House Rabbit Palace

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Introduction: House Rabbit Palace

In Israel, and probably most of the world, most house rabbits are given to children, who keep them in tiny cages (cheap) and forget about them after a month. The tragedy of the house rabbit is its low price. The costs of having a healthy and happy rabbit are enormous compared to the price you pay for the animal at the pet shop. For comparison, ferrets are treated much better simply because they cost 150-300$ and not 10-20$.
The other extreme of caring for a house rabbit is letting it run loose in the house, eat fresh vegetables with scientifically balanced dry mix and giving it unlimited attention. Not so easy!
I remember the day I came home from work. Stella came running to get her head rubbing fix. I picked her up and sat in front of the TV. Something was wrong. The sound system was shredded. I decided to surf the web. The modem supply cord was cut in two places.
Since that day, we kept Stella in a back room. Her projects included digging holes in the wall (new instructable: how to dig a hole in the wall) and shredding anything we absent mindedly decide to put in that room, including two very expensive mattresses.
Finally, I saw on the web a caging system that looked cool. It was a labyrinth of wire mesh cages assembled together to make a relatively large playing area for rabbits. Problem: it is not available in Israel. So, after finishing a basic wood working class, I decided to build a cage. The goal was to give Stella a big enough playing ground without compromising our apartment's free area and without letting her cause any more damage.

Step 1: Buying the Bars

Lately, hardware stores in Jerusalem show a range of wire mesh based storage solutions. I based my cage on two 1.2m-by-0.5m shelves (App. 4ft by 1.5ft). A shelf makes an excellent door because it has an optimal grid and usually L shaped, which makes it easier to mount on the wood construction. I found my shelves in "Ace Hardware". But I guess one can get them almost everywhere. I think that wire mesh shelves are more popular in America than in Israel. Here we have less built in closets. The simple grey bars make better cages than the PVC coated ones. Remember, rabbits chew.
Since the cage doors' measurements are the anchor of this project, go shopping before sitting down to the drawing board.

Step 2: Plan the Cabinet

The cage body is basically a modular cabinet. The technology is already the only way kitchens and cheap storage furniture is made these days. The connectors and sheets of plywood are readily available in Jerusalem and everywhere else on the planet. What you need to do is go to the nearest wood warehouse and ask for prices. For this project, a 17mm sheet of pine or poplar plywood is perfect. Don't use MDF! Rabbits chew. The glue in the MDF is toxic and the material is carcinogenic if crumbled.
After deciding on material and knowing size of sheet (normally 1.22x2.44 metres or 4x8 feet) and thickness (17-19mm) you can plan the cutting for the wood store. Here they're happy to cut it for you. But there's a catch: you can only get rectangles. If you can get a worker in such store to cut diagonals for you, you're lucky. I had to use my jigsaw to remove the corners of the shelves.
The design is simply a closet with shelves that don't span the entire width of the closet. The "missing" edges create steps that allow the rabbit to jump from level to level. When Stella stands under a hole, she can stretch upwards and when she's under a shelf, she gets the tunnel effect that makes her feel safe and at home.
Some measurements from my cage (metric figures are accurate):
Height: 160cm 5'3" total, 120cm 3'11" cage itself
Depth: 60cm 2ft
Width: 103cm
4 shelves divide the inner cage equidistantly to 5 levels.
The diagonals are not necessary. They just make the step wider for the rabbit and a little more aesthetic.
The copper foil you see in the picture was intended to keep the rabbit from chewing the edges of the shelves. The joke is on me. Now the copper is in tatters but the shelves are intact.
Get your cutting plan ready and give it to the wood store.

Step 3: Assemble the Parts

I use "Blum" type connectors. They're easy to assemble with the help of a rechargeable drill / screw driver and they detach with half rotation of that big screw head in the middle. It's easy to relocate the cage. You can see that the final picture was taken from the foyer, while the first one was taken from the back room.
After the cage is up, take it apart and apply varnish. Use water based acrylic varnish. It'll protect the wood from water puddles and other organic materials. The water base is essential because (for the last time) rabbits chew and you don't want the precious creature feeding on something based on acetone or turpentine. Stella, for some reason, doesn't like chewing on the cage walls. Can anyone offer an explanation? She did chew some varnished furniture legs before.
The connectors and varnish may vary on location. Blum connectors are cheap and popular here. But if you can't find them where you live, just consult the local hardware store expert.

