Like anyone wanting a pet, research is a must. Rabbits live on average 5-15 years. The determining factor on lifespan is whether the rabbit is neutered/spayed. A fixed rabbit is guaranteed to live longer since neutering helps get rid of possible genetic diseases that can occur. Rabbits are very loving and adorable pets, but without particular care, you might accidently hurt the rabbit physically or emotionally. Rabbits in general feel safer while they are on the ground and very rarely enjoy being picked up. Once a rabbit gets used to you, you might be able to pick him up but you have to earn their trust. The best way to begin bonding with your bunny is to get on the floor eye level with them.
Rabbits need to be housed indoors if they are not bought for breeding purposes. Traditionally, rabbits used to live in outdoor hutches but this isn't ideal for domestication, allows for predators to attack, and rabbits can die from strokes due to heat. Rabbits need lots of attention from family members and exercise.
They have powerful hind legs designed for running and jumping. The minimum recommended cage space for a single rabbit of a small- to medium-sized breed is four feet wide, two feet deep and two feet tall. A good rule of thumb is to have a change at minimum 4 times the rabbit. Although wire-bottom cages are common, they can harm rabbits feet by tearing their nails and causing ulcerations. If you have a wire cage, an option would be to put down an old towel or to fill the bedding up to where the tray and the wire bottom meet.
Did you know that many rabbits have been surrendered to shelters because of destructive behavior? In most cases, their owners failed to provide them with appropriate toys to fulfill their natural urges to dig and chew. Safe chew toys include cardboard boxes, an old telephone directory or a book and commercially made chew sticks. Your bunny will greatly appreciate his own digging box.Your rabbit needs a safe exercise area with ample room to run and jump, either indoors or out. Any outdoor area should be fully enclosed by a fence. Never leave a rabbit unsupervised outdoors—even for a few minutes! Cats, dogs and even predatory birds can easily get around fencing material. Also, rabbits can dig under fences and get lost. You can rabbit-proof an indoor area by covering all electrical wires and anything else your pet is likely to chew. Recommended exercise time for pet rabbits is two to three hours per day.
The basics are a cage, bedding, a hanging water bowl or dispenser, food bowl, chew toys, and grass hay.
Rabbits can be messy, so you’ll need to clean your pet’s cage once or twice weekly. Like most animals, rabbits do not like dirtying their cage. Luckily, they can be litter trained (for more information about this check out our Info page). Let your rabbit run around and get some exercise while you clean his cage. Pick up your rabbit by supporting his forequarters with one hand and his hindquarters with the other like in the picture. This is very important -—failure to do so can result in spinal injuries to the rabbit. Never pick up a rabbit by his ears; this can cause very serious injury. Brush your rabbit regularly with a soft brush to remove excess hair and keep his coat in good condition. Brush from the back of the head down to the tail. Trimming the nails is super easy but if you feel uncomfortable, take your rabbit to the vet and watch the process to get a good handle on it. Make sure you have a supply of cotton balls around for the first try at trimming the nails incase you accidentally cut into the quick.
Rabbit's teeth continually grow. It is very important you provide safe toys for your rabbit to chew. Chew blocks, untreated willow baskets, willow balls, willow wreaths and untreated apple twigs all make great chews. Rabbits are also very curious and playful so they enjoy toys that will stimulate them mentally. Some favorite rabbit toys are balls with a bell inside, baby keys, rattles and the chew toys mentioned above. Rabbits like to have a hiding place to lie in or under such as a willow tent, bunny condo or hideaway or even a cardboard box with multiple holes cut into it. Get creative!
A proper diet is of utmost important to the life and well-being of your bunny. A proper diet should include unlimited fresh hay, pellets and fresh greens. Hay must be available at all times. Most store bought rabbit treats are not good for rabbits so veggies and fruits are fun alternatives.
