The flooring of your pet rabbit’s primary space is important. Even so, new pet owners can quickly become overwhelmed by conflicting information concerning this topic. When making a decision about what is best for your pet rabbit, a common-sense perspective is helpful.
What are the primary reasons used to support the use of non-solid flooring in a rabbit’s primary living space? Historically, the use of wire bottom or metal-grate flooring was strictly for human convenience while the needs of the animal were largely ignored.
Your Rabbit’s Feet
Wire-Floor Advocates Say: Too-long toenails can cause a rabbit’s feet to sit incorrectly which may be problematic over time. Wire-floor cage advocates state that in nature, the Earth allows a rabbit’s toenails sink into the ground, allowing the animal’s feet to rest correctly. They say that solid flooring in a rabbit’s cage or living space is too firm, which can lead to discomfort or foot/toe problems.
Wire-floor advocates will also say that many rabbit breeds have enough fur on their feet to protect them from the wires they are living on. And, of course, in case the fur padding on feet is not enough to protect them from harm, rabbits will develop calluses to accommodate for the problem. We are to believe this is a sign of adapted comfort.
Let us at least be honest when we distribute rabbit-related information. Regardless the information used to justify wire-floor environments, calluses are most definitely NOT an indicator of comfort. They are a biological, forced response to an environment that is harsh and otherwise intolerable. Publications that suggest a rabbit is comfortable (yet must develop calluses in order to tolerate wire floors) should cause any responsible pet owner to question the credibility of that information and its source.
The Risk of Fractures: Why are the risks of fractures so quickly dismissed? Because keeping a rabbit in an environment with known risks is not a kind thing to do. Wire gauge does not matter in this context. If the holes are big enough for poop to fall through, they are also big enough for a rabbit’s toes and/or feet to get stuck. Fractures can easily occur as the animal tries to get unstuck. Of course, these injuries often go unnoticed by rabbit owners because rabbits are prey animals and will suffer in silence. Information that says wire flooring has no inherent risk of injury is irresponsible and an outright untruth.
What Is True: Nature provided solid ground for rabbits. Since wild rabbits can be found all over the planet, there is much variety when it comes to the how hard or soft the ground is beneath a rabbit’s feet. Rabbits live on snow, ice, very hard ground, soft ground and even sand. However, nowhere in nature will humans find wire-bottom or non-solid surfaces. They simply do not exist in a rabbit’s natural environment. How do people become convinced that humans know better than nature?
Water Does Not Sanitize
It is important to consider who is distributing information and why they have the opinion they do. For example, as a pet rabbit owner, your house rabbit is not serving the same purpose as rabbits owned for agricultural purposes (such as a meat supply). As a responsible pet owner, why would you want advice from anyone who uses rabbits as a food source, scientific testing, over breeding or otherwise?
While exceptions certainly exist, rabbit owners that do not consider (nor treat) their animals as part of the family often say that wire-floor cages are best. Just as you can do, they search the internet for rabbit-related studies and reports to support their views. Many clean their rabbit cages with a water hose, ignoring the fact that cleanliness will never be achieved. Why? Because water cannot eliminate the multitude of bacteria found in the feces and urine that the rabbit passes through wire or metal grating.
After the rabbit urinates or defecates, it has to walk or hop across that area countless times which means their fur gets packed with bacteria, germs and the remnants of feces and urine. This is the exact same argument that wire-bottom cage advocates use to say that solid flooring surfaces are not good for rabbits. Perhaps they assume that people who provide solid floors never clean them? Who knows. Whatever the case, it is easy to see why so many people are confused when trying to make a decision about good environments for their pet rabbit.
A healthy adult rabbit can eliminate up to 500 pellets (poops) every day. They also urinate frequently. That means constant sanitizing would be necessary just to keep the grated/wire floor clean. In fact, cleaning would have to be so frequent that the sanitizing process alone would be harmful.
To add, all rabbits are fastidious cleaners which means they do not like to be dirty (or, in this case, filthy). In such conditions, they are forced to constantly clean the urine and feces remnants from their fur. Can this same problem exist with solid flooring? Sure, if it is not clean and maintained properly. However, responsible pet rabbit owners are committed to the process of keeping their house rabbit’s space clean and sanitary. It is much easier and faster to thoroughly clean and sanitize a solid floor than countless intersections of wire or metal.
As a final reiteration of this perspective, would you want to live in a wire-bottom or non-solid floor environment? Does your dog or cat live like that? Of course not. It is not sanitary! Consider the filth that would exist if you and your family members urinated and defecated in your main living space day in and day out. Washing it down with a hose or even an occasional disinfectant would not be enough to deem it a healthy or safe home.
Solid Floor Space
Historically, rabbit owners believed that placing a small piece of solid material (like wood or thick cardboard) in the corner of a wire-bottom cage or rabbit housing would be sufficient. After all, rabbits need a place to sit and rest. Today, information can be found that says no solid surface should be provided at all. This type of information is not only disheartening, it is entirely misleading for new pet rabbit owners who want to learn best care practices.
The skin on a rabbit’s body is immensely thin and delicate. Cuts occur on the feet of heavier rabbits as their body weight is forced to bear down on wire-bottom cages. Imagine what happens to a rabbit’s skin, regardless his size, when he is forced to sleep on wire or metal grating. This is of great concern for the many rabbits that are not allowed enough (or any) out-of-cage time.
Wire-floor advocates claim that when a solid space is provided inside the cage, the rabbit will just pee or poop on it and then avoid that area. They fail to consider that it is not natural for rabbits to go potty on wire floors. Nature provides solid ground for a rabbit’s potty place. “Studies” are used to justify the opinions of the wire-floor advocates while disregarding the fact that these animals require a great deal of consistent clean-up duty. It is just part of rabbit ownership. Those who cannot accept that reality should consider a different type of pet.
It is easy to find conflicting information and varying perspectives on best care practices. Pet rabbit owners must each decide how to ensure their pet rabbits are healthy, happy and comfortable. This requires an understanding of why certain information exists, the base source (study, report, research origination, et cetera) and in what context it applies.
Rabbits are the children of nature. Regardless the breed, they are all genetically wired as such. Nature was kind enough not to force these animals to live on wire-bottom, metal-grate or other non-solid flooring. Shouldn’t we do our best to provide that too?
Please Note: Love Your Rabbit does not support raising rabbits for consumption, agriculture, animal testing and/or anything that places the animal is at risk for injury, illness, pain or death.
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