The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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Many, many people around the world choose to keep rabbits as pets. After all, rabbits can make incredibly wonderful companions that are full of character and personality.
The problem with this is that, as prey animals, there comes some trouble with keeping rabbits as pets when you also keep cats as pets, even if the rabbit stays outside.
Cats are naturally predators, even if their abilities and instincts are not as good as the wild cats of the jungle, and because rabbits are prey, there is often a natural order to how cats and rabbits get along.
If you have both cats and a rabbit, you might be wondering to yourself how you can manage to keep them apart from each other, especially when you have the rabbit housed inside where the cats could potentially reach it.
There are a few main ways that you can go about doing this, with some people opting to keep the rabbit completely outside, while other people might set up specific rooms for the rabbit to exist in so it doesn’t have to live in fear of the cats.
Some people will even have the patience to take care of introducing the cat to the rabbits in a way so that they both learn not to be interested in each other in the sense of prey and predator.
Keep in mind that if you are planning to go down this route, it is going to take a fair amount of time and patience.
Keeping the Rabbit Outside
Whether you are trying to make sure that your rabbit doesn’t have any risk of running into your cats or you want to provide the most authentic life for your rabbit as you can, there are many reasons why people choose to keep their rabbits outside.
Many people will even argue that it is better for the rabbit in the long run, as they naturally live outside so they will be accustomed to it.
If you are planning to house your rabbit outside, there are a few things to be mindful of. First and foremost, you will need to purchase an enclosure that is weatherproof or resistant to the types of weather that you experience in your location, such as heavy rain, winds, snow, or even heat waves.
Countering the weather can be difficult and, in some cases, may lead to it being not a good choice for you to house the rabbit outside (such as if you live in an area that has frequent bouts of incredibly hot weather, as rabbits cannot easily cool themselves down if they can’t burrow underground) but there are specialized rabbit enclosures for different climate areas.
Consider looking into rain-resistant and wind-resistant enclosures if you are in an area that gets heavy wind or rain.
You also need to make sure that the enclosure will protect the rabbit from its natural predators. This includes birds of prey, dogs and cats that roam outdoors, and, if you are far enough into the country, you will need to consider wild predators.
Most high-quality rabbit enclosures are designed to withstand these things but it is still important to consider that if you are going to be housing your rabbit outside, you have all of the equipment you would need to keep them happy, comfortable, and safe.
This is by far the easiest and most straightforward way to keep an indoor set of cats from being able to harass your rabbit.
If you allow your cats to be outdoors, consider looking more into predator-proof enclosures for your rabbit so that it will not have to fear the cats getting into the rabbit hutch, although other animals like squirrels might find their way in.
You can also consider that if the cats live predominantly outside, then you can do the opposite and keep your rabbit inside where it doesn’t have to worry about the cats.
Keeping the Rabbit in Another Room
Another choice you could consider is keeping your rabbit in another room of the house. Naturally, this decision is going to mean that you must have a room large enough to house the rabbit’s enclosure and allow for it to have enough space to move around easily.
Not everyone has this kind of spare room in their houses and keeping a rabbit in the basement or attic is generally not preferable (because rabbits have very sensitive respiratory systems and the dust/mold in attics and basements can be problematic for this) so this may not be an option to some people.
For the people who are able to keep their rabbits in another room, it then becomes tremendously easier to keep the cats from reaching the rabbit.
What this means is that all you have to do is keep the door closed, or even blocked off with a cat-safe pet gate, and your rabbit will be free from any feline disturbances. Instead, you can simply open or close the gate/door as needed to greet your rabbit friend and neither of you will have to worry about the cats being a threat again.
One of the things you will have to be most mindful of with this is that it can be hard to keep the slinky, sly cat from getting into a certain room, especially when the cats are determined to get in out of sheer curiosity. There are two ways that you can go about dealing with this.
You can consider being extra vigilant when you are entering and exiting the rabbit’s room, doing a headcount of the cats to ensure that none of them get into the room once you come out of it.
You can also consider rounding up your cats and keeping them in a separate room when you go to open the door to your rabbit’s room, leaving two layers of security to prevent the cats from being able to get to the rabbit at all as they would have to get out of one closed door and breach another.
Again, while it is notably more work and more space to work with this method, it will ensure that your rabbit and cat will live in your house together in relative harmony, aside from the curiosity that your cats may have about the door to your rabbit’s room.
