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So you’re thinking about getting a pet rabbit? They’re typically friendly, social creatures with a lot of personality and energy, and they make great pets. But do you know exactly what taking care of them entails? Here are some principles of basic rabbit care to get you started.
I am not a veterinarian, and this post should not be used in lieu of professional medical advice.
One of the most important aspects of rabbit care is housing. Rabbits require more space than most people give them. Because they’re active creatures, the require room to hop about and explore. How you decide to set up your rabbit housing is going to depend on whether you decided to keep your rabbit inside or outside.
Inside housing is the safest for the rabbit because they are going to be protected from the elements, protect from predators, and will have less of a chance of being neglected since you’ll see them in your living space every day. If providing indoor housing, you’ll have to decide if you are going to let your rabbit free roam your house/apartment or not. If you decided to free roam, make sure that no other pets decide to use your rabbit as a chew toy, and watch that the rabbit doesn’t try hopping under your feet or your furniture. Rabbit proofing your home will become your number one priority. Right after number two – potty training, lol.
If you provide housing outside of your home, whether it be actually outside or in a garage or barn, make sure that the rabbits have access to a draft free area out of the heat/cold, wind, and precipitation. Domestic rabbits are not built the same way that wild rabbits are, and they do not tolerate the elements the same way. Having adequate housing that is out of the elements is an essential part to rabbit care.
No matter if you offer indoor or outdoor housing, you’ll want to provide a play area where your rabbit can explore and hop about. When kept in confined spaces rabbits get bored, and that is not good for their health.
Just like housing, feed is also a super important aspect of rabit care. The primary diet of your rabbits should be Hay, preferable Timothy Hay, supplemented by pellets, and then occasionally given fruits and veggies as a snack. Again, domestic rabbits are not like wild rabbits, and their needs and diets vary greatly.
Fruit and vegetables should not be given even as a snack to rabbits under 6 months of age. When you first start to give a rabbit any type of new food, always do so in small doses to make sure that its body handles it properly. Food that doesn’t agree with a rabbit’s stomach can lead to diarrhea, further leading to dehydration and potentially death if not dealt with.
Similar to wild rabbits, domestic rabbits often don’t show signs of sickness until it is too late. It seems to be a natural defense mechanism leftover from the wild to not show any sign of weakness in case of a predator. Because of this, it is important to stay on top of your rabbit’s diet, health, and needs.
If you’re trying to provide the best rabbit care possible, you’ll want to have a plan in place for all of their droppings. Rabbits poop, and that’s just part of life. But you need to have a plan in place for all of that before you plan on even getting rabbits. Many people like wire cages because the poop can just fall through into collecting trays; however, wire cages can sometimes cause pain to a rabbit’s foot, and the wire bottom cages aren’t always the most sanitary when poop gets stuck and builds up instead of falling through. The alternative option – potty training! We’ll put a post out later this year on How to Potty Train your Rabbit, but until then, there are many valuable resources out there on the internet that will teach you how to accomplish that.
One thing to know about rabbit droppings is that they are a great slow-release fertilizer. They’re not a hot fertilizer – this means that unlike cow and horse droppings, they don’t have to go through a breakdown composting phase. You can sprinkle them around the base of your potted plants, mix them into your soil before you sow your plants, and even put them directly into the hole you plant your seeds in. They’ll provide added nutrients to the surrounding soil and to your plants!
Just like care for cats and dogs, rabbit care also involves de-worming. We choose to de-worm our kits here when they are 5 weeks and 9 weeks old before they go home at 10 weeks. We also recommend that their new owners de-worm a third time at the 12 to 14 week mark. Our adults get de-wormed twice a year. This is our current de-wormer of choice:
Like your other pets, your rabbit also needs groomed! Depending on the type of rabbit and its individual coat type, you may need to groom some rabbits more or less than others. Most rabbits will naturally clean themselves similar to a cat. The best thing you can do to help keep your rabbit clean is to give them a good brush at least once every week or two. If you have an Angora rabbit or another type of fuzzy breed, you may need to do it more often. A brush like this will work well:
Along with grooming, you’ll also have to trim your rabbit’s nails every so often. We check our rabbits monthly, but they hardly need clipped that often. We’re planning on making a separate post about the proper technique for clipping rabbit nails later this year, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, these are the nail clippers that we currently use for proper rabbit care:
Along with having plenty of room to exercise, rabbits also need stimulation. They need toys to keep their sniffers, teeth, and minds busy. Having other rabbits to play with can also be a good source of stimulation for rabbits, just make sure that they get along and that the interaction doesn’t lead to fighting. It’s always best to supervise when you have two or more rabbits playing together.
Still considering a rabbit?
Overall, basic rabbit care is easy, which is why they make great pets for anyone from young kids to adults. They do require space for exercise, but it’s much less space than a dog, making them great for apartments. They can easily be potty trained to a litter box, and they’re social animals that can bond with each other and their people.
Still think you want to bring home a rabbit? Check out our available rabbits page to see what Spotted Dog Acres has available! Bookmark our page – more babies will be arriving this Spring/Summer! Make sure to also check out our available birds and goats!