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How to clean a rabbit cage and enclosure

How to clean a rabbit cage
(Image credit: Getty)

Every rabbit owner should know how to clean a rabbit cage properly, whether you keep your rabbits indoors in the best indoor rabbit hutch, or outdoors in a suitable enclosure. 

Although, the word ‘cage’ implies a small, metal-type environment in which rabbits can be contained, we’re really talking about the habitats on display in our guides to the best rabbit hutch incorporated into a larger enclosure and environment, such as the best rabbit runs, and used as a resting area or litter area for your rabbits. The enclosure should be at least 3m x 2m x 1m, with 24-hour access for the rabbits.

Rabbits need to be housed in a safe environment, not only so they cannot escape but also so that potential predators cannot enter. This area will need cleaning out on a regular basis so follow the steps below to ensure your rabbit has a clean and hygienic environment to live in. Without further delay, let's look at how to clean a rabbit cage.

Daily cleaning

Rabbits are naturally clean and will have one or two areas that they use as toilets, but understanding how clean a rabbit cage properly of these areas is crucial. An accumulation of urine and faeces not only causes an odour, but can attract flies and cause potential health problems, so your rabbit's litter trays will need cleaning out on a daily basis. This involves removing all of the urine, faeces and litter, cleaning the litter tray with warm water, drying it and replacing the soiled litter with clean. Diluted white vinegar can also be used, rinsed off and dried. 

If your rabbit uses a cage as part of their enclosure, they are likely to use this as a litter tray, so this will need cleaning in the same way as a litter tray.

Always replenish your rabbits hay each day, even if it has not been eaten.

Rabbit urine is alkaline, and can contain more calcium than other species’ urine, so often leaves a white residue on plastic or metal. This can easily be cleaned away by using a sponge and if done every day it will not have the chance to build up.

Rabbit droppings make excellent fertiliser, so can be recycled for this purpose, or many councils will collect rabbit bedding as garden waste.

Change your rabbits’ water daily, and if you use a water bottle also check to make sure it is working properly.

How to clean a rabbit cage

(Image credit: C Speight)

Deep cleaning

You should be removing droppings, urine and dirty litter on a daily basis, but the rest of your rabbits’ enclosure should not need cleaning each day, and might only need thoroughly cleaning once or twice per week, depending upon how tidy your rabbits are!

Each time you clean this area, you will need to replenish the bedding and hay. If your rabbits are house rabbits, then vacuum or sweep the environment. Outdoor rabbits will need the area sweeping too.

Tidy the environment, check for any damage or wear and tear, and check over the toys and items in their enclosure to ensure they have not been chewed or damaged. Remove anything that you are concerned about.

How to clean a rabbit cage

(Image credit: D Staggs)

Where to put my rabbit while I clean

This depends on the size of your rabbits’ enclosure. It is best to safely segregate them in one area of the enclosure while you clean out that area and then swap them into the clean area, whilst you clean out the other area in the enclosure. This is often less stressful to the rabbits, as they are not leaving their usual enclosure. If this is not possible, then encourage them into their carrier with their favourite treats, so they can be contained in here whilst you clean their area, before placing the carrier back into the clean enclosure and letting them come out in their own time. 

Most rabbits do not like being picked up, and find it stressful, so if you can train them to happily enter their carrier, this reduces the need to handle them for this purpose. Leaving the carrier in their enclosure, with food inside, will encourage them to explore it and to become accustomed to it.

Don't scrimp on cleaning

Never underestimate the importance of keeping your rabbits’ environment clean – it is imperative that you learn how to clean a rabbit cage properly. Living in a damp, dirty and smelly environment has health and welfare implications, and is simply not nice for the rabbits. Make sure you set aside adequate time each day for spot cleaning and once or twice weekly for deep cleaning, and ensure you keep sufficient amounts of clean litter, hay and bedding materials.

Claire Speight RVN

Claire currently works in Kettering as a Head Nurse in a practice with a high rabbit caseload, as well as frequently lecturing and writing on rabbits to both veterinary professionals and owners. She also edits the RWAF's quarterly magazine, Rabbiting On.