• Rabbit Care Guide

  • FOOD and WATER

    Hay should comprise about 75% of their diet and should always be available. Timothy, three-way and orchard grass are all good. Alfalfa hay is for baby rabbits and older rabbits that need more calories. 

    We recommend a timothy based pellet for adult rabbits. Baby rabbits will need higher calorie alfalfa pellets. No mueslix, just plain pellets without fruit, nuts, grains, etc. Adult rabbits only need ⅛ cup per 4lbs of rabbit. If a rabbit is obese, too much pellets is usually the cause. If you need to switch pellets, introduce the new food slowly by mixing it with the current food, increasing the ratio of new food until the old food is phased out.

    Daily salads should be about 1 cup of greens for each 4 lbs. of body weight. Selecting a variety of greens gives your rabbit a diet varied in vitamins and minerals. Fruits and carrots are considered treat foods. These should be given very sparingly as they can cause obesity and/or digestive issues. Hay based treats that have less sugar are an excellent choice. Dried fruits are very sugary and should be a rare treat. 

    Rabbits need to eat continuously for a healthy digestive system. A regular routine gives you several opportunities to monitor your rabbits appetite. Is your rabbit excited for pellets? Did they finish their salad? Is the usual treat suddenly uninteresting? This will tip you off to possible GI Stasis.

    Use heavy crockery bowls with straight sides for both food and water. Rabbits like to throw and flip their bowls, so make sure the bowls are hard to pick up.  Water should be changed daily.

    LITTERBOX

    Rabbits like to graze while they poop so a litter box with hay in it or in a hay rack next to it will allow natural behavior. They will choose an eating end and a pottying end. A cat litter box, cement mixing tub, bus-boy tub or under bed storage box will work. Use paper bedding or aspen wood pellets. No clay based kitty litter (dangerous to ingest and too dusty) or aromatic pine (kiln dried is ok.) Change the box every couple of days and top with fresh hay daily. 

    HOUSING

    Your rabbit does not need a typical cage. Housing your rabbit in an exercise pen (commonly known as an x-pen) can be a big improvement over a cage. X-pen living gives bunny more space, while still safely contained during those times when you are not at home or need to keep bunny enclosed. Even for "jumpers" x-pens can be a good choice, simply by attaching some shade cloth (found in garden centers) or special-made wire tops made by pen manufacturers.

    Rabbits are crepuscular, which means that generally they sleep during the day and during the night but are ready to play at dawn and at twilight. Be sure to let them out during the evening when you are home, and if possible, in the morning while you get ready for work.

    Once your rabbit is familiar with your home and you know what your rabbit does, and your house has been fully bunny proofed, there’s no reason that he or she can’t have run of your home even when you’re not there. The level of interaction you get when bunny can run up and greet you will make your relationship so much better!

    EXERCISE

    Digging and chewing along with other daily exercise is also an important physical and psychological pleasure for your rabbit. Rabbits who are cooped-up in a cage for days on end are more likely to be aggressive and cranky. Rabbits should get out for play time and burn off energy on a daily basis. This will make for a happier, healthier and more friendly rabbit. Remember that rabbits don’t have pads on their paws so they’ll need a textured surface in order to run. Cover electrical wires and make sure bunny isn’t pulling up carpet (dangerous if they ingest.) Watch carefully until you learn where you can trust bunny to play. Block off problem areas and provide alternate chewing and digging items. See below for more specific tips on bunny-proofing your home. 

    TOYS

    Even when rabbits have room to run around, without something to do they can still be bored. A bored rabbit is often a naughty rabbit. Provide your rabbit with lots of entertainment, in the form of boxes, baskets, brooms, sticks, magazines, phone books, grass mats, etc. Cardboard paper towel or toilet paper rolls can be stuffed with hay for a fun flinging, chewing toy. Hard plastic toys (bird toys work) and unpainted wooden toys are good . Rabbits like tunnels and places to hide. 

    COMMON HEALTH ISSUES

    Make sure your rabbit is eating and pooping.  If you don’t see your rabbit eat for 12 hours, it could be G.I. Stasis. This is when the rabbit’s digestive system stops moving. Seek help right away.   

    If you hear sneezing, check for nasal discharge.  Sometimes it’s easier to see on their paws, where they have wiped their nose and their fur is sticky or dried into little spikes.   If you see discharge, get the rabbit checked for upper respiratory infection.  

