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Rabbits

rabbit
If you are looking for a clean friendly family pet that is relatively easy to care for, does not require a daily walking schedule, and won’t tear up your furniture, consider adopting a rabbit into your home.

Rabbits come in many different sizes, colours and breeds, from short-haired dwarfs to fluffy gentle angoras to red-eyed albinos. Learning to care for them is an easy process and they are less expensive than caring for a dog or cat.
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As with any pet, make sure you do your research to make sure a rabbit is the right pet for you, and that you choose a suitable rabbit for your lifestyle and personality. Some rabbits, such as angoras, require a lot of grooming and take more time to care for than short-haired rabbits. Most have a lifespan of 10 years, and live longer if they are kept indoors. It is important to evaluate the long-term commitment of caring for a pet rabbit.

Rabbits are sociable creatures and prefer company. Adopting a second rabbit will enrich your rabbit’s life and will require minimal extra effort on your part. As long as they are spayed or neutered, rabbits usually get along with each other. Never keep un-neutered rabbits of different genders together as rabbits breed rapidly and male rabbits can harm and even kill the bunnies.

Spay/Neuter
You may be surprised to learn that hundreds, if not thousands, of rabbits are dropped off at shelters every year in Canada. Rabbits are notorious breeders so it is especially important for responsible pet owners to spay/neuter their rabbit. This is especially important if you have more than one rabbit, as it is possible for a pet owner to confuse male and female rabbits, particularly when they are young.

Rabbits should be spayed/neutered when they are between three and six months old by a veterinarian who routinely performs this surgery on rabbits. It would also be wise to have a small tattoo put on the bunny to indicate that it has been neutered and so it can be identified if ever lost and left at a shelter. Some clinics will a clinic number that can be tattooed on so that if your rabbit is ever lost, it can be returned to that clinic. A veterinarian could also simply tattoo an “S” to indicate the rabbit has been spayed. If there is no tattoo, it is difficult and usually impossible to determine whether or not the rabbit has been spayed/neutered because rabbits heal so well after the surgery. If it has a tattoo, there will be no danger of a vet beginning the surgery again only to find that it has already been spayed or neutered.

Besides preventing your one rabbit from producing eight or more lively additional pets, spaying and neutering helps improve a rabbit’s litter box habits and life span. It also reduces spraying and territorial aggression in males, and helps prevent uterine cancer in females. Dwarf male rabbits particularly become aggressive as they mature, and neutering can reduce these tendencies.

For more information, contact the House Rabbit Society House Rabbit Society.

Housing
The size of your rabbit hutch depends on the size and breed of your rabbit. It should be given as much room as possible, with a space at least three feet wide and four feet long for a full sized rabbit (dwarf breeds will require a little less space) – enough for it to hop around. If you have more than one rabbit, extra space will be required. If the hutch is uncovered it will need to be tall enough that your rabbit can’t hop out, and if it is covered there should be enough room for the rabbit to comfortably stand up on her hind legs – around 1-2 feet high, depending on the size of the rabbit. The flooring of the entire hutch should be solid as a mesh floor can damage a rabbit’s feet.

One section of the hutch should be boarded in and covered for a sleeping area. Use Timothy hay for bedding – not only is it good for bedding but it also helps provide the fibre a rabbit needs to help its digestive system. Avoid wood shavings, particularly cedar shavings, as they often contain harmful substances that are toxic to rabbits.

Your rabbit will naturally use one section of its hutch as a litter area. If you want to be able to clean this area easily, use a box and place it in the area your rabbit already uses. Use hay, paper or wood pulp in the litter box×not clumping kitty litter, which can cause health problems if eaten.

Your rabbit will need some time to exercise outside of its hutch every day. To keep it from making a mess, have a litter box for it to use in the room or rooms where it will be exercising. Make sure you bunny proof the rooms your rabbit will be frequenting, and do not let it roam unsupervised.

Bunny-proofing
Rabbits are liable to chew anything within their reach, and have a particular propensity for electrical cords, which can seriously harm or kill them if they chew through them. Make sure all cords and chewable items are kept out of reach, or cover them so they won’t be chewed. Plastic tubing or cable wrap can prevent your rabbit from chewing through wires but is not absolutely fool-proof, so make sure you keep an eye on your pet.

