Rabbit care

Rabbits are intelligent and sociable animals that make great pets, but not everyone is a great rabbit owner. Thousands of rabbits end up in shelters every year because the owners didn’t know how to properly care for them. Bunnies have been know to bite, chew furniture, and dig at carpet if they are not properly cared for.

Housing

In the past, rabbits were routinely kept in hutches outside. It is now known that this causes unnatural, social isolation for a very social creature. Rabbits have been known to die from a heart attack just by the approach of a predator. Domestic bunnies should always be kept indoors.

Look for a cage that will allow a grown rabbit the ability to run around freely. Wire cages can hurt a rabbit’s feet so look for a cage with a solid bottom. Put down plenty of bedding such as shredded paper or recycled newspaper available in pet stores. Do not use cedar or pine shavings. Wash the cage and replace the bedding weekly. Rabbits are prone to chills from drafts, so place your bun’s cage away from heat vents and windows.

A rabbit needs a safe exercise area inside or outside. Bunnies need room to run and jump around for several hours everyday. If you take your rabbit outside, do not leave him unsupervised. Bunny- proof a room in your house by covering all electrical wires for an inside exercise area.

Give your bun plenty of safe chew toys and a digging box. A digging box can be made out of an old card board box filled with dirt or shredded paper. Making sure your rabbit has these things can prevent him from causing destruction in your house with his natural inclination to chew and dig.

Diet

The first ingredient to a healthy diet for your rabbit is hay. Hay is very important to keep your bunny’s intestinal tract healthy and unlimited hay should always be available to him. Rabbits can eat timothy or brome hay.

Your bun will also need rabbit pellets. Look for a formula with 15 to 19 percent protein and 18 percent fiber. Pellets should be plain with no seeds, nuts, or colored pieces included. Adult rabbits should be limited to one-eighth to a quarter cup per day.

Fresh leafy greens make up the last ingredient in a healthy diet for your rabbit. Give your bun one to two cups of leafy green vegetables everyday. Bunnies love lettuce, but avoid iceberg lettuce because it has little nutrition. Good, leafy vegetables for rabbits are parsley, collard greens, cilantro, and turnip greens.

Rabbits are shameless beggars and love special treats. You can give your bunny carrots, fruit, and rabbit treats, but keep the treats to a minimum to avoid malnutrition and causing your rabbit to have a weight problem.

Always provide your rabbit with plenty of clean fresh water.

Litter box training

Rabbits will naturally choose one corner of their cage to use as a bathroom. When your rabbit has established a preference, put a litter box there. The litter box should be filled with bedding or pelleted newspaper litter. Do not use cat litter. Bunnies like to hang out in their litter boxes and eat, so it’s a good idea to provide hay as well. Cleaning the litter box daily will keep the cage free of odors.

When your bun is in his exercise area, look for the same corner preference and leave a litter box there too. Rabbits can have accidents while playing, so don’t get upset if you still have to do a little clean up after play time.

Handling

Rabbits are prey animals and need to feel free to escape if they become frightened. This means that rabbits aren’t fond of being held and carried around. Many rabbits end up in shelters because they bite and scratch their owners. Rabbits aren’t vocal animals and biting and scratching is the only way they can protect themselves from a scary situation.

Rabbits are fragile animals and need to be picked up very carefully. Pick up a rabbit by it’s forequarters with one hand and hold it’s back legs with the other hand. This prevents the rabbit from kicking when being handled. Rabbits have been known to kick so hard that they injure their spines. Never pick up a rabbit by it’s ears.

Because rabbits are so delicate, an adult should always be the primary caretaker. Children tend to want to cuddle and aren’t always careful when picking them up. Teach your children to gently pet your bun instead of holding it. Never leave a bunny to play unsupervised with a child present.

Brush your rabbit with a soft brush regularly. Your bunny will need his nails trimmed monthly. Ask your vet to show you how to properly trim your rabbit’s nails.

Rabbits are very social and love playing with other pets. Introduce cats and dogs to your rabbit slowly and supervise all interactions at first.

Rabbits love to play tag, getting petted, and being talked to. Try laying on the floor and you will find your bun jumping on your back. Don’t leave your rabbit alone in a cage all day, interact with him.

Vet

Rabbits need a vet who has experience with rabbits. Rabbits aren’t like dogs and cats when it comes to medications and surgery. Bring your rabbit to the vet once a year for a check-up.

If your rabbit stops eating or stops having bowel movements for more than 12 hours, it is an emergency and you need to get to the vet ASAP. Watery diarrhea is also an emergency situation in a rabbit. Rabbits are prone to eye and upper respiratory infections. Watch for signs of watery eyes, runny nose, and sneezing. Your bun will need to see a vet to get antibiotics if it has an infection.

A rabbit can be a wonderful addition to the right household. Before you buy a bunny, make sure you can commit the time and effort into taking care of one these cute, little creatures. With the proper care, you can enjoy your bun for seven to 10 years.