Planning on getting a rabbit? Hop to it!
Rabbits make wonderful indoor pets. They are adorable and brimming with personality. Rabbits are as playful, friendly and loving as cats and dogs, but they have very different needs. You might think you can just keep your rabbit in a small cage, but it actually needs two to four hours per day to hop free and play. Make sure you know what you’re getting into before bringing one into your home.
Set Up Space
There are several options to house rabbits inside. They can live free-reign in a bunny proofed room, or they can be contained within a puppy pen or rabbit cage. If contained, their space should always be large enough so they can hop around, and they should be let out of their pen for at least a few hours everyday for exercise. If your bunny is kept outdoors then its hutch should be at least four feet long, two feet wide and two feet deep and should have a solid bottom. You should also make sure it is cleaned regularly and packed well with straw.
Make sure the primary location of your rabbit is not isolated from you and your family. A family room or living room is a good place to keep them close and give them comfort !
Bunny-Proof Your House
Rabbits need space to run around and explore. In order to create a safe space for you and your bunny, you will need to thoroughly bunny proof the area. This includes covering all wires, blocking electrical sockets, moving breakables out of reach and keeping food safely stored. You’ll also have to block off certain areas since rabbits like to chew the undersides of beds, items on bookshelves, house plants, and more. Basically, your rabbit will try to chew everything in it's reach but can be trained not to be destructive to furniture and property.
Provide Fresh Hay and Fresh Greens
Rabbits have an unusual digestive system and they re-ingest their droppings. This is why it’s important to give your bunny all the nutrients it needs. Hay or grass are better for digestive health than nuggets (commercial rabbit pellets) and are needed for their gastrointestinal system to function properly. A rabbit’s diet should mainly consist of hay. Fresh hay should be provided to rabbits at all times. Baby rabbits should be given alfalfa, and adult rabbits should be fed timothy hay, grass hay, or oat hay. Using a large hay feeder is helpful because it keeps large amounts of hay dry, clean, and accessible.
Washed leafy green vegetables and herbs are safe to eat and can be given to your rabbit daily. Supplement your rabbit’s hay with fresh vegetables and fresh water changed daily.
Set Up a Litter Box
People don’t expect rabbits to be litter trainable, but they are, although they will never be 100 percent reliable. Bear in mind that rabbits poop a lot, and they’re not going to want to spend all their time in the litter box. Rabbits have a natural inclination to poop and pee in one area which can be used to train them by setting up a medium-sized cat litter box or shallow storage bin near their food and water bowls and hay feeder.
Put a thin layer of rabbit-safe, recycled newspaper pellet litter at the bottom of the litter box. Do not use clay or cat litter or wood shavings, as they are not safe for rabbits.
Provide Enrichment and Activities
Rabbits can get bored easily. Not only do they need space to exercise, they also need mental stimulation. Cardboard castles are great because rabbits spend hours chewing new windows and doorways. Cardboard castles also provide a quiet refuge for the rabbit when necessary.
You can also provide a variety of toys for your rabbit to pique his or her interest. Not getting enough physical activity can put your rabbit at risk of developing a condition called GI Stasis, a potentially deadly condition in which the digestive system slows down or stops completely. A lack of exercise can also cause your rabbit to become overweight which can lead to other health problems in the future.
Make sure you take your rabbit out of its cage at least once every day, either on a run or to run around the room. And use playtime as a way of encouraging exercise
NOTE: Rabbits have a very fragile skeletal system and very powerful muscles they are not suited to walk on a leash. If they get startled and leap on a leash, they could break their back. The best solution for outdoor exercise is to set up a dog corral or build a rabbit run.
Grooming and Bathing
Rabbits are naturally clean animals and clean themselves frequently. But you still need to groom your rabbit on a regular basis. Rabbits go through shedding cycles a couple of times a year. It’s important to brush your rabbit to remove all excess fur, or your rabbit could ingest it and have serious digestive issues.
Regular nail clipping is also important because long nails can get snagged on things or they can curl into your rabbit’s paw. Check your bunny’s teeth as well as their top front teeth grow at a rate of 3mm a week! Have their choppers checked at their veterinary check ups to make sure everything is in order.
NOTE: Clean the cage once a day. If you don’t, the smell will quickly become pungent and disgusting. Worse, your rabbit ends up risking sores on its feet or the sniffles from living in damp and insanitary quarters.
Health and Behaviour
Rabbits are good at hiding signs that they are in pain so look out for a lack of interest in food or digging at their mouth. Rabbits are prey animals, and so their natural instinct is to hide any symptoms of illness. You must keep an extra watchful eye to ensure your rabbit is eating, drinking and pooping regularly. If you notice any change in behaviour, it is important to call a vet immediately.
Due to more knowledge and advanced medicine rabbits are living longer, healthier lives and the RSPCA says the average rabbit lives for eight to 10 years. Which is why it’s important to be prepared for a long-term commitment if you’re thinking of adding one to your home!
Spaying and Child Control
Male rabbits, unless neutered, will spray urine right up the wall and unsterilised females tend to get cancer of the uterus at around age four. Altered rabbits are healthier and live longer than unaltered rabbits. The risk of reproductive cancers for an unsprayed female rabbit is eliminated by spaying your rabbit. Your neutered male rabbit will live longer as well, given that he won’t be tempted to fight with other animals (rabbits, cats, etc.) due to his sexual aggression. Spaying is recommended.
Altered rabbits also make better companions. They are calmer, more loving, and dependable once the undeniable urge to mate has been removed, they are less prone to destructive and aggressive (biting, lunging, circling, growling) behaviour after the surgery. Most rabbits are spayed between four and six months of age.
NOTE: Rabbits do not have periods. Female rabbits are induced ovulators, meaning that they only release an egg in response to a suitable mate being around and during, or just prior, to mating. There should therefore not be any blood around the reproductive organs; it is not menstruation!
Get a Rabbit-Savvy Vet
In addition to responding to illness, it is also essential to take your rabbit for regular bi-annual veterinary check-ups. The vet can check the ears, eyes, teeth, and gut to make sure the rabbit is in good health.
Pet rabbits are different from cats and dogs. It’s essential to understand how rabbits think so you and your rabbit can live a happy life together. By catering to your rabbit’s natural inclinations, you can build a trusting, loving relationship with your pet. Try and spend at least 15 minutes in the mornings and evenings having some playtime with your rabbit and getting to know them!