    Make sure that the rabbit’s bottom is clean – wet, sticky feces indicate intestinal problems, and can also cause other issues. Redness in the area may indicate urinary issues.  

    Rabbits cannot sweat, so avoid possible overheating. If your rabbit spends time outside, make sure there is access to shade.  No outdoor play time when the temperature is over 80 degrees.  

    If you have multiple rabbits and only one needs a vet visit, take both. It will calm the ill rabbit, and make it easier for readjustment when they come home.

     

    GROOMING

    Nails will need to be trimmed approximately every six to eight weeks.  Untrimmed nails can affect how the rabbit walks and the nails can break and cause injury. Periodically check the scent glands (on either side of your rabbit’s genitals). Gently clean out any buildup of secretions with a moist cotton swab. 

    Rabbits shed a lot and ingestion of fur can cause ‘hairballs’ that rabbits cannot vomit up. Expect two major and two minor sheds per year. If your rabbit doesn’t like being brushed, you can stroke their fur and gently pull out loose tufts.  

    BONDING WITH YOUR BUNNY

    Rabbits have their own unique personalities and are incredibly intelligent! Some rabbits are shy and reserved, while others are more outgoing. It is important to remember that rabbits are both naturally prey animals and social animals, which means that it is our responsibility as humans to patiently earn their trust as they learn that they are safe and cared for. Every rabbit is different and, like human friendships, bunny friendships often take some work. However, it can be incredibly rewarding to earn the loyal trust of these loving creatures; they are very much worth our effort! Below is a list of suggestions to help the humans in your household become friends with your furry family member!

    • Offer treats and pellets by hand. 
    • Speak softly. Rabbits do not like loud noises but they do like hearing humans speak as long as the voice is soft and gentle. 
    • Be gentle when you pick up your bunny and do not make any dramatic, sudden movements. It may take time for the rabbit to get used to being picked up and it is important to always support the rabbit’s bottom. Small children should be discouraged from picking up the bunny at all. 
    • Spend lots of time laying down on the floor to see the world from their point of view. Do not try to pet them during this time, simply let the bunny sniff and hop around you. Don’t worry if the rabbit hops away. Let them get used to your presence and patiently wait for them to come back and give you another sniff. 
    • Play with toys together. Most rabbits are very playful and enjoy plastic or wooden things that they can toss and knock over. 
    • When the bunny seems comfortable with your presence let them sniff your hand and then pet them on their head and ears. This is normally their favorite spot! If you hear tooth grinding it means they are super happy and comfortable. 
    • If a rabbit acts aggressive it is normally because they are scared. Give them some space and return to sitting in their area instead of trying to pet them or pick them up. 
    • Many rabbits love to be pet, but sometimes it must be on their terms! If a rabbit approaches you and sticks their head out it means they want some head pets, so be sure to give into their little bunny demands! Sometimes rabbits will only accept pets when they initiate, so know it is nothing personal and they just have special personalities. 

     

    BUNNY PROOFING

    Every bunny is different and may be more or less inclined to certain behaviors. It is important to observe your rabbit to make sure that your home is bunny-proofed according to their needs and behaviors. Below is a list of suggestions that can help keep both your home and bunny safe. While bunny-proofing may take some time at first, the benefits of having a happy rabbit that can actually live life with you (outside of a cage!) make the effort totally worth it! 

    • To protect baseboards and wooden furniture, apply clear packaging tape to deter chewing. Most rabbits hate the smell and taste of the tape. 
    • Use plastic tubing from places like Ikea and Home Depot to protect electronic cords. 
    • Place a tile over any carpet corners that your bunny is particularly fond of. 
    • Try hanging house plants instead of putting them on accessible furniture. 
    • Use wooden planks from a hardware store to block off furniture that you do not want your bunny going under. 
    • When buying new furniture, opt for pieces with a metal base without hanging fabric. 
    • Check the safety of any small spaces the rabbit may want to explore. This is especially important if your rabbit has access to your kitchen! 
    • Place bunny chew toys out in the open so that the bunny naturally chooses to chew on those instead of  house-hold items. 
    • Use child gates or x-pens to block off certain rooms/areas that you do not want the bunny to have access to. 
    • If you run into a particular problem, don’t be afraid to google! House bunny owners are constantly coming up with great solutions and posting them on the internet!