I hear this quite often -- usually from adults; "Rabbits are kept as outdoor pets, right?"
Just as a cat or a dog can be an outdoor pet, they really don't have to be. Here at HAWS we won't adopt out a rabbit if the adopter's intention is to house it outside.
Years ago it was common for pets to be kept outside. I suspect it had a lot to do with parasites such as fleas and ticks and the lack of an easy method for keeping them away from our furry friends. Now that we have ways to not only remove these pests, but to prevent them from ever hitching a ride on our furry friends, it has become the norm to keep a dog or cat inside. While no one raises an eyebrow when told that my dogs live inside with me, many people still express suprise that people keep their rabbits in the house.
One of our functions at HAWS is to adopt out companion animals that we hope will come to be considered members of the family. It's easier to form a connection with a family member when they're sharing your life with you indoors, then if they are removed from the family in an outdoor enclosure.
Additionally -- rabbits are prone to all sorts of nasty parasites such as fleas, lice and ticks. The worst is something called "Fly Strike" in which flys lay their eggs in living tissue and the hatching maggots live off the animal. We have gotten a number of stray and outdoor pets that come in requiring removal of these maggots.
Well-cared for, indoor rabbits are much less likely to get these parasites and are over-all healthier.
Another concern for the outdoor rabbit is having to deal with predators. Even a well secured hutch may be broken into by a determined racoon or fox. And if the predator cannot get in, rabbits can actually die from the shock of the fright they experience.
We've come a long way from the days when rabbits were domesticated as live-stock, or as a novelty pet. Many people share their homes with them as loving members of their families.
If you'd like to learn more about what rabbits are like as pets check out the website of the House Rabbit Society. If after you learn more about them and decide you might like to add a bunny as a member of your family stop by HAWS and check out the many rabbits we have waiting for a home.