Caring for Pet Rabbits
By Ashley Watson
Later this month, Pet Naturals® of Vermont will be launching our new rabbit supplements designed for pet rabbits of all breeds and sizes. If you haven’t read our post about how to choose the perfect pet rabbit, check it out if you are looking for a rabbit. Because we are releasing our new rabbit products soon, we thought it would be helpful to look at what the experts recommend for rabbit care.
For anyone considering a rabbit for a pet, this post will give you a general idea about what’s in store for you. Even if you already own a pet rabbit, it’s always good to have reminders. As always, Pet Naturals® promotes responsible pet ownership, so we hope this week’s post acts as a general guide for rabbit owners.
Indoor and Outdoor Housing
Many animal experts and organizations, such as the ASPCA, will recommend that you keep your pet rabbit indoors. Rabbits can live outdoors in cages or hutches designed for bunnies, but many pet owners choose to keep these companions inside for several reasons.
- Indoor rabbits live longer
- Exposure to extreme weather can cause health issues
- Predators can easily attack unprotected rabbits
- Outdoor rabbits feel isolated and get bored easily
Before you bring a rabbit indoors to live, you’ll have to rabbit-proof your home, which includes training them to use the litter box (see rabbit proofing section below). You can purchase rabbit houses online at major pet stores, or you can find sites with tips on how to design your own, such as the Rabbitat site.
If you keep your pet rabbit outside, make sure the housing is elevated to deter predators and that your rabbit has plenty of room for exercise.
Rabbit Proofing Your Home
If you choose to keep your pet rabbit indoors, you’ll need to make sure your home is safe for your rabbit to roam freely. Because their teeth are constantly growing, rabbits need to chew to wear them down, so they are notorious for chewing anything they can find. Cover anything that your rabbit can chew on, such as electrical cords, and provide plenty of chew toys.
You can find safe chew toys at pet stores, or you can use cardboard boxes, bird chew toys, grass mats, alfalfa-based chew sticks, wood or bark, or anything with natural fiber and materials safe for rabbits. Otherwise, their teeth can grow into their nasal passages and cause a number of problems, or you’ll have to take the rabbit to the vet for a procedure that can be expensive.
For litter training, rabbits will typically use the litter box if you keep it in the cage since they are very clean animals. Line the litter box with newspaper and fill it with grass, hay (Timothy hay is the most recommended), or pelleted-newspaper litter. Avoid pine, clay, or other types of cat litter. Clean the cage and litter box often.
Diet and Exercise
Giving your pet rabbit an unlimited amount of grass and hay is important for GI health. In addition, rabbits need good quality rabbit pellets. Young bunnies need more pellets, but after about six months, you’ll need to limit the amount of pellets as you would dry food for a dog or cat.
To round out your rabbit’s diet, provide leafy greens, such as lettuce, carrot tops, collard greens, turnip greens and other dark leafy greens. The ASPCA recommends giving your rabbit a minimum of two cups per six pounds every day. Also recommended is providing clean, fresh water in a water bottle or bowl that your rabbit can’t knock over.
Pet rabbits need several hours of exercise or play time each day. Make sure your pet rabbit has ample room to hop around either in the home or outside while you supervise. Whether the rabbit is playing outdoors or indoors, don’t leave your pet unsupervised.
All pet rabbits should be spayed or neutered by a veterinarian who is qualified to perform surgery on rabbits. Just like with other pets, your rabbit should have a yearly check-up with your vet. While not all vets provide care for rabbits, you should be able to find one in your area. Your vet will also be able to provide you with further guidance and tips.
Important Tips to Remember
- Rabbits need exercise just like other pets
- Never leave your pet rabbit unsupervised
- Make sure you handle your rabbit properly – by supporting both the forequarters and hindquarters
- Brush your pet rabbit regularly
- Rabbits need to chew, so give them plenty of safe chew toys
- Rabbits need to have their nails clipped often
- Rabbits need a balanced diet and fresh water
- Take your rabbit to the vet once a year
- Pet rabbits should be spayed and neutered
Next week, we’ll feature an interview with the veterinarian who worked with Pet Naturals® to develop the formulas for our new alfalfa-based rabbit supplements.
Do you own a pet rabbit, or do you have questions for other rabbit owners? Visit our Facebook page and share your comments.