However much you love your rabbit, there will be times when you may have to be away for a little while. Things can happen that we don’t expect, and we need to make sure our bunnies are safe while we’re gone. But how long can we spend away? Here’s the recommended approach.
So, how long can rabbits be left alone? Rabbits can only be left alone for a maximum of 24 hours. If a rabbit doesn’t eat for 24 hours it can die. 8-12 hours is more optimal, especially if they have a companion, space to exercise, and food to eat. Bunnies kept alone, or who crave more attention and care, will do best when left for 3-6 hours at most.
It’s a common myth that rabbits are low-maintenance pets, but they are social animals who need love, care, and company.
They are also prey animals, so they tend to hide any signs of illness, which is all the more reason to attend to their needs daily and make sure they’re thriving.
You’ll also want to take into account your environment: if your pet is used to roaming throughout your house, you won’t want to let them do that when you’re out.
Bunnies can quickly get into a lot of trouble by chewing what they’re not supposed to eat!
If your bunny spends time in a hutch or a run outdoors, you do not want to leave your bunny alone outside for any length of time.
The slightest noise can frighten your bunny, and they can literally die of fear from a heart attack.
Let us now look at when you can start leaving your rabbit alone before turning to some best practices to ensure all goes well during your time away.
When Can You Leave Your Rabbit Alone?
Rabbits should only be left alone when they are of sufficient age, their needs can be met and you can ensure they will be entirely safe while you are away.
Let us look at each various aspect, and some tips, below:
When Your Rabbit is Old Enough
You can leave your rabbit alone when they are old enough, that is, when they’re at least 4 months old.
At that age, their immune system is stronger than when they’re younger.
When Your Rabbit Has A Companion
Paired bunnies can be left alone more easily, as they keep each other company and groom each other.
Bunnies should never be left alone on their own. These animals form loving bonds with other bunnies as well as with humans.
Even if your bunny loves you very much, if you can’t be with them all the time paying attention to them, your bunny will need an animal friend.
Paired bunnies will be happier and have a richer life. They can cuddle each other and play together, even more so when they don’t have you there.
Bunnies with companions also are healthier and are more resilient to stress.
Not only will they be happier when left alone, but they are also likely to live longer.
Ask your vet or local animal shelter for advice if you need to introduce a new bunny to your furry friend.
You may wish to have your bunnies spayed or neutered, as this makes it easier for them to get along without hormones getting in the way.
When Your Rabbit Has Space To Move
Your bunny will need enough room to move around while they’re left alone.
You can provide them with a run or an exercise pen to hop and jump to stay active.
There are indoor runs that you can connect to your bunny’s main enclosure suitable for use in your home.
Consider A Pet Sitter
If you need to leave your bunny for longer than 12 hours or so, the best thing is to get a pet sitter for your friend to keep them company and look after them.
This solution can be the easiest for nervous bunnies, as they won’t have new smells to contend with if you leave them in a boarding facility.
The advantage of a pet sitter is that they can get to know your bunny and can therefore be alert to any changes that could indicate a problem.
It isn’t always obvious when a bunny is unwell, so any changes in behavior or other clues are easier to pick up by someone who knows your friend.
If your pet sitter isn’t experienced with rabbits, be sure to provide all the information they’ll need.
This includes your rabbit’s feeding routine, their exercise time, which foods you give them, and which fresh vegetables your bunny eats.
Be sure to provide your local vet’s number as well as the number of an emergency clinic. Hopefully, neither number will be needed, but best to be prepared!
Invite your sitter over ahead of time so that they can get used to your bunny. Put everything they need in easy reach so that your sitter can look after your friend effectively.
A pet sitter can be a good solution for a few days, but if you need to be away for longer periods, you’ll probably need a boarding facility.
After all, most pet sitters may not be able to be with your friend for long periods of time each day.
Consider a Boarding Facility
There are boarding facilities that have experience with rabbits, and that’s the first thing you’ll want to check.
Just because they board cats and dogs doesn’t mean they are equipped to look after rabbits!
Some vets offer boarding for rabbits, which can be a good choice since you won’t have to worry about problems if your bunny gets sick.
And if you are going away for a long period of time, this can be a more cost-effective option.
The downside to boarding facilities is that they can be stressful for your rabbit – it can be very loud with sounds of other animals and scary smells.
If your rabbit is nervous, it might not do well with so much stimulation.
You could find someone who boards rabbits in their home – this could be an excellent solution for leaving your bunny in the hands of someone experienced.
Typically, your bunny will enjoy a quieter environment, and the person will usually have more time to devote to your friend.
How To Keep Your Rabbits Safe and Content When Left Alone
If you take the time to prepare, you can ensure your bunnies are safe and happy when left alone for short periods.
Here are some tips for doing just that.
Keep Your Rabbit Indoors
Rabbits should never be left outdoors unsupervised in hutches.
Your bunny will feel like they’re in a jail cell.
It’s all too easy for humans to forget about rabbits left outside – whereas dogs, cats, and bunny predators will pick up their scent and can frighten them to death.
Bunnies left outside will not only feel neglected and lonely: they are exposed to extremes of temperature, which can kill them.
Very hot or freezing weather can be fatal to rabbits – in the wild, rabbits spend the hot midday hours in a cool burrow underground.
If for any reason your bunny has to be outside for any amount of time without you around, make sure they have a companion as well as a wooden hide box with hay for protection.
Provide them with shade, fresh food, and water, and take out your bunny regularly for exercise.
Bunny Proof Your Home
Be sure that your bunny has an area of your home that is bunny-proof.
This means covering up any wires or placing them out of reach, keeping papers and books away from eager teeth, and providing a quiet area that is calm.
Make sure that your bunny is in an area of your home in which you usually spend a great deal of time.
If your bunny likes to chew on wall edges or wood furniture, you can cover the area they’ve nibbled with old magazines, a cardboard box, or a litter box with hay to give your bunny tastier chewing options.
Provide a litter box for your bunny, and keep any toxic plants or chemicals out of reach.
The best way to encourage your bunny to use the litter box is to put hay in it. Put a first layer of rabbit-safe litter in the box, and use the hay to cover it up.
Change the litter box when soiled, or at least daily.
Make sure you don’t use clumping litter or litter with additives, as these are dangerous for bunnies.
Even corn cob litter can cause damage, as some rabbits will eat it.
The best materials for litter boxes are recycled newspaper and newspaper pulp, and aspen bedding.
Make A Schedule
You can prepare your bunnies for being left alone by adjusting their feeding schedule.
Of course, they will need plenty of fresh hay throughout the day, but they will also need to get used to having their fresh leafy greens and any pellets in the evening when you return.
You don’t want to leave bunnies with pellets unsupervised, as they are very dry, and you won’t be there to make sure your bunny is drinking.
Plan Your Reunion
Make sure to plan for some playtime when you get home. Your bunny will want your attention and will have missed you while you’re gone!
Leaving your rabbit at home alone can be worrying; especially the first time you do it.
But in time, and with the right approach and recommendations made here today, you should find that you become more confident in doing so.
Nevertheless, the less time you can spend away from your rabbits, the better.
While we all have our schedules and commitments, owning a rabbit comes with its responsibilities.
They have needs to be met.
And they are entirely reliant on you to meet them.
So, do take these timescales and schedules with a pinch of salt.
You know what will be best depending on your context.
And if all else fails, reach out to a friend or family member and ask for some help.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.