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How to Care for a Rabbit

February 6, 2017

 

Thinking of getting a rabbit? Or already got one? Rabbits can make excellent pets for both homes and apartments. They are quiet, have great personalities, and can even be litter box trained. Plus, if someone in your home has fur allergies, rabbits can be a great alternative pet. Here’s what you need to know it keep your rabbit healthy and happy:

 

Get an appropriate cage

Since most rabbits spend a lot of time in their cage, it is critical that it meets all their needs.

  • Size: Your rabbit should be able to stretch out completely in the cage, with additional room for a litter box, food, and water. A good rule of thumb is for a cage 8 times the size of your rabbit (when it’s full grown).

  • Material: The cage should not have a wire bottom, as it can hurt their feet. If you have a cage with a wire bottom, try putting wood planks down to protect them. Wire walls are good, however.

  • Outdoor hutch: If outdoors, there needs to be an area that is completely protected from the elements. It also needs to be safe from any predators.
     

Make them comfortable

Armed with a proper cage, here is what else your rabbit needs:

  • Line the cage with hay

  • Provide a litterbox (with hay), food, and water. If using a bowl of water, make sure it is heavy enough to not tip over. Water bottles that hook onto the side of the cage can be a good option, but make sure your rabbit figures out how to use it!

  • Add a hiding place, such as an overturned pet “log” or a cardboard box. Rabbits are natural burrowers and appreciate a place to hide to feel comfortable
     

Feed them

Rabbit diets are fairly simple, but there are actually a lot of foods you can’t give them. They have small stomachs, so digestive issues are easy to cause and can be severe.

Hay is the most important food in a rabbit’s diet and can be given in unlimited quantities. Baby rabbits should be fed alfalfa hay. Adult rabbits (7 months of age and older) should be switched to timothy, grass, or oat hay. Alfalfa hay is high in calories, which aids in a baby rabbit’s growth, but can be too caloric for adults.

 

Here are other rabbit food guidelines:

  • Good: Spinach, romaine, celery, collard greens, watercress, basil, bok choy, cilantro, clover, dandelion leaves, mint, mustard greens, parsley (all raw)

  • In moderation: Carrots and carrot tops, kale, strawberries, raspberries, bananas, pineapple, apples without the seeds, high-fiber rabbit pellets, rabbit treats (all raw)

  • Bad: Meat, dairy, chocolate, bread and other grains, anything cooked, corn, ice burg lettuce, tomatoes, cabbage, beans, peas, potatoes, beets, onions


Maintain their teeth

Unlike humans, rabbit teeth grow continuously. If they grow too long, your rabbit may be unable to eat. To keep rabbit teeth healthy, all you need to do is provide enough hay to chew on as well as cardboard or wooden toys. Pet stores will carry a lot of options, but paper towel or toilet paper rolls can also work well.

Let them exercise

Like most pets, rabbits need exercise. Maybe even more than other pets. That’s why it’s critical to have a big cage. Even with a big cage, you should let your rabbit out to run and play every day. Here’s how to safely let our your rabbit to play:

  • Designate a specific room or a playpen for your rabbit

  • Provide a litterbox in the same spot each time

  • Make sure there are no small objects your rabbit could chew or choke on

  • Hide or remove all cords, or cover with cord protectors. Rabbits will often chew cords, which can cause damage to the cord and your rabbit!

Some people prefer to let their rabbit roam throughout the house. To do this safely, use baby gates to shut off any unsafe rooms, and be extremely careful opening any doors to the outside. Rabbits are fast!

You can also take rabbits outside to play using a special rabbit harness with leash, sold at pet stores.


Keep them healthy

We’ve covered most of it, but there are a few other things to know:

  • Pick them up under their powerful hind legs, not under their stomach or front legs

  • Deep clean the cage once per week and the litter box every day

  • If outdoors, bring them inside during extreme weather (hot, cold, storming)

  • Brush them every other day, but they don’t need baths unless they get extremely dirty

  • Take them to a vet who has worked with rabbits once per year

  • If going on vacation, have a pet sitter (like us!), come to feed and exercise your rabbit. They cannot be left alone for multiple days. Furball Fitness can take care of all your pets, including rabbits and any other small pets you may have. Check out our services page for more information!   

 

Rabbits can be fun and rewarding pets. But just because they’re small doesn’t mean adopting one should be a light decision. Like all pets, they take work. Treat them carefully, patiently, and with lots of love, and you’ll be rewarded for years to come! 

 

 

 

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