, the more confident they get you will see them exploring or jumping up onto your lap for a treat or lying stretched out on the floor sleeping or grooming each other.”
Small animal vet Dr Brian Faulkner says: “When they live inside with humans, house rabbits are more likely to receive regular love and attention. That’s important, because they are very sociable creatures that can easily become subdued if left alone for long periods. Being surrounded by people and activity may help their mental wellbeing. It can also mean they are better socialised and therefore easier to handle. There’s also no threat from predators inside and being under your watchful eye means any illness can be noticed more quickly.”
How to create a suitable indoor bunny base
The trick to indoor housing is adapting their environment for the great indoors. Get this right, and you’ll have a lovely experience with your fluffy housemates.
Having indoor rabbits means bunny-proofing your home. These chewy little pets will get their teeth into anything they can – furniture, curtains, electric cables, slippers, plants and practically anything else. So, when you’re not able to keep a very close eye on them, they’ll need to have a safe, spacious area to spend time in that’s equipped with cosy beds, hiding places, litter tray, safe toys to chew and plenty of good quality feeding hay to nibble on.
Indoor rabbits face different hazards than their outdoor counterparts. Things to watch out for include:
- Electrical wires
- Skirting boards and doors
- House plants
- Slippery flooring
- Escape routes
At home with your guinea pigs
Guinea pigs can also thrive as indoor pets. Rehoming and veterinary charity Blue Cross advises: “Guinea pigs can be kept either indoors or outside. Both options will need some thought to ensure your guinea pigs are happy and set up in a safe, quiet area. If you make the decision to house them outdoors, you'll need to put lots of thought into making sure they're safe. Guinea pigs are vulnerable to all extremes of weather (both very cold and very hot climates can be dangerous). If your guinea pigs have been living outside then, after a settling in period to adjust to being indoors, most guinea pigs will happily live inside your home as part of the family.”
Rehoming charity Wood Green outlines the benefits of having indoor guinea pigs: “Your piggies are likely to become more confident around you and being hand fed. You’re more likely to spot health concerns, and these may even be reduced as they will be in a dry, warm environment with a reduced risk of fungal and respiratory issue. They’ll also be safe from wild predators and bad weather.”
How to create a Home Squeak Home for your indoor guinea pigs
Always on the alert, easily startled, curious and active, there are quite a few things that your guinea pigs require to feel safe, secure and happy. They need the opportunity to run around and explore in a spacious safe area with lots of tunnels, hiding places and deep piles of fresh hay. Other things to consider include:
- You’ll need to find a quiet, calm and safe area in your home away from dogs, cats and other pets they may see as threats.
- You can provide them with indoor housing with an indoor run or you can put them in a guinea pig-proofed room of their own. Ensure ﬂooring is non-slip as slippery ﬂoors can cause injury and stress.
- Ensure that all areas that your piggies have access to are fully guinea pig-proofed to ensure that they’re protected from hazards. For example, all electric cables should be covered, and any house plants should either be safe for guinea pigs or kept out of the way.
- Your guinea pigs should also be kept away from radiators and their space should be kept well ventilated. The temperature for your guineas’ housing should ideally be kept at between 17-20oC – some warmer areas of your house may be too hot.
Remember that indoor bunnies and guineas enjoy some outdoor time too
Rabbits and guinea pigs are both natural grazers and foragers and, in good weather, will enjoy spending time outdoors.
PDSA Vets advises: “Indoor rabbits will benefit from time outside so they can get some fresh air and enjoy some fresh grass. However, the sudden change in temperature when going from a warm house to a cold garden can come as a big surprise for them. Try to give them regular access to the outside as the seasons change so they have time to adjust. It’s also really important they have free access to get back indoors if they start to feel cold and lots of houses, hides or tunnels filled with bedding hay or straw so they can stay warm.”
Wood Green recommends: “Guinea pigs are naturally grazing animals. Weather permitting, they need a minimum of four to six hours a day on grass or with access to a good mixture of safe garden plants. The garden run needs to be secure, have a lid and be well-built to prevent predators and young children trying to climb in when you’re not able to supervise.”
DID YOU KNOW?
For years, people kept guinea pigs and rabbits together, but this is NOT safe. These are very different animals and rabbits can seriously injure guinea pigs. Rabbits can carry a bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica, which can cause a fatal respiratory infection in guinea pigs. Rabbits will also often bully guinea pigs which can lead to injury or deprivation of food and water. Rabbits and guinea pigs also have different dietary requirements.
FIND OUT HOW YOUR SMALL PETS CAN ENJOY SOME SAFE AND SECURE GARDEN TIME
A great way to enable your buns or guineas to enjoy some garden time safely is by investing in a Runaround kit. This is a high welfare connective run system – designed to create environments that meet the behavioural needs of small animals – that can attach any hutch to any run via a door and burrow pipe, safely transporting your pets out of their hutch and into their run.
Layouts can be made to suit the size and shape of your garden. You can start by simply connecting your own hutch to your own run, so your pets have the choice of being in or out. There are all sorts of options, including the Top Box Deluxe, which is a complete system that interconnects hutches with burrow pipes, digging shelters, hay feeders and runs, where your pets can enjoy a spacious, safe and varied environment.
Choose high fibre food specially created for indoor rabbits and indoor guinea pigs by the pet experts
Using the expertise and experience built over the centuries, today Burgess produces high-quality, award-winning, innovative pet foods, including the UK’s first single component nugget for rabbits to prevent selective feeding, and the world’s first food specifically formulated for indoor rabbits.
Burgess in-house vet, Dr Suzanne Moyes, says: “We continually work with leaders in small animal welfare, behaviour and health to ensure we are at the forefront of small animal health and nutrition. This is why experts, from vets to rescue centres to animal behaviourists, recommend and trust our food.”
- While indoor bunnies might roam the lounge rather than the great outdoors, they still need to get all the nutrients from their diet that a rabbit would find grazing in the wild.Burgess Excel Indoor Rabbit Nuggets prevent selective feeding, support the immune system and promote healthy skin, teeth and bones.
- Designed especially for indoor piggies, Burgess Excel Indoor Guinea Pig Nuggets are tasty nibbles, high in Beneficial Fibre and Vitamin C, fortified with vitamins and minerals for healthy skin and coat, with prebiotics to support healthy gut bacteria and Calm Formula with added L-tryptophan.
All Burgess rabbit nuggets, guinea pig nuggets, feeding hay and healthy treats are made at our own factory in the heart of Yorkshire, using only the finest ingredients that meet our stringent specifications and homegrown grass that’s exclusive to Burgess – no other pet food manufacturer has access to our grass!
LET’S GET SOCIAL You can also sign up to the Excel Bunny Base – a safe Facebook community for rabbit guardians that are looking for advice and friendly discussions from likeminded owners – and there are lots of cute bunny photos and videos! Or why not join the Excel Squeak Squad on Facebook? Join Berry & Bramble, our special G-force guinea pigs, on weekly missions and fun competitions.
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