The question of whether it's okay to let your rabbit live or play outside is tricky. There are lots of dangers outside. On the other hand, there are lots of dangers inside.

The bottom line is the same for everyone: no matter where your rabbit is, it's your job to make sure he's safe, happy, and comfortable.

Outdoor Risks

  • Predators
  • Parasites
  • Loud noises
  • Dangerous plants
  • Bad weather
  • Pollution and other toxins
  • Escape
  • Neglect

How each of us meets that bottom line depends on our own circumstances. A quick Google search reveals tons of articles about pet rabbits and the outdoors, but many authors take their own circumstances for granted, which means their advice can be tricky to apply.

For instance, the phrase "rabbits are naturally cold-weather animals" means something very different to someone living in California than it does to someone in Ontario.

References to wild rabbits are also very relative. Don't think what's good for wild buns is fine for your bun too. Wild rabbits in Ontario are Eastern Cottontails, which are very different from European Rabbits (the pet rabbit species). Eastern Cottontails are naturally adapted to the local climate. They're solitary creatures and they don't dig burrows. They have well-honed instincts, and knowledge of the local flora, fauna, and landscape. None of this is true of your pet bun.

If you want to let your rabbit outside, research the risks carefully, and then think about them from a local perspective.

Consider your rabbit's psychology, too. It's not enough to know your rabbit is safe; the rabbit herself has to feel safe, or else she'll suffer from stress, anxiety, fear, and panic.

This article is here to help guide your research and planning so you can come to your own conclusions about what's best for your bun.

Cold Weather Concerns

Pet rabbits are comfortable between 8 and 24 degrees Celsius. Even above 8 degrees, a wet and windy day can lead to hypothermia, and your bunny will need your help to stay safe. Below 5 degrees, outdoor rabbits need extensive protections from the weather.

How cold is too cold? Different people say different things. The truth is, it depends. Is your rabbit living in a wire run on the lawn? A cage in an unheated sunroom? A barn with lots of other rabbits? What preventative measures are you taking to protect them?

Cold Weather Risks

Cold weather risks include, at best, miserable discomfort and, at worst:

  • Hypothermia, GI Stasis (from cold temperatures, wet and windy weather, or eating snow)
  • Frostbite (which can lead to nerve damage, skin infections, necrosis, and disability)
  • Dehydration (from the water source freezing)
  • Death

Prevention

One obvious way to protect your rabbit from cold weather risks is to bring her inside. Otherwise, here are some ideas on how to keep a rabbit warm.

Don't think of these ideas as fail-safe instructions: further research, planning, and consultation with a rabbit-saavy vet are important steps in the "winterizing" process. Only you — and your vet! — know your rabbit's circumstances.

  • Waterproofing
  • Wind-proofing
  • Providing lots of fresh water
  • Bonding rabbits in pairs or more
  • Using lots of straw, hay, bedding etc.
  • Providing smaller areas (e.g. boxes) within the habitat where rabbits can snuggle and body heat can be contained
  • Providing a diet higher in fat and protein
  • Providing artificial heat (e.g. electrical space heaters, or the SnuggleSafe Heat Pad)

References

Hot Weather Concerns

This section has not yet been written. Pet rabbits do not fare well in hot weather. If your rabbit spends time outdoors and/or does not live in an air-conditioned environment, please do some research about how to keep your rabbit safe and comfortable.