WIRE FLOORS VERSUS SOLID FLOORS
THE GREAT DEBATE REVEALED
BY Barbi Brown
One of the great debates on rabbit raising that is about as divided as diet is whether or not wire floors are harmful to a rabbit's feet.
Sore hocks are caused by several things, none of which are from a GOOD CLEAN wire floor. They can be genetic but more often is caused by flimsy or rusted floors or floors not kept clean and feces has been allowed to accumulate.
Rescue organizations have found rabbits living in filth in wire cages and those rabbits have often had sore hocks and the assumption was that it was caused by the wire floor. What caused the sore hocks was the build up of manure left wet by urine. When fur gets wet and soiled the fur develops a fungus that peels the fur away from the foot leaving it open to become infected. Rusty floors, even if kept clean can result in sore hocks from the constant abrasion and consequently infection.
Solid plastic floors as often touted by pet stores and rescues have their own set of problems. First is that the floor is slick and does not allow the rabbit a good footing as they have in a wire floored cage. And unless the rabbit uses a litter box in these cages then he is sitting and sleeping in his own waste. Wire floors allow the urine and feces to fall below the floor leaving the rabbit in a clean space. The wire floors also offer good traction for the rabbits to run and play.
That said, there are rabbits that require some extra attention in a wire floored cage. Large breed rabbits such as Flemish Giants will require a heavy gauge wire floor and a sitting area where they can rest away from the wire. Plywood is the most commonly used but if the rabbit urinates on it fungal infections and bacterial infections can lead to sore hocks. Slotted plastic mats called E-Z mats are specifically designed for wire cages and are slotted to allow urine and feces to fall through and yet offer a smooth cushioned surface to rest on. This is preferred over wood floors. Carpet square have the same issue of wet and can cause an obstruction of the gut if the rabbit chews on the synthetic carpet fiber.
Mini Rex and Rex rabbits have very short fur on the pads of their feet and also should have E-Z mats for comfort.
The biggest issue is cleanliness. Remember our rabbits live in their toilets and it's up to us to keep their space clean and comfortable.