Rabbits are one of the most popular specialty pets in the U.S. and for good reason. They're loving, social animals that are incredibly rewarding to keep as pets.
But before you head out to your local shelter, there are a few things you should know about bunny care to help prepare yourself and your home.
Here are eight rabbit care tips to help keep your bunny happy and healthy.
1. Set up Safe Housing
Bunnies are best housed inside away from weather extremes. There are a number of options for housing your bunny indoors, including:
- Free-reign in bunny-proof room/s
- Contained in a puppy pen
- Contained in a bunny condo
- Contained in a large rabbit cage
If you choose to keep your bunny contained, ensure the area is large enough that the rabbit can hop around freely. They should also be let out to roam for a few hours a day. This ensures your bunny is getting the exercise and stimulation to keep it happy and healthy.
When setting up your rabbit's enclosure, make sure it's in an area frequented by you and your family. Bunnies are social animals and are happiest when they have regular contact with their humans.
2. Bunny-Proof Your Home
Rabbits are energetic, curious creatures, so they need space to hop around and explore. The best thing you can do for your bunny (and your belongings!) is bunny-proof the area they're loose in.
Bunnies will chew on just about everything they can reach, so steps should be taken to protect your home, furniture, belongings, and the bunny itself.
All wires within their reach should be covered in plastic sleeves to stop potential chewing accidents. Covering your baseboards with plastic guards. Furring strips are also recommended, particularly if you're renting.
If in doubt, place items out of your bunny's reach or block off areas you don't want them accessing.
3. Provide the Right Food
Bunnies need a steady, varied diet to stay happy and healthy.
Fresh hay is their staple food and should be available to your bunny at all times. Baby rabbits are fed alfalfa while adult bunnies eat either timothy hay, oat hay, or grass hay.
You should also supplement your bunny's hay with fresh greens and fiber-rich rabbit pellets. Many of your bunny's preferred greens can be grown in the home.
4. Set up a Litter Box
Rabbits are much like cats in that they prefer to go to the toilet in one area. The best way to encourage this (and save on cleaning) is to set up a cat litter box near their water and food bowls.
You only need a thin layer of litter on the bottom of the tray, but make sure it's rabbit-safe. Clumping kitty litter or wood shavings aren't safe for bunnies and should be avoided.
Spayed/neutered bunnies are often easier to toilet train. If your local shelter doesn't include spaying/neutering in their adoption price, you should look into your local rabbit-savvy vet ASAP.
5. Properly Groom Your Bunny
Rabbits are incredibly clean animals, but you should still groom them on a regular basis. Bunnies shed twice a year, and you should ensure the extra fur is brushed out regularly. Without brushing, rabbits can accidentally ingest their own fur, causing digestive problems.
You should also regularly clip your bunny's nails. This ensures they don't get caught on things or curl into your bunny's paw.
6. Provide Socialization and Enrichment
Bunnies get bored easily, and a bored rabbit is a destructive rabbit. You should ensure your rabbit is provided adequate socialization, exercise, and enrichment. Your bunny and your possessions will thank you!
Cardboard castles are a great source of enrichment for bunnies. A decent sized castle can provide hours of fun for your rabbit as they chew new doors and windows. There are also a number of rabbit-specific toys on the market designed to pique bunny interest and get them exercising their mind.
You should also ensure you and your family take time to regularly socialize with your bunny. Rabbits are naturally social creatures, so they don't just love spending time with their humans, they require it to stay happy and healthy.
7. Educate Yourself on Bunny Behavior
Just as cats and dogs behave and communicate differently, so do bunnies. Educating yourself on bunny behavior will help you better understand your pet's needs. It will also help you form a better bond with your bunny as you build trust.
Knowing when a bunny is happy is rewarding in of itself, but knowing when your rabbit is stressed or in pain is also essential. Looking for specific warning signs such as tense posture combined with teeth grinding will help you know when to head to the vet.
8. Find a Vet Who Specializes in Rabbits
Rabbits are similar to birds in that they'll naturally hide symptoms of sickness. This is because they're prey animals. Because they're so good at faking wellness, you need to keep a close eye on your bunny for any changes in behavior. Once noticed, a trip to a rabbit-savvy vet is in order.
A proper vet will not only help you in the case of sickness, but they can also help you take preventative care of your bunny. Your vet should monitor your rabbit's eyes, teeth, ears, and gut to ensure they're in good health.
Lastly, it's a good idea to have your bunny neutered or spayed. Rabbits who aren't spayed/neutered are often more aggressive and have more health problems. Ensuring your rabbit can't accidentally procreate is also good owner etiquette.
Prioritize Bunny Care
The decision to bring home a pet is a big one. Bunnies are incredibly rewarding pets, but they do have specific needs. Knowing how to house, feed, groom, and care for your bunny is essential. By keeping these bunny care tips in mind, you'll be well on your way to being ready to bring home a rabbit from your local shelter.
Looking to go on a road trip? Here are 3 dos and don'ts of traveling with your dog.