Rabbits are unique and make wonderful pets. In exchange for food, water, exercise and affection, rabbits can offer their owners more than a decade of pleasure and companionship.
Since they are housed in a cage for most of their lives, consider the adult size and weight of your pet to determine the proper housing. The wire cage is best, preferably with a removable tray for easy cleaning. It is recommended that you house one rabbit per cage. If you wish to provide your pet with a companion, you could have another rabbit in a cage nearby.
The location of the cage should be somewhere in the home where there will be no drafts, where it is relatively quiet and out of direct sunlight. The suitable temperature for rabbits is between 60 and 70 degrees.
Make sure your pet has a food bowl, heavy enough so the rabbit will not tip it over. A crockery dish is best because the rabbit may chew a plastic dish. A metal hopper type feeder could also be used. Water should be provided in a water bottle because water in a bowl could easily become contaminated. This should be the type of water bottle with the metal spout. Locate it in a position where it is convenient for your rabbit. The water bottle should be hung on the outside of the cage so the rabbit will not chew it. Wood chips can be used for bedding.
It is possible to place a cat litter box in the cage (as long as it does not take up too much space) for the rabbit to use as its bathroom. The litter box can be filled with wood chips or with cat litter – anything that is dust free and non-toxic.
Clean the cage pan daily and replace the wood chips. Every week or so, wash the entire cage with a mild solution of bleach or dishwashing liquid and rinse thoroughly. Once the cage is dry, replace the wood chips. The level of the wood chips should be below the wire floor of the cage. If using a litter box, clean every couple of days and wash completely once a week.
Change the food and clean the food bowl or hopper. The water bottle should be washed thoroughly both inside and out, making sure that the metal spout is also cleaned.
Clean, fresh water should always be available. Feed your pet a food mixture designed especially for rabbits. Purchase these foods in small quantities because they will lose nutritional value if kept too long – a two week supply is good. A quality rabbit food will provide you pet with a balanced, nutritional diet, but you can supplement this with small quantities of apples, carrots, carrot tops, beet tops and spinach. Alfalfa can also be fed as a treat. They are nutritious, and since the rabbit grooms himself, they can also help prevent blockages caused by fur. To avoid diarrhea, do not feed you pet lettuce or greens from the cabbage family. Remember to feed these supplements in SMALL quantities.
Provide a small block of hardwood for the bunny to chew. The rabbits’ front teeth continue to grow throughout their lifetime – a hardwood block will help keep these teeth trimmed. Place a salt spool in his cage to provide necessary minerals.
Proper rabbit care also means grooming. The rabbit will groom himself regularly, but brushing with a slicker brush will help remove excess hair. This is particularly important during the time they are moulting. Rabbits can get hair balls in their digestive system much like cats. Cat hair ball medications can be used to help alleviate this potential problem. Brushing will also help the rabbit become accustomed to being handled.
Keep the toenails trimmed. Cut at a 45 degree angle, using a cat trimmer. Be careful not to cut off too much; this could cause bleeding. The front paws have five toenails while the back paws have four.
Teach your bunny the joy of companionship by holding him gently and frequently. Pick up your pet by placing one hand under his chest and the other resting on his back. NEVER pick up the rabbit by the ears. They will respond best in a quiet environment with gentle stroking and a calm, soothing voice. It is best to teach them about being handled when sitting, holding him gently, but firmly enough to avoid falling.
Allow your pet some supervised exercise time outside the cage. This is necessary for their health and provides some freedom away from the confines of the cage. Bunnies can be taught to use a cat litter box outside the cage, but keep them away from other household pets like your dog and cat who might frighten or harm them. Rabbits can be taught to walk with a lead and a figure “8” or H” style cat harness.
Depending on the breed, rabbits can reproduce anywhere from five to twelve months of age. The babies are born about 30 days after conception. They will start eating solid foods at about 3 weeks and be weaned at about 4 to 5 weeks. Babies are usually separated from the mother at about 8 weeks.
It is recommended that a veterinarian check your pet on a regular basis. Rabbits do not tolerate heat. While dogs pant, and humans perspire, rabbits only have their ears to cool themselves. A plastic gallon milk bottle, half filled with water and then frozen, can be placed in the cage as an “air conditioner” for your pet.
You should be attentive to the normal activity and the amount of food consumed. If your pet is not eating normally or is listless, you should take the rabbit to the veterinarian.