Rabbit Care

Rabbit Care

I like people to know what they are getting into before adopting, and be educated to prevent problems in the future. I prefer to be 100% upfront about the good and bad of being a rabbit owner. That way, you are less likely to feel stressed about unexpected rabbit-moments.

For New Rabbit Owners:

A lot of people think rabbits are like hamsters. Although they are small and cute, they cannot sit in a cage for days. Too much time in a cage causes them to become aggressive, possibly start biting, or they can get depressed and in some cases, that can lead to an unexpected death.
Rabbits are intelligent, social animals who need attention and sometimes affection. They are wonderful companions.
I say that rabbits are the perfect combination between a cat and a dog!

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Living Space:

Rabbits do best living indoors, either as free roaming, or living some of its time in a main busy area of the home. That way bunny can interact with family members and be a much loved addition to the family.
It is best to have an area set up that bunny can call their own. This area will be a safe zone for bunny where he can go to rest or when he needs to get away from the hubbub of the family. A lot of people feel they can rest easier if bunny is in his area while they are sleeping or at work. Some bunnies can get into trouble when left to their own, so confinement when no one is home then free run the rest of the time is a great compromise.
No cage is big enough for any bunny. A cage can be used as a holding spot for the hay and litter pan but bunny should never be locked into a cage constantly. The best thing is to get what is referred to as a puppy play pen or x-pen.
Some breeds (Rex, Velveteen Lops, Mini Rex, etc) are at higher risk of developing sores on their feet if they are in cages with wire floors. If you own one of these types of rabbits please check the feet and legs regularly to make sure that they are not having any problems. Providing resting pads or blankets can help prevent this issue.

This website has lots of good information about rabbit housing:

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Bunny Proofing:

Get down of the floor! Now you can see your home from bunny's perspective. Just like you child proof your home with a new baby, you are going to want to bunny proof your home as well.
Check shelving. Are your best books or videos on the bottom shelves? Bunny will assume they are one more thing for him.
Are there exposed electrical cords? Cords must be concealed so that the rabbit cannot reach them. If bunny chews on a plugged in electrical wire it can be deadly. Exposed cords can be encased in pvc or vinyl tubing called 'split core' and can be found at most hardware stores. It is very easy to cover your cords and well worth the investment
Other interesting things for bunny would be rugs, draperies, children's toys, and, for some odd reason, remote controls! Make sure you keep these items out of bunny's reach. It is upsetting to try to change channels on your TV to find out bunny has removed all the buttons!
By giving your bunny safe things to chew on, toys and distraction, bunny will be too busy to damage items that are not meant for him.
"A bored bunny is a destructive bunny."
Inexpensive items like cardboard boxes, paper towel rolls filled with hay, even telephone books, will keep bunny occupied. A cardboard box stuffed with hay makes an inexpensive playbox. Young rabbits (under a year) are more inclined to mischief and require more confinement and/or bunny-proofing than mature rabbits.

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They chew EVERYTHING! They bite through electric and phone cords in one chomp. They chew baseboards and window ledges.
One of the rescues ate a hole thru my laundry hamper.
Four of them teamed up one night and shredded one of my couch cushions.
They get in laundry baskets and nibble holes in clothes for God knows what reason! They chew constantly, because their teeth never stop growing. Just like our fingernails.
You have to provide them with chewable safe materials in order to protect your home!

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They dig, fast and a lot! You will twist your ankle in the holes they can create in your yard!
They will shred the carpet in your house in minutes if you don't catch them.
Many owners provide their indoor rabbits with digging boxes to curb this instinct.
Just like their teeth, their claws never stop growing either.

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Rabbits are smart and can be trained.
They can use a litter box like a cat. I have one trained to give kisses on command.
I had a very special pet rabbit that would go upstairs and wake up my daughter when I told her to.
They are the cutest little monsters ever! Their binkies (jumps in the air with flips and kicks) are guaranteed to make even the coldest person crack a smile!
They are very social, and high energy, but they are not as much work as a dog, and their poop is good for your yard!

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Safe Food:

*This list is my Bible. It is saved as a shortcut on my phone.*

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Food Dishes and Water Bottles:

Food dishes should be either heavy ceramic or glass (Pyrex is my preferred), metal, or securely fastened to the cage.
Bunnies love to fling their dishes! Water must be available at ALL times, and may be offered in a dish or in a water bottle. If you decide to use a water bottle, check the mechanism to be sure that the water is flowing properly daily. Monitor your rabbit and make sure they have figured out how to use the bottle.
I prefer using a bowl, as the bottles require a lot more work and time to get a decent drink, and, a bowl is much easier to clean!

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When you shop for a litter pan, find the deepest biggest litter pan available. All bunnies, male and female, raise their tails when they urinate. If they have a shallow litter pan that means an accident right over the side. Even a Netherland Dwarf appreciates a large litter pan.
Chances are no matter which corner you put it in, at first your bunny will choose to urinate in the other corner. This is easily cured by you moving the pan to the other side where bunny wants it.
Do NOT use Cedar! The oils in the Cedar bedding are very strong and can quickly harm your bunny's delicate respiratory system.
Bedding should also produce very little dust.
You can also use incontinence pads or newspaper if there is a floor grill. The pads are very effective.
Old towels can also be used and washed daily. All of our rabbits get a blanket or pillow to sleep on or play with.
No matter what kind of litter you use, changing bunny's litter pan at least twice a week will encourage bunny to be consistent with using it.
Cage trays/litter boxes cleaned frequently also help to avoid ammonia build up and attracting bugs.
High ammonia levels are not only hard for people to deal with, but can cause irreversible respiratory problems in your new pet.
Removing wet litter daily then cleaning the whole cage weekly is a good way to keep things fresh and clean.

