Bunny House Supplies:
- Cage (home built bunny condo, large wire dog crate, or ex-pen)
- Water bottle
- Food and water crock/bowls – heavy enough so your bunny can‘t throw it!
- Large plastic litter box
- Feline or Equine Pine pelleted litter or Yesterday News pelleted litter
- Pet carrier
- Unlimited grass hay: timothy, oat, orchard grass. Only give alfalfa hay to rabbits who are under 6 months old.
- Timothy pellets for rabbits over 6 months of age and alfalfa pellets for rabbits younger than 6 months
- Fresh vegetables (refer to the following recommended list)
- White vinegar (diluted with water 4:1)
- Comb or brush
- Nail clippers
- Styptic powder (stops the bleeding in case you cut a nail too short)
Electrical Cord Protection:
- PVC tubing
- Plastic tubing
- Electrical cord wrap
- Hooks to fasten wires to wall high enough to where bunny can’t reach
Rabbit-Proofing Your House
Bunny proofing your home is part of living with a house rabbit. It is natural for rabbits to chew on furniture, rugs, drapes, and electrical cords.
Most houseplants are toxic. Make sure they are out of the rabbit’s reach. If you are unsure which plants may be toxic, you should assume they are.
Rabbits chew to exercise their minds, not just their teeth. Providing lots of entertaining alternatives for your bun to chew on is the best deterrent for a destructive critter.
Preventing rabbits from chewing on electrical cords is of utmost importance, since rabbits can be burned or electrocuted. Following are some suggestions for keeping the cords safely out of reach.
- PVC tubing is the strongest material you can use to protect your wires. However, it takes some effort to string the wires through the tubes. You may need to cut the PVC lengthwise with a hacksaw or cut the end of the wires and re-splice after you’ve threaded them through the PVC.
- Plastic tubing (similar to that used in fish tanks) bought from a hardware or aquarium store can be slit lengthwise with a blade and the wire can be tucked safely inside.
- Wire-concealed strips and corners stick to the base of wallsand follow the shape of the wall. This option is more costly and time consuming but provides a more secure and permanent proofing job.
- Wires can also be hidden securely under or behind furniture or carpets.
- At least 6 times the length of your stretched-out rabbit. A home-made rabbit condo made out of “Neat Idea Cubes” or “Organize It! Cubes”, an ex-pen or a large wire dog crate are excellent choices. Pet store cages usually do not provide enough room and are very costly.
- High enough for him to stand on his hind feet
- Solid or slatted plastic floor. No wire floors.
- The cage should be large enough to comfortably contain a litter box, toys, food and water bowl, and water bottle.
- Rabbit Condo
- Exercise Pen A
- Exercise Pen B
When your rabbit is litter trained and your house has been sufficiently bunny-proofed, your rabbit can be allowed free run of the area. The more room your rabbit has to run around in, the more delightful you will find her as a companion. Try to let her out of the cage for at least two hours per day.
For safe outdoor exercise during the day, we suggest a pen within your fenced yard. Even though you feel your fence may be secure, do not ever leave your rabbit unattended while outside. It only takes a moment for a curious rabbit to dig out or a curious predator to dig in!
Rabbits are quite easy to litter train as they naturally choose one place in their cage to go to the bathroom. You may choose to put the litter box in one of the corners and see if he likes your selection or you can wait and see where he are choosing to eliminate and put the litter box in that place.
Purchase a large cat litter box, spread a thin layer of the recommended rabbit litter on the bottom and a handful of hay on top. Rabbits like to munch while they “do their business” so having some tasty hay in their litter box encourages litter box use. Every day put a fresh handful of hay on top and then every several days take the entire contents of the litter box, throw it away and start all over again. Some bunnies like to hang out in their litter box, so don’t be alarmed if you see your bunny napping in there.
If your rabbit continually urinates in a spot where there is no litter box, put his box where he prefers. It is much easier to compromise than to work against a determined bunny.
Keep the litter box clean – the cleaner you keep the cage and litter box the more likely it is that your rabbit will use it.
Some bunnies have the best intentions, but will back up to a corner of the litter box and wind up urinating over the edge. If your bunny does this, get a litter box which is higher on 3 sides or even enclosed on 3 sides to prevent a mess.
All rabbits will drop “poopies” around their cage and some will even spray to mark it as their own. This is not failure to be litter trained; they are just acting like – rabbits. It is very important for your rabbit to identify the cage as his property so that when he leaves the cage to explore your house, he will distinguish the family’s area from his own and avoid marking it. To encourage this, make his cage a safe place. Try not to force him in or out of it but rather coax him, perhaps with a tasty treat. Do not do things to his cage that he doesn’t like while he’s in it.
Even if your goal is to let your rabbit have full run of the house, you must start small. Once your rabbit is using the litter box consistently in his cage, you may allow him some playtime in a limited area around his cage. If he consistently returns to his litter box while having his exercise time, then once again you can expand his play area. When your rabbit is sufficiently well trained in that space, gradually give her more space. But do so gradually. If you overwhelm him with too much freedom before he’s ready, he will forget where his box is and will lose his good habits. You want to encourage good habits and discourage bad habits and you do this by providing the correct learning environment and training.
If it seems that your bunny has forgotten his litter box habits it is usually because something else is going on and they are complaining about something. It could possibly be a urinary tract infection or bladder stones making it uncomfortable for the bunny to urinate. This could be an early warning that something is wrong. If your bunny starts behaving like this, please try to determine the underlying problem and make an appointment with your vet.