Step 4: Mount the Doors

Here I didn't put much thinking, money or energy. I simply added some wood screws to the sides of the cabinet, slightly bent upwards so the bars on the sides of the doors can lean on them. The doors are held together with the help of laundry clips (what do you call it?).
I would love to get ideas for hinges and latches. The regular hinges don't fit wire mesh shelves pretending to be rabbit cage doors.

Step 5: Populate the Palace

Now it's time to move the spoiled rabbit to its new location. Grab all the mats and towels and layer the levels with them. Decide where you want the toys, the cardboard "project" box, the litter box etc. Make sure your rabbit has enough space to move around from level to level and doesn't get trapped once it goes to the toilet. Place the water dish and food in one level. Remember that rabbits don't like changes. Stella stomped for hours after her last move to the foyer. But they get used to their new place eventually and forget yesterday as ancient history. So spoil your rabbit but try not to move things around.

Final thoughts
1. I built this cage for our one and only Stella, who's almost 3 years old and been living with people only for almost her entire life. We don't want to risk getting her a buddy rabbit because she is hot headed and seems to be content with us. I think a cage this size can easily host two more rabbits if you have them.
2. The extra height I gave the cage proved to be a good idea. We saved the storage room underneath the cage, which is necessary in typical Jerusalem apartments.
3. Final touch: I used a cutter to open windows in the mesh where Stella likes to sit. This enables me to pet her head (she loves that) almost every time I pass by her cage.

This is Stella's new location. Rosie the dog loves Stella but Stella prefers watching the dog from above. Kids, can you spot the little bunny in the picture?

Step 6: Our New Home in America

Recently, Kakungulu and family moved to the United States. We are expecting our first baby. Until then, we stay busy nesting.
We didn't leave our pets behind. Rosie and Stella are happy living in Colorado, where dogs have unlimited walking and running around space and rabbits have huge carpeted houses to explore.
The cage was left in Jerusalem. I think it is going to serve as my sister's ferret's new home. We'll see. Stella had to spend the first 3 months in a wire mesh cage that was ready for her when we landed. It was tiny in comparison to the huge cage she had in "the old country". But she also had a huge carpet to explore every other night.
The new house is big enough to have a proper wood shop (double car garage, it's the american way...). So naturally I made a practice run on my new 110v, Inch based, american power tools building a new cage for Stella. It was made for the living room so had to resemble a piece of furniture, not a makeshift plywood box. I got to practice "frame and panel" cabinet making techniques on my rabbit's expense. I made my mistakes and learned some valuable lessons building this one. Stella doesn't complain. Here's the result.

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    69 Comments

    It's a "Rabbitat"

    My brother made one for his rats he had which we called the "Ratitat"

    How you caught the shelves? It was with screws? It has a timber holding the door in this side of the shelf?

    1 reply

    http://www.ldlonline.co.uk/Product/0/4473/BLUM-Screw-On-Cabinet-Connector
    Blum connectors are easy to use and very stable. You can take the cage apart in minutes and move it to a different room or in your car. You don't need any special tools (e.g. biscuit joiner or even electric drill). Once you cut your plywood these connectors can hold together the cage in minutes, using only a philips type screwdriver.

    Man, this is really nice! I'll do some adaptations and make one for my rabbit, Bruce! :D
    I've made one, but it was too short. Thanks a lot :D

    1 reply

    Thanks man, I'm amazed this instructable still gets traffic, more than 7 years after it was posted. Sadly, Stella is no longer with us. Her cage above served a ferret for a little while and probably stored somewhere in Israel. Her second cage (see next) is now my power tools cabinet in the garage. Rosie is a much bigger dog. I can't believe how life in America transformed her :-) thanks for the nostalgia!

    Not meaning to rain on anyone's parade, so you all keep thinking warm fuzzy bunny thoughts if you want to. I was more looking into a way to raise meat animals in the 'burbs, and this bunny condo looks like a prime source of Hasenpfeffer. Expand it a bit and it would be a nice little garage based meat factory.

    2 replies

    As a hopeless carnivore, I can't judge you. As it happens, my tribe has some religious dietary restrictions when it comes to what kind of animals we can eat. So rabbits, rodents, pachyderms, cats, dogs etc. are out of the menu even before we consider the cultural or practical implications of eating these animals. But I'll say it again, I can't judge you. I don't know how rabbits compare in intelligence to cows, and I'll eat a cow, provided it was raised, killed and prepared in a proper (specifically kosher) manner. An important point most bunny pet owners love to ignore is that many of the breeds we raise as pets were developed originally for meat. We spay and neuter our rabbits to prolong their lives because as nature and the meat farms dictated their genetics, they are redundant for the preservation of the species after a certain age.
    I'm sure most of my late Stella's recent ancestry ended up as food and even her short 5.5 years were an incredible anomaly for her kind that was achieved by veterinary intervention and two devout pet owners. Only one thing I would ask from aspiring farmers, to make the short lives of their meat rabbits as pleasant as possible. Personally, I have a more strict kosher standard that excludes the industrial type farms. I only eat free range beef. So I am actually glad TaoJones considered multilevel condos instead of tight cage array for his meat farm.

