How to Care for a Pet Rabbit
Rabbits are great pets. They have a few specific needs in order to live a long, happy and healthy life. Here is a complete overview on how to care for a pet rabbit:
Step 1: Set Up Safe Housing
There are several options to house a pet rabbits. They can live free-reign in a bunny proof play area. And/or they can be contained within a play pen, bunny hutch or in a rabbit cage.
Rabbits require space to run around and explore. Space should always be large enough to freely hop around, and your rabbit should be let out of the pen for a few hours everyday for exercise
Be sure the location of your rabbit habitat is included in a room with you and your family. A family room or living room is a great place.
Cover all wires in his area with plastic sleeves or tubing, or try lifting wires 3-4 feet out of reach of your rabbit. You’ll have to block off certain areas of your home, since rabbits like to chew. Basically, your rabbit will try to chew everything in reach.
Step 3: Provide Fresh Hay
A rabbit’s diet most consist of hay. Hay should be provided to your pet rabbit at all times. Baby rabbits eat alfalfa hay, and adult rabbits eat timothy hay, grass hay, or oat hay.
Using a hay manger is helpful because it keeps hay dry, clean, and accessible. Learn more about the importance of hay and where to buy it at Hay for Rabbits: The Basis for a Healthy Diet.
Step 4: Provide Fresh Greens, Fiber-rich Pellets, and Fresh Water
Supplement your rabbit’s hay with fresh vegetables, fiber-rich pellets (in limited quantities for adult rabbits), and fresh water daily. You can learn more about what kinds of food to feed your bunny at What to Feed Your Pet Rabbit.
You can also learn about growing many of your rabbit’s favorite vegetables at Bunny Gardening for Beginners.
Step 5: Set Up a Litter Box
Rabbits have a natural inclination to poop and pee in one area. Take advantage of this by setting up a medium-sized cat litter box or shallow storage bin near their food/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/clumping cat litter or wood shavings, as they are not safe for rabbits. Then put hay on top of the litter. Rabbits like to eat hay and poop at the same time, so this will encourage good litter box habits. Learn more at Litter Training Your Pet Rabbit.
Step 6: Provide Enrichment
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. Learn more at Building a Cardboard Castle for Your Bunny.
Step 7: Groom Your Rabbit
Rabbits are naturally clean animals and wash themselves frequently. But you still need to groom your rabbit on a regular basis. Rabbits go through shedding cycles a couple times a year. It’s important to brush your rabbit to remove all the excess fur. Otherwise, your rabbit could ingest it and have serious digestive issues. Learn more about keeping your rabbit looking and feeling sharp in our article, Grooming Your House Rabbit.
Regular nail clipping is also important because long nails can get snagged on things or they can curl into your rabbit’s paw. Learn how to clip your rabbit’s nails yourself at Clipping Your Rabbit’s Nails.
Step 8: Bring Your Rabbit to a Rabbit-Savvy Vet
Rabbits are prey animals, and so their natural instinct is to hide any symptoms of illness. You must keep a watchful eye to ensure your rabbit is eating, drinking, pooping, and peeing regularly. If you notice any change in behavior, it is important to call a rabbit-savvy vet immediately. Learn about common rabbit diseases to look out for at our Rabbit Health section.
Find a rabbit-savvy vet in your area at the House Rabbit Society Veterinarian Index.
Step 9: Understand Rabbits’ Unique Language and Behavior
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. Learn about their unique language at Binkies, Nose Bonks and Flops: Rabbit Behavior Explained and demystify unfavorable rabbit behavior by reading Help! My Rabbit Hates Me!. By catering to your rabbit’s natural inclinations, you can build a trusting, loving relationship with your bunny. See Building a Relationship with Your Rabbit for more information.
Rabbit Supply Checklist
- Indoor housing
Get a puppy pen 36 inches or higher so your rabbit can’t jump out.
- Wire covers
Plastic sleeves can be neatly connected to your wall.
Flex tubing is another great option for covering and/or bundling wires.
- Furniture / baseboard protection
Large split flex tubing can fit over wooden table or chair legs.
Furring strips, 2x4s or other wood panels can be used to cover baseboards.
- Puppy pens / baby gates
Puppy pens can help block off areas or confine your rabbit to a safe area of a room.
Metal baby gates can be used to block off rooms.
Storage cube panels can be attached to the bottoms of baby gates with zip ties if the slats are too far apart.
- Litter box
A medium-sized cat litter box (no top) or a shallow storage container will do.
- Rabbit-safe litter
Opt for a recycled newspaper pellet litter such as Yesterday’s News (unscented).
- Food / water bowls
Ceramic dishes are heavy enough so your rabbit can’t tip them over.
- Hay feeder
This helps keep hay fresh and available to your rabbit at all times.
- Chair mat (optional)
You may want to protect your floor in the bunny area. Make sure to get a hard plastic one to resist chewing.
- Food (hay, pellets, vegetables, and water)
Purchase hay by the bale from a local farmer (check local Craigslist ads) or order bulk hay online.
- Cardboard box
Create a cardboard castle by cutting doorways and windows in a large cardboard box.
- Chew toys
Sea grass mats are acceptable to chew and can be used to cover areas.
Woven grass play balls are also a favorite for distraction.
Wood and rope activity centers/toys capture rabbits’ interest.
- Nail clippers
You will need to regularly trim your bunny’s nails. If your rabbit has dark claws, a small flashlight helps you to locate the quick and avoid it.
An example of a rabbit area setup. This works for rabbits who are contained by a puppy pen or roam free in a bunny proofed room. A cardboard castle and other chew toys complete the area.
Now that understand how to care for a pet rabbit, you can visit our website at edenzone.net for more information.
Recommended House Rabbit Supplies