You will notice two different kinds of droppings – fecal, the typical round and basically dry and odorless droppings, and cecal – or cecotropes – which look like a bunch of grapes and have a strong odor. These poops are usually left at night time and are meant to be re-ingested by the rabbits. This is normal and essential to the rabbit’s health as these droppings contain very important nutrients.
Spaying and neutering your rabbit is very important. Not only is it the responsible thing to do so as not to contribute to more rabbits looking for homes but will also improve litter box habits, lessen chewing behavior, decrease territorial aggression, and give your rabbit a happier, longer life. Have your rabbit neutered between ages 3 1/2 to 6 months, depending on sexual maturity, by an experienced rabbit veterinarian. All rabbits at Luv-A-Bun Rabbit Rescue are spayed or neutered before they are adopted.
The safest cleaning solution you can use is vinegar diluted 4:1 with water. Soak the litter box in the vinegar solution to get rid of stains.
Be aware that many other kinds of cleansers or disinfectants will be toxic for your rabbit. If you choose to wipe the cage with a disinfectant other than vinegar, make sure all flooring and toys are dry well before your bunny comes into contact with them.
- Paper bags and cardboard boxes for hiding, digging, and chewing
- Untreated wicker baskets or boxes full of shredded paper, junk mail, magazines, straw, or other organic materials for digging
- Batta balls and other cat toys that roll or can be tossed
- Parrot toys that can be tossed, or hung from the top of the cage and chewed or hit
- Hard plastic baby toys like rattles and keys. No teething toys.
- Kitty condos, tubes, tunnels, and trees
- Paper towel and toilet paper rolls, empty oatmeal boxes and small tins
- Dried out pine cones
- A straw whisk broom
- A hand towel or sheet for bunching and scooting
Because rabbits are prey animals they get frightened when lifted off the ground. They assume they are going to be eaten! Therefore, we recommend that you learn to interact with your rabbit on their level. This may sound silly but these actions will help gain their trust. You can sit on the floor to read the paper in the morning or to watch the evening news; lie down on the ground to read; buy one of those collapsible chairs without legs that will allow you to sit on the floor in comfort. In this manner, you can interact with your bunny without frightening her or restraining her. This is a great way to get to know her personality and have fun with her.
A rabbit’s spine makes up only 6% of her body weight. It is extremely fragile, so great care must be taken when handling your new friend. If he straightens out his back and kicks violently, he can break his spine and paralyze himself. Be prepared for if and when he struggles and kicks and be ready to put him down. Hold him securely and maneuver yourself back to the floor to let him go. Always hold a rabbit close to your body, not away from you. Wrapping a rabbit in a towel is a safe and comfortable way to hold a rabbit. It makes him feel secure and at the same time keeps you from getting scratched.
Bunnies should not ever be lifted by the ears. Instead pick them up with two hands under the belly and support their bodies and hindquarters while lifting and holding them.
- Comb your bunny at least once a week. If she’s got long fur or if she’s shedding, you should comb her daily.
- Trim her nails about every six weeks. Be careful of their quicks and have styptic powder on hand.
- Bunnies don’t need baths because they groom themselves like cats. Baths will cause too much stress. If your rabbit has a dirty bottom, spot clean it by dripping water on the area and soaking until you can lift off the feces. See your vet to determine the cause.
Communication and Rabbit Behavior
- Rabbits will click or grind their teeth when content – similar to a purring cat.
- Some rabbits may bite as a way of communicating – do not get upset at the rabbit, try to understand what it is trying to tell you:
- It may be in pain
- It may be very afraid
- It may be very frustrated and out of options
- Some rabbits may bite as a way of showing affection – these bites are really “bunny bites” and tend to be a form of social grooming – if you had fur, you’d appreciate it, but since you have skin, it tends to raise red marks and welts. Try not to give the bunny any negative feedback since he is showing you affection – instead reposition yourself so he can’t nibble on you.
- Rabbits do a lot of nonverbal communication, for example:
Thumping – warning, danger, or “pay attention to me”
Flopping on side – total contentment
Periscoping – curiosity, getting a better view around
- Chinning – there is a scent gland under the chin and they rub it on things that they want to claim
- When rabbits are happy and feeling playful they will run, jump and twist in the air all at once. This is the notorious binky!
- When rabbits want to be left alone or feel threatened, they may make a grunting sound to give you a warning. If you don’t heed, they will box you with their front paws. If they still feel threatened, they may bite.
Children and Rabbits
If you are adopting a rabbit for a child you must realize that your child will not be the primary caretaker but you will. Rabbits are high-maintenance pets and children should not be the primary care-givers – An estimated 90% of all rabbits purchased as pets for children are abandoned, rehomed, or die. Your child’s interest in the rabbit will come and go from day to day or week to week. Your child may go several days without showing an interest and then other days will want to interact with him several times. This is very common for children and should be a realization for parents. Children should not be expected to be responsible for the care of their pet. Positive encouragement to participate in their care giving is a great start for your child and their new pet to start a lasting friendship.
Show your child how to gently pet the rabbit. Sit on the floor with child in your lap while you pet and talk to the rabbit. Do this frequently but no longer than 5 minutes at a time. Also, swaddling the rabbit in a thin towel while the child is holding the rabbit will help the rabbit feel secure and will protect the child from sharp toenails.
When the rabbit hops away or goes in his cage let him go without chasing him. Interpret rabbit’s body language for the child and let them know if the behavior is suggesting that the rabbit wants to be left alone, is tired, or frightened. Teach your child not to chase