If the cats do not have any access to the rabbit’s room, then there is no chance of them doing any harm to your rabbit.
Having a separate room for your rabbit can also be a great option if you have other pets, like a hamster.
What About Introducing Them?
It is generally not recommended to let rabbits and cats meet, as their natural instincts will kick in. Of course, you may have heard about stories of cats and rabbits becoming fast friends but these should be considered exceptions to the rule.
The most that you can possibly do about this is making sure that your cat doesn’t always act on its prey drive when it sees a rabbit, which can be hard to teach. It requires a lot of slow socialization to ensure that both creatures are able to look each other in the eye and not act out in the way that they would in the wild.
After all, from the perspective of your pets, your home is all that they know and may very well be the wild, so why shouldn’t they act like it?
You should only ever introduce the two animals to each other in a setting where the rabbit has free movement in its enclosure, the cat cannot get into the enclosure in any way, and you are there as a mediator to whisk the cat away if it starts tormenting the rabbit.
Through this, you can help the two animals establish a relationship through the bars of the enclosure, so to speak.
The thought process for this is that by allowing the cats to sniff and get used to the rabbit’s smell, size, appearance, and presence, you would theoretically be able to desensitize the cat to it so the cat does not immediately take the appearance of the rabbit as a creature that should be hunted.
Instead, your cat may come to view the rabbit as another strange creature in the house (just as you are seen by your cat as a massive, hairless kitten) and will generally stop chasing it.
This process is only really a way to slow down the way that your cat may react to seeing the rabbit, and for the most part, you should try to keep the two away from each other whenever you can, especially if the rabbit is outside of its enclosure.
If anything, you should never let the cat interact with the rabbit outside of its enclosure as this can lead to trouble with your cat trying to chase the rabbit.
Keeping the Cat Away From the Enclosure
Naturally, you are not going to be able to keep the cat away from the rabbit’s enclosure completely, as cats are free spirits that tend to do whatever they want, when they want, regardless of what the owner wants.
What this means for you is that you need to take some extra steps to make sure that you do not allow for the cat to become of the mindset that it would willingly hunt the rabbit down, kill it, and eat it the same way that it would in the wild.
There are a few different ways that you can work with this method and idea. Your two goals in this are to make sure that your cat is well-fed and well-maintained so that it won’t turn to your rabbit out of hunger or boredom, or you can opt for repellents to physically dissuade your cat from even wanting to get near the rabbit’s enclosure.
Keeping your cat happy is pretty straightforward. You are going to want to do what you can to keep your cat relatively full and never let your cat become particularly hungry, and if you don’t have enough regular cat food for this, you can make do with supplying treats of all types from dental chews to pure junk food for cats.
In addition to this, you are going to want to make sure that your cat gets its daily source of play and attention from you so that it doesn’t go looking toward the other animals in the house for that attention.
If the cat turns to another cat in the house or neighborhood for attention, this would be fine, but when the cat turns to the rabbit for “play time,” then it becomes a dangerous issue.
When you give your cat no incentive to chase after the rabbit, it will be less likely to do so. What will make the cat even less likely to go near the rabbit is putting up repellents around the enclosure.
Cat repellents for a rabbit enclosure can be a little bit difficult, as many of the things that will repel a cat from the area will also end up repelling the rabbit, which will only make the rabbit end up being uncomfortable in its own home.
You can consider putting up lemon or other citrus trees around the rabbit enclosure, and this works both for outdoor and indoor rabbits.
Citrus scents are very harsh on the cat’s delicate nose, making them even better to keep cats away in a manner that will not dangerously harm either party. It will only make it so that the cat has no interest in going near the rabbit’s habitat, letting both of them live in peace and coexisting with each other.
If you cannot grow a citrus tree, you can consider purchasing a citrus spray that is commonly used in citrus-flavored drinks and sodas, or the type of bitter no-chew sprays that you could get at a pet store.
Both of these will have the components to keep your cat from wanting to go near an area where you sprayed the stuff, while also being safe and non-toxic for your rabbit so that it can still enjoy the time in its enclosure.
These are just a few of the main methods you can rely on to keep your cats away from your rabbits. For the best results, you will want to do what you can to combine methods or make whatever arrangements that you need to allow the rabbit to live outside while the cats live inside or vice versa.