Educational Series: Pet Rabbits Need Space and Compassion, Not Cages

By Nick Engelfried
With their cute appearance and docile reputation, domestic rabbits are one of the most popular pets in the United States, second only to cats and dogs. There is much to love about rabbits–however, many people who bring one home do not realize how much care and attention these intelligent, socially complex animals require. Contrary to what some new pet owners expect, they need lots of space, frequent socialization, and regular visits to the vet in order to stay healthy and happy in captivity. Nor are rabbits always mild-mannered; like any animal, they can behave aggressively when scared or improperly handled. Domestic rabbits can indeed make good pets, but only when given the time and commitment they need from their caretakers in order to thrive.

A pet rabbit requires plenty of space–and, unfortunately, the popular wire cages marketed to pet owners are not suitable for these sensitive animals. Not only are such cages usually too small, but the wire floor can hurt the rabbit’s feet. The nonprofit House Rabbit Society recommends that a rabbit be provided with at least eight square feet of space at all times, plus five hours or more per day of access to a larger “exercise area” at least 24 square feet in extent. Outdoor or indoor pens can work well (so long as the rabbit is protected from predators in outdoor spaces) and well-trained rabbits can be allowed to roam free in a house or apartment. If you do let your rabbit out into the house, be aware that like cats or dogs they may exhibit natural behaviors like chewing and shedding fur.

Just as important as giving your rabbit enough space is making that area into a suitable habitat. Your pet should have a shelter, bedding material, structures to climb on, and toys to play with. In nature rabbits are social animals that live in family groups, and they need to be able to socialize in captivity. Although interacting with their human caretaker can help–and you should be prepared to socialize with your rabbit frequently, especially if you have only one–it is better to have at least two individuals who can keep each other company. If you already have a rabbit and decide to bring home another, be aware that these animals can be territorial and will need to be introduced carefully. Consult a resource like the House Rabbit Society for advice on how to make the introduction as successful as possible.

Of course, if you have two rabbits with the potential to reproduce, it is essential that they be spayed or neutered. Other than cats and dogs, rabbits are the domestic animal most likely to end up abandoned in a shelter, and finding good homes for rabbit babies (known as kittens) can be exceedingly difficult. Frequently, young rabbits are adopted by well-meaning pet owners who have no understanding of how difficult it is to care for them properly. When the rabbit grows older and begins exhibiting natural behaviors like chewing or aggression, there is a good chance of it being abandoned. We currently have a domestic rabbit overpopulation crisis, and responsible pet owners must ensure they are not adding to the problem.

Anyone familiar with the dog breeding industry will soon recognize many parallels between “puppy mills,” and the conditions under which domestic rabbits are often bred for profit. Breeders have a financial incentive to mass produce and sell as many young rabbits as possible, and in many cases this objective sadly takes precedence over the health, safety, and wellbeing of the animals. Rabbit kittens are routinely separated from their mothers and delivered to pet stores when they are too young to care for themselves. As a result, there is a high mortality rate among rabbits en route to the store. The Rabbit Advocacy Network estimates 20-30% of baby rabbits die before they even make it to a store. However, those who do survive the journey will face additional dangers.

By selling wire cages and other unsuitable dwellings, major pet stores encourage pet owners to keep their rabbits in conditions conducive to a lifetime of misery. In addition, rabbits raised by breeders may continue experiencing health problems throughout their lives because they were selectively bred to exhibit physical characteristics that appeal to people, but which are detrimental to the animals. Some breeds have unnaturally short faces, causing the rabbit to suffer from dental problems and ear infections later in life. Breeders who select for such traits are ensuring generations of animals are born into lives of chronic pain and illness.

Just like with dogs and cats, it is much better to get your pet rabbit from a shelter, rather than a pet store that sources from a breeder. Not only will you be rescuing one animal from abandonment; by buying from a shelter, you also avoid giving breeders a cash incentive to mass-produce even more rabbits. Offering a shelter rabbit a loving home and proper care is an excellent way to save an animal who otherwise might well endure abuse and neglect for most of its life.

Unfortunately, some domestic rabbits never get a chance to be adopted and given a good home at all. Various breeds are common subjects for animal testing in laboratories, including for the development of cosmetic products that do nothing to improve human health or medicine. According to the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS), 142,472 captive rabbits were used for testing by facilities licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2019. NAVS estimates that 37% of these animals were subjected to tests “involving pain and distress.” Historically, the number of rabbits in labs was even larger, and the fact that it has gone down as public opinion turns against animal testing is a sliver of good news. However, far too many rabbits are still forced to endure unnecessary procedures for the sake of human vanity and luxury.

As cruel as life in captivity can be for rabbits kept in unsuitable conditions, attempting to release pet animals into the wild is never a good idea. Most domestic rabbits are descended from wild European species that are not native to the United States and most other parts of the world. Furthermore, many breeds now look so different from their wild relatives that they would be ill-suited to survive even in the European landscape where their ancestors lived. Domestic rabbits released into a wild environment are almost certain to quickly fall victim to predators, exposure, or other dangers. If they did survive, they would cause problems for native wildlife as an introduced exotic species.