    There's no shame in raising animals for food as long as they are well taken care of-it's a lot better than buying factory farmed meat from the grocery store.

    This is not a good idea. Rabbits live on the ground. They are very comfortable there. However, they do not like being high off the ground. Their instincts tell them that this is a very, very bad situation. The only time a wild bunny would be high off the ground would be if it was captured by some sort of predator (like a bird that would carry them high into the air). Understandably, this makes them very nervous. Stressed animals can become sick for no apparent reason. Please keep your rabbit out of this contraption. Though your intentions were undoubtedly good, this cage will be a nightmarish experience for your poor little creature. If your rabbit needs more space, why don't you just buy a larger cage? Multi-level cages were meant for rats and other small animals that are used to climbing through trees, not rabbits. Please get a conventional cage for your cute little bunny and you could save its life.

    4 replies

    Please note that the levels are solid bottomed, not mesh. The mesh levels are what causes the problems.

    Using the solid shelving gives them the feeling of security and approximates an underground rabbit warren-very comforting to a rabbit. No conventional cage is going to give them anywhere near the space that this one does and that's the important thing. If a nestbox is included then they can retreat there in the event that they feel unsafe.

    This is an excellent design that I will be basing mine off of when I get rabbits again...I'll just need to figure out bedding and keeping it spotless since you can't (or at least shouldn't) use shavings with angoras and that's the breed I'd be getting. I'm trying to limit additional pets to ones that will be "useful" somehow such as fiber producing rabbit or chickens. My reptiles aren't very useful for anything other than amusement, I can't even use the old turtle water for aquaponics because of the salmonella concern.

    Hi Walrusboy10, I appreciate your concern but Stella has been living in this particular cage for over a year. She's been in multi-level cages for almost 3 years now, which make the most of her 4 and a half years on this planet. Rabbits don't climb trees, that's true. But apparently Stella loves the multi-level setup because her favourite place is the top floor. She runs around, up and down the levels all the time. She puts all the toys up there and doesn't like us "messing up" her penthouse. When she's up there, I don't think she realizes she's up in the air, very much like humans in tall buildings. She gets time to run around the house every now and then and goes on vacations in a bunny sitter's house, who happens to be an expert on this animal. She thinks this cage is a good idea. Believe me, we have a happy bunny that's healthy and friendly to humans, our dog and other bunnies.

    I too appreciate & thank Walrusboy10 for the concern. The rabbit companions we have available today have been bread to the point that they don't share much with wild bunnies at all. What our companion house rabbits do have is individual preferences. Some prefer floor only living, others love the multi-level housing. I think most house rabbits appreciate any extra space they get for exercise. Whatever style of extra space they are given, vertical or horizontal, they will still want/need a "den" type of space, in addition to "running space" , to sleep & hide in. Most people I've seen use the original tiny cage first bought for the rabbit, for the den/sleeping/hiding quarters, then add extra space caging for full time living. Kudos to Kakungulu for taking the time & expense to provide a non-toxic & hay filled world for his bun. Thank you also for taking the time to post your instructions.& answer all the comments.

    Final note:
    This instructable was posted ~3 years ago.
    Recently our beloved Stella has passed away at the age of 5.5 years. She had a severe case of lymphoma that went undetected until it attacked her heart. We miss her so much.
    We tried to donate the palace to HRS volunteer in our neighbourhood. But now it seems like we are going to keep it and become foster family to bunnies waiting to be adopted from the Colorado HRS.
    If you're considering buying a bunny, check first the local HRS branch and adopt a pair.
    Stella was an impulse purchase from a Jerusalem shopping mall.
    But we hope the life we gave her was good, healthy and full of love. How many rabbits immigrate with their humans?

    Thanks for commenting and rating this instructable,
    Kakungulu

    1 reply

    I know someone who moved from New York, USA to Germany, and she took her bun with her. I'm so glad you took your Stella with you. I'm sure she had a happy life, as not only did you care for her, but you built her a palace. After all, only a proper bunny slave would bow to such a girl's demands. :)

    my mom thinks bunnies will chew on all the wires if i get one is this true? btw nice palace!!