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Rabbits tend to molt twice per year.
If your rabbit is an indoor pet, he/she may shed very lightly during the spring and fall.
If your rabbit is outside, he/she may shed very heavily to prepare for the coming weather.
During times of a molt, providing a bit extra fiber in the form of hay or canned pumpkin can help prevent hairballs (which the rabbit cannot rid themselves of the way a cat can, because rabbits cannot vomit). Some rabbits will also enjoy a spoonful of canned pineapple juice to help dissolve any ingested hair in their system.

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Nail trimming:

Should be done on a regular basis. Depending on the amount of exercise and activity type, this should be checked and done monthly.
Trimming can be done with small dog/cat nail trimmers, or human nail clippers.
If you are having trouble trimming the nails on your bunny, check with your vet or pet store and ask if they do trimming. The Kalamazoo Chow Hound store will do a body check and nail trim for less than $10 per rabbit.
If you are close to us, you can contact me for trimming by appointment.

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Bathing of rabbits is not advised except in extreme conditions such as neglect, injury or accidental contamination. Rabbit fur takes a long time to dry out and washing damages the coat. Continually wet fur can also cause skin infections and can attract insects.
Additionally, if water gets into the rabbit's ear, it is painful and can become infected quite quickly.

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Lop eared rabbits may need to have their ears cleaned on a regular basis as well. Wiping your lop-eared bunny's ears out with a grooming wipe periodically will prevent unwanted buildup.
If you discover large amounts of buildup, a foul smell, or see your rabbit continually digging at its ears, take it to a vet for cleaning and examination. It may have an ear infection or ear mites.

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Other Health Concerns:

Sneezing can be a harmless reaction to an allergen or dust, or it can be a symptom of a serious respiratory problem. If you notice your rabbit sneezing, write down the time and duration on a scratch paper. If it happens again, document the time and duration. If you see a pattern, or it is chronic, contact your vet.

If your rabbit has matted moist front paws (from trying to clear its nose), thick or discolored nasal discharge, or labored breathing, or makes a wheezing should while breathing, you should take him/her to the vet immediately.

Also signs of sudden weight-loss, lethargy, not eating, or other abnormal behavior should be addressed by your vet.

Understanding your rabbit's needs by their urine

Do NOT feed to your rabbit:
Hundreds of herbs are dangerous to rabbits. Some of the more commonly found herbs on the exhaustive list includes agave (leaves), aloe, amaryllis, bloodroot, bluebonnet, blue-green algae, buttercup, belladonna, echinacea, elder, eucalyptus, hemlock, hogwort, holly, jasmine, lily of the valley, milkweed, mistletoe, nutmeg, oak leaves, poppy and ragwort.

Safe Woods
These types of wood are all suitable for your rabbit: apple, ash, birch, hawthorn, hazel, juniper, maple, pear, poplar, spruce and willow. He might also enjoy berry brambles. Pine is completely safe, and especially if it is heat-treated or kiln-dried. Certain woods, such as cherry and oak, are toxic.

Bugs Flies, fleas, ticks, and mites attack bunnies. Your bun will need to be treated with Revolution for cats/kittens. I generally treat once in the spring, and once in the fall, unless there is a problem or evidence of bugs.

Attention should be made to control the fly population. Bot flies will lay eggs, which burry into the rabbit to grow and hatch. If you find a larva, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO REMOVE IT. If you apply too much pressure to the larva, it will release a toxin and can kill your rabbit within minutes. Take your rabbit to the vet immediately.

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Spay/Castrating is advised for any rabbit that is purchased as a pet. Intact rabbits may develop hormonal issues as they hit 4-6 months of age. Does (females) can become territorial, and moody. Bucks (males) may start mounting things, and spraying urine across furniture, carpet, or even you! These behaviors are more common in some breeds than others, and in rabbits living in a multi-rabbit household. Spaying/Castrating will also prevent possible health problems in the future, including some cancers. The cost/risk of castrating a buck is much less than spaying a doe. Many pet buyers chose a male for this reason.

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Learning what is a "normal" poo dropping for your individual rabbit, is one of the most important illness prevention and indicators you can have. Many times rabbits do not show any sign of illness or trauma until moments before death. However, their poop will tell you hours in advance, giving you critical time to help (and hopefully save) your rabbit.
If your rabbit develops diarrhea, or a bloated belly, this is an immensely serious situation and must be treated immediately. Some people feed their rabbit oatmeal to cure loose stools. Contact your vet for guidance.
Benebac is an excellent remedy for 'mild' bunny diarrhea. I recommend keeping some on hand at all times.
I also always have a bag of Oxbow Critical Care on hand. (And a flavor of baby food that your rabbit likes.)

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Rabbit Bonding:

An adopter did a great job of putting bonding into writing for me. Here is her description:

Once the rabbit is comfortable in your home, then start bonding.

Using a large space, split it down the middle in a way the rabbits could see one another, but not touch. After some time, swap objects from one rabbit’s enclosure to another to familiarise scent. Eventually move this up to things like their litter boxes to get them used to sharing things like that around the house.

Then I start to 15 minute bunny dates in a safe space where neither had been before, so no dominance could be marked yet.

After quite a long time of this, which I’ve noticed depends on the rabbits, if they’re ignoring each other, grooming themselves or each other, not fighting intensely, showing signs of bond potential, I increase the time together until they’re up to hours of chaperoned time with no issues.

Then eventually is the test of completely staying overnight together, still quite supervised, to make sure the bond is truly intact.

If the bond at any point is failing or fails beyond a possible fix, the rabbits will live completely separately in their own enclosures.

Here are some links with additional information:




Some bonding pen setups:

bonding pen



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