Domestic rabbits are beloved by countless people, and their relationship with humans has potential to be beneficial and enriching for both species. With the right care, a pet rabbit–or, even better, a pair who keep each other company–can be a happy part of an animal lover’s household. However, it is important to realize that these animals are complex creatures with needs at least as extensive as those of a cat or dog. Most importantly, it is time to leave behind the myth that rabbits can exist happily in a small wire cage. Instead they need space, enrichment, and companionship, just like any animal.

Photo credit: Rawpixel

  • The Premium Challenge

    We'll donate animal shelter meals for every correct answer:

    This week's challenge...Pet Rabbits Need Space and Compassion, Not Cages.

    How much do you know?

    One of our core beliefs is that education leads to positive change. That is why we have the Educational Series. To make learning more fun, we are donating meals to animal shelters for every correct answer submitted by our Premium Members!

    While everyone can study our educational materials and take our quizzes, only Premium Members will have shelter meals donated for correct answers.

Wait, there’s one more step:

Over 1,402,880 Animal Shelter Meals Donated So Far –

Upgrade to a Premium Membership to get a free No Excuse For Animal Abuse shirt, feed shelter animals with the Educational Series and Meal Wheel, sign 100’s of petitions with one-click, remove ads, and promote your favorite petitions to millions!

7 day money-back guarantee for new members. Zero risk.

Premium Membership comes with the following perks:

• Get a free No Excuse For Animal Abuse shirt.
• Feed shelter animals by spinning the Meal Wheel.
• Sign 100’s of petitions with one-click.
• Feed shelter animals with the Educational Series quizzes.
• Remove ads and vote on which petitions are displayed to millions of people.

Our Guarantee:

Cancel your subscription for any reason within 7 days and we’ll refund 100% of your money, as long as you’re a first time member.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How are the animal shelter meals donated?

We donate shelter meals through Rescue Bank because they research all shelters, maintain equitable distribution, and track the meals from their facilities all the way to the rescue groups. This ensures that the donation will be utilized in the most efficient and impacting way.

Why don’t we just donate meals without providing any perks like the Meal Wheel?

We’ve been at this since 2008 and have learned that to really make a difference, we need to get people excited and engaged. Our mission is a serious one, but our methods are playful and educational. We’re serious about doing good, but also want to make it fun.

Who are we?

We are a family of sites that works to protect animals, the environment, and more. Our sites include and We’ve been at this for over a decade and are dedicated to protecting and defending animals and the environment. If we can have some fun and improve the world, then we’re accomplishing our goal!

Try Premium!

We’ve Been Doing This for Over a Decade and Others Have Taken Notice:

7 Day Guarantee!


“Thank you SO much for the premium feature of being able to sign multiple petitions with one click. Many of us go for hours at a time signing each and every petition and crying as we read them. I have often wished for a way to sign my name on every petition because I passionately support them and they all need our voice. This is the best thing – thank you very much!” -Karilyn K., Premium Member

“This is just the most amazing wonderful service that makes me so happy! To be able to feed shelter pets is just the greatest feeling. Thanks again for this, and for all you do for the most innocent and helpless among us, the animals. I’m lovestruck.” Sandra Z., Premium Member

“I love the upgrade option and I am so glad I did enables me to stand with you and many others to fight for the justice these precious souls deserve! We are their voice!!!! And....I adore helping to feed them as well! The spin the wheel game is fun....and I like doing it everyday to help! Keep up the wonderful work....and I know....every click makes a difference!” Dorothy B., Premium Member

“I am so excited to become a Premium Member and to have one-click signing, as I was spending countless hours signing petitions...not that I mind doing it, but my goodness, there sure are a lot of them. I always hope that my signature somehow helps, because these people that abuse/torture animals, need to be put away. As you can tell, that is my passion, I have such a heart for animals, and I want to be their voice.” Darlene R., Premium Member

“Thank you so much! I love being a premium member and spinning that wheel every day, especially when I land on 4 or, best of all, 5 meals. Thank you for all you do, we are all so grateful for you.” Sandy T., Premium Member

“With deepest Aloha, You have no idea how grateful I am for you!” Jan L., Premium Member

“Thank you for the Premium Membership option. I really appreciate that I can sign multiple petitions with one click. It's great! Thank you for the work you do.” Ashley H., Premium Member

“I absolutely love the Educational Series!” Yvonne L., Premium Member

"I am a premium member and religiously sign every petition. THANK YOU for this platform. I also vote for the petition nearest my heart, sometimes voting globally, sometimes I am caught by an individual animal's plight. What gives me great pleasure is noting that almost always, the percentages have no more than a 6-7% spread. It means that, overall, everyone cares about all of the petitions ALMOST EQUALLY! LOL, I also spin that wheel, and when I get 4 or 5 meals, I dance around the room! I have long maintained that what someone does to a helpless animal, they will do to a weaker human if they think that they can get away with it. Those who abuse, no matter how many legs their victims have, should be punished to the fullest extent of the law." Rebecca E., Premium Member

"I LOVE LOVE LOVE my Premium Membership! Everything and anything I can do to help animals and contribute to justice in the world makes me very happy!" Jan L., Premium Member

"Thank you, I love what you do. My friends and I love the membership because we can sign so many more petitions that we may never had heard of. Keep up the good work." Virginia G., Premium Member

Still have questions? Email us:

[easy-social-share buttons=”facebook,mail” morebutton=”1″ counters=0 fullwidth=”yes” query=”yes”]
Nick Engelfried Writes About Animals, the Environment, and Conservation for the ForceChange network

Skip to toolbar