Sniffing around in the grass, feeling the sun on your back…who doesn’t enjoy a little outside time? You can certainly take your rabbit or guinea pig outdoors, if you take a few steps to keep things safe.
The most important rule: never leave your small animal outside unattended. You’ve got to be there, keeping an eye on things.
Our friends are, unfortunately, prey. So when we take them outside, we have to make sure no predators can get to them. That means we need to protect them from dogs, large birds, rodents, raccoons, and any number of animals who could do them harm. Some of these predators can be quite strong and smart, finding ways under ex-pen walls, climbing, or even flying into the pen. Your outdoor enclosure needs a roof!
There are some pens and runs available, or you can build one of your own. These help keep predators away from your animal, but keep in mind that although your animal may not be hurt in an attempted attack, they may be frightened to the point of going into shock. If a predator does try an attack, check your animal for more than bites. Look for pale gums, panting, and “freezing” (unresponsiveness and simply not moving).
Here's an idea (and imagine it set up in the shade):
If your friend is a rabbit, you can take them for a walk! Well, really, they take you for a walk. You hold the leash and follow them around as they hop. It is sooooooo much fun, and we highly recommend it! You’ll need to find a harness with a lightweight leash. There are a lot of choices, but we like Bark Appeal harnesses. The Velcro helps them fit snugly, the mesh type breathes, and the edges are very nicely cushioned. You can even get a matching leash!
After living in a place with walls and a roof, the openness of outdoors can be unsettling to more nervous animals. Even if there are no predators around, your small animal may be terrified outside. If your little friend runs for cover and doesn’t want to come out to play, it is time for everyone to go back inside. Going out was a great idea, but in this case it is better avoided. No big deal…just go play together in “the burrow”. Maybe bring some (chemical-free) grass and a few nettles or other safe plants inside for your friend to sniff and nibble.
Remember that small animals, especially rabbits, can get heatstroke pretty quickly. You might want to bring out a bowl of water with some ice in it. Make sure your friend has access to nice shade, and keep an eye out for panting. If it seems like your animal is getting too warm, act sooner rather than later. It’s time to go inside!
Just like we can get some bites out there in the garden, so can our furred friends. We don’t recommend spraying them down to keep flies and ticks away, but you will need to check your friend VERY CAREFULLY when you get back inside. Take extra time around the rump, since that is where the dreaded “flystrike” usually starts, and flystrike is potentially quite serious. It is worth being super super vigilant about this.
While you are out there, take some pics and send them to us! We’d love to hear about your adventures.