Rabbits and guinea pigs – is indoors or outdoors best?
Is the outdoor life better for bunnies and guinea pigs, or will these small pets have a more enriching time if they’re kept indoors?
“Both rabbits and guinea pigs can be housed outdoors or indoors. The important thing is that they have suitable accommodation, companionship, enrichment opportunities that enable them to exhibit natural behaviours and the right nutrition,” explains Burgess in-house vet Dr Suzanne Moyes. “While these small pets have traditionally been kept outdoors, today there are many people who prefer to care for their rabbits or guinea pigs indoors, where they can keep a close eye on their health and wellbeing and spend more of the day interacting with them.”
What’s best for bunnies?
Small animal vet Dr Brian Faulkner agrees: “Rabbits can thrive both inside and out – as long as they live in a warm, comfortable hutch, sleep in good bedding and have a cosy companion to snuggle up to. During winter, some rabbit owners may think about bringing their rabbits indoors. But what is best for their pets? 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.”
Rae Walters of the Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund (RWAF) says that rabbits should be housed where owners can provide the “best area that fits with their lifestyle.” She notes that indoor bunnies need to be safe from things such as toxic house plants, electrical wires and other pets, whereas outdoor buns require secure living quarters that protect them from predators, with plenty of space to burrow, dig, jump, run and hide.
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Whether they’re outdoor or indoor rabbits, feeding the correct nutrition is essential for healthy, happy bunnies. Burgess rabbit nuggets, feeding hay and treats are made using only the finest ingredients. Our wide range includes Excel rabbit food for all ages, from junior to mature, in tasty flavours with something special for house rabbits too. 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.
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!
CARE MORE Find more great advice on all aspects of rabbit care from the pet experts >>
Getting it right for guinea pigs
Wood Green suggests that guinea pigs can live indoors or outdoors, although there are pros and cons to each. The charity states: “Pros of 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. Cons of indoor guinea pigs: it may be tricky to find a room that gives your guinea pigs quiet time. If you have cats or dogs, they’re more likely to watch the piggies and cause them stress.”
Importantly, while rabbits, with their warm fluffy coats and thick fur pads on the bottoms of their feet, can manage colder temperatures quite well as long as they have adequate shelter, guinea pigs don’t do so well. Blue Cross says: “Guinea pigs are vulnerable to all extremes of weather (both very cold and very hot climates can be dangerous).”
In winter, it may be best to move their accommodation somewhere warmer, such as into a shed, porch or utility room. During the warmer months of the year, your guineas will be happy in a large, good quality hutch, Wendy house or shed (no less than 5ft x 2ft/10 square feet) that’s draught-free, predator proof and provides a cosy place to sleep. Animal charities Wood Green and PDSA have lots of useful tips and advice for creating suitable outdoor and indoor arrangements that your guineas will love to spend their time in.
From providing a safe and suitable place to live and the right nutrition, to companionship and things to do, check out our 7-point guide to being a gold star guinea pig owner >>
They don’t come from Guinea and they’re not related to pigs at all – check out our 12 fun facts about gorgeous guinea pigs >>
Burgess Excel guinea pig food, feeding hay & treats contain ingredients to help your pets stay happy and healthy and come in a range of yummy varieties, including Burgess Excel Indoor Guinea Pig Nuggets. These tasty nibbles are 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.
Are your guinea pigs Burgess guinea pigs? Join the Burgess Pet Club for exclusive offers and rewards.
And why not join the Excel Squeak Squad on Facebook? This is a safe community for guinea pig owners that are looking for advice and friendly discussions from likeminded owners. You can also join Berry & Bramble, our special G-force guinea pigs, on weekly missions and fun competitions.
CARE MORE Find more great advice on all aspects of guinea pig care from the pet experts >>
The best of both worlds?
Is it possible to enable your bunnies or guineas to enjoy a combination of indoor and outdoor living? The answer is yes, as long as you give your pets time to gently acclimatise, ensure they are safe from predators and provide the right outdoor set-up.
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.”
Your pets can enjoy safe and secure garden time with Runaround
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 connective run system that can attach any hutch to any run via a door and burrow pipe, which safely transports your pets out of their hutch and into the 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.
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