Hay is one of the most important parts of your bunny's diet. Fresh hay should be provided at all times. Hay is rich in nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, proteins and provides “food” for the micro-organisms that make up the cecotropes. Hay provides indigestible fiber that promotes healthy motility (movement of contents) of the intestinal tract. Hay also provides healthy chewing activity to promote proper wear of the teeth (the teeth of a rabbit grow continuously throughout their life) and chewing also provides healthy mental activity which decreases destruction of inappropriate objects and provides a “full feeling” in the stomach which is satisfying. Grass hays are best and from timothy, meadow, oat, rye, barley or Bermuda grasses. The healthiest choice is Timothy Hay. Alfalfa Hay should not be fed to adult rabbits. Hay should be stored in a cool, dry, dark location. It is very important to make sure your hay does not get damp or wet, as this could cause mold to grow, which is life threatening to rabbits and other small animals. Hay should not be stored in an airtight container, as it needs air to circulate. You may want to store it in a large cardboard box. If your hay is in a plastic bag, do not seal the bag; leave the top open. Your bunny should always have fresh hay, day and night.
Adult rabbits should be fed a good quality, high fiber (20% or more) Timothy pellet. Some owners feel that rabbits should only be fed a certain amount but if your rabbit isn't overfeeding then it can be more convenient to have a dispenser for food. Rabbits that are free fed pellets can become overweight, will not eat as much hay and can become very ill. Never feed pellets that have nuts, seeds or cereal looking items added in, these are high in sugar and carbohydrates. Organic is simply ideal.
Fresh greens are equally as important as hay in the rabbit’s diet. Remember we said that rabbits are designed to eat grasses and leaves, so green foods represent the “leaf” part of the diet. Fresh greens provide all the same benefits that we listed for hay. They also contain a wider variety of micronutrients and importantly provide water in the diet. Feeding fresh greens also forces the rabbit to take in liquid and thus helps promote healthy GI function as well as kidney and bladder function. Greens are appropriate for any age of rabbit. If a weaned rabbit is eating hay, he can eat greens right away. Start out slowly when adding a new green to your rabbit's diet. When selecting and using green foods follow these guidelines:Buy (or grow) organic if possible, wash any green foods before sering, feed a variet of greens.
Contains Vitamin A, indicated by an *.
Fruits can be fed as a treat in very limited quantities. Limit fruits to 1-2 tablespoons per 5 lbs. of body weight (none if dieting) from the list below of high fiber fruits. Sugary fruits such as bananas and grapes should be used only sparingly, as occasional treats. Bunnies have a sweet tooth and if left to their own devices will devour sugary foods to the exclusion of healthful ones. Below please find a list of acceptable fruits.
Absolutely NO chocolate (poisonous!), cookies, crackers, breakfast cereals, bread, pasta, yogurt drops, or other "human treats." There is research to suggest these items may contribute to fatal cases of enterotoxemia, a toxic overgrowth of "bad" bacteria in the intestinal tract.
Fresh water should be available at all times, in a clean, large, heavy crock. Rinse the water crock out every day and give it a good cleaning about three times a week to prevent algae build up.
Vitamins are NOT necessary for the healthy rabbit. Rabbits will obtain all the vitamins they need from their cecotropes, grass hay and green foods. The misuse of vitamins can cause serious disease. If your pet becomes ill, particularly if he/she is unable to eat the cecotropes, then your veterinarian may prescribe vitamin therapy. Please do not use supplemental vitamins in a healthy pet.
The neutering/spaying of rabbits is of utmost importance. Altered rabbits are healthier and live longer than unaltered rabbits. The risk of reproductive cancers (ovarian, uterine, mammarian) for an unspayed female rabbit is virtually eliminated by spaying your female 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. Uterine adenocarcinoma is a malignant cancer that can affect female rabbits over two years of age. The best prevention for this disease is to remove the reproductive organs (ovaries and uterus) in a surgical procedure commonly called a spay. The procedure can be performed in females over four months of age. Spaying a rabbit also prevents pregnancy and can help control some aggressive behavior. Male rabbits can also develop disease of the reproductive organs (the testicles) but with much less frequency than females. However, some male rabbits have a tendency to become aggressive in their “adolescent” years (8-18 months of age) and can also start spraying urine outside the toilet area to mark their territory. Surgical removal of the testicles, called castration, can control these behaviors if it is done before the behavior occurs or shortly thereafter. Note: Finding a vet that has lots of history with rabbits is vital!