What makes a good rabbit cage? This is covered in depth in "Housing for Rabbits," but here are some basic considerations:
- Large enough for your rabbit - this depends on the breed of rabbit. Some guidelines I've seen include 4 times the (adult) size of the rabbit, and a square foot per pound of rabbit (for the smaller breeds). This is assuming your rabbit comes out for exercise daily. Roughly, for a small to medium sized rabbit, a cage approximately 24" by 36" is adequate, and a slightly larger cage is needed for the larger breeds.
- Easy to clean - in rabbit caging this has historically meant a wire floor or slatted floor that droppings and urine can fall through to a tray below. But because wire floors can irritate rabbits' feet, any wire floor should not have spacing more than 1/2" x 1" and something (wood, towel, several layers of newspaper) solid to provide the bunny's feet a rest from the wire floor. Keep in mind that rabbits are pretty clean and if a litter box is supplied a solid floored cage should be fine.
- Easy access for rabbit and supplies - ideally the rabbit should easily be able to get in and out of the cage on his or her own. Failing that, you should be able to get your rabbit out if necessary. Also keep in mind that you'll want to be able to get a litter pan in and out of the cage, and easily be able to access food dishes and water bottles for maintenance.
If you don't like the cost of cages that are large enough for your rabbit, you might consider building your own. If you are handy, a roomy home made cage might be just the thing for your house rabbit. Some ingenious people build nice looking and roomy cages out of wire storage cube panels (see "Elsewhere on the Web" on the right).
Our own homemade cage design was inspired by the arrival of Specky, who lived in a large dog crate for a couple of days. The cage took just one day to assemble, and is working out quite well for Specky. It may not be the most attractive piece of furniture in our house, but it works well and doesn't look bad in its corner of the family room.
My husband is responsible for the element that makes this cage fairly easy to clean. Many cages we saw had wire bottoms and a pull out tray, which are easy to clean but didn't really lend themselves to home design/building. So the idea arose to put a wire floor in, but right underneath it a solid surface that, being on hinges, could be "dropped" or swung down to allow feces to fall through the floor for easy cleaning. The idea was not perfect because sometime softer feces get stuck in the wire and needs to be scraped off when the bottom is dropped, but a plastic spatula meant for applying drywall mud makes this pretty quick. The other major drawback is that the wood frame is difficult to clean effectively, so that if your bunny hits it with urine it will be very difficult to remove the odor.
With the bottom latched up the floor is very solid, but I am not sure this is enough to prevent irritation to Specky's feet. As an added measure of comfort we have a solid piece of wood inside the cage as a solid surface to sit on, along with a litter box (which so far Specky has been using very well!). We are going to build him a nestbox out of wood, but we're not in a hurry because he loves his cardboard box! A photo of the cage can be found in the upper right corner of this article.
The other thing we should build is a ramp so Specky can get in and out on his own. For now we put a plastic container with a lid on in front of the cage as a kind of step, and he uses that to get in and out.
Explaining the Drop Down Cage Bottom
Specky's cage is made from a frame of 2x2" lumber, and is 4 feet long, 20 inches wide, and about 20 inches high. It is raised 17 inches off the ground to allow the bottom platform to drop down far enough that it is easy to clean. The solid floor that swings down is covered with "enviroboard" which is made from recycled plastic and sold in sheets like plywood, 1/4" thick. I'm not sure that it is available anymore as it was a remnant from 6 or 7 years ago. There are other plastic type building materials available, though - even corrugated plastic sign board could work - we just wanted something waterproof for the drop down part. If your rabbits do not like using the litterbox so a lot of urine hits the bottom, you might want to try using replaceable pieces of heavy plastic or plastic coated material that can be replaced periodically.
The cage bottom is affixed at the bottom back edge with a length of piano hinge. The front is lifted and held in the "closed" position with window sash locks. These latch very securely and pull the cage bottom tightly against the wire floor. When they are unlatched, the platform under the wire floor drops in the front to the "open" position.
The image at the upper right of this page shows how the bottom of the cage looks when dropped down for cleaning.
We place a layer of newspaper on top of the plastic platform, so that when the bottom is latched in place the newspaper makes a layer just under the wire bottom of the cage and just over the plastic part. This helps soak up and urine or water spills and keeps the plastic cleaner.
Lowering the bottom platform allows easy access to the newspapers. Every other day or so (depends on how messy Specky is) I just pull out the paper, sweep off the platform, and give it a wipe if necessary. Then, I spot clean the inside of the cage, add a new layer of newspaper, and close up the cage bottom again.
If you are interested in building your own cage like this it is pretty easy. We basically just decided on a size and worked out the measurements as we went along. Although I'm obviously not talented at drawing up plans, I made up some rudimentary diagrams showing how we assembled our cage. These could be adapted to any size cage you want to make (as an example, our cage width was determined by the width of the hardware cloth we had on hand).