Be sure you do not leave house plants where your bunny will be hopping; many are toxic to rabbits and could cause illness or death. Unfortunately, domestic rabbits are completely unaware of the harm they could bring upon themselves by eating some plants, and are unable to distinguish between safe plants and poisonous ones.

Boards and cardboard boxes can be used to block off furniture and other places you don’t want your rabbit to go while it is loose in the house. Be sure you provide your rabbit with plenty of safe items to chew on, since chewing is a necessity for good health.

Chewing
Rabbits are natural chewers and must chew to wear down their growing front teeth so they don’t grow too long. It is very important to provide your rabbit with items to chew. These can include wood, cardboard, carrots, broccoli stems, branches and apples. When your rabbit is hopping around in your house, make sure you protect your furniture and other household rabbit-level items, especially electrical cords. See bunny proofing for suggestions on how to keep your rabbit away from things she shouldn’t chew. rabbit

Nutrition
While today’s cartoons would lead you to believe that carrots are all rabbits require to maintain a healthy diet, following this pattern could cause serious health problems for your pet.

Your rabbit’s diet should begin with commercial rabbit pellets, which will contain the protein content required. Do not use rabbit food that contains a high percentage of seeds and/or corn as these feeds are usually too high in calories.

In addition to its pellets, your rabbit will need daily servings of fresh food. Rabbits are strict herbivores so this should include a variety of fruits and vegetables – alfalfa, carrots with their tops if possible, kale, grass, green peppers, clover, parsley, apples, pears, corn, melon, beet leaves and lettuce. It is important to vary the vegetables, and avoid too many that are high in water content as they are less nutritional. Do not feed your rabbit rhubarb or potatoes, which can be toxic to them.

Because rabbits groom themselves, they easily develop hairballs, which cause digestive problems and can cause your rabbit to starve. Make sure there is enough fibre in your rabbit’s diet to help move hair through the digestive system. Timothy hay is especially helpful for this as it is high in fibre and provides the necessary “roughage” to prevent health problems. Alfalfa is less desirable and should only be given in small quantities to adult rabbits.

Food should be provided once or twice daily, and water should be changed every day. Make sure the water is at room temperature. Sipper bottles work best but dishes can be used, although the water may be quickly filled with food and droppings. If you are using dishes make sure they are solid so your rabbit doesn’t tip them over. Dishes must be cleaned daily and sipper bottles should be checked regularly to make sure they aren’t clogged and to clean them of scum or algae. Water should be kept in shaded areas so it does not become warm and encourage algae growth.

Note that rabbits sometimes eat their droppings. They produce softer, greener droppings and eat them for added nutrients when they don’t get enough the first time. These droppings are sometimes mucus covered and a rabbit will sometimes eat them directly from the anus. Although it may not sound appealing, it is a common and healthy habit for these animals. girl & rabbit

Handling
It is important to be very gentle when handling rabbits because they have a delicate bone structure and can easily injure themselves. When a rabbit is scared or struggling to be free, it will try to escape using its powerful hind legs. However, because of the weak bone structure the rabbit could break, fracture or dislocate its backbone by overextending the spine as it kicks. If your rabbit is struggling when you are holding it, put it down to avoid injury.

Never pick up a rabbit by the ears or stomach. Instead, put one hand under the front of the rabbit and support its rear and hind legs with your other hand. When you first adopt your rabbit, hold it for short periods of time so it grows accustomed to being handled.

Health Issues
Rabbits that are kept in clean cages with proper food and water that is changed regularly do not usually suffer from health problems. Sudden changes in diet can affect their health so if you plan to transition to a different diet, do so gradually. Keeping food fresh is particularly important as mold is toxic to rabbits.

Liver problems are one of the most common health problems and are usually caused by the bedding used. Rabbits can inhale fumes of chemicals contained in softwood shavings, particularly cedar shavings. Avoid using shavings and use hay or newspapers instead.

Where to Get Your Rabbit
Many people are unaware that it is possible to adopt a rabbit from a local animal shelter, but many shelters have rabbits in need of a new home. Adopting from a shelter ro reputable rescue group is a good way to acquire a new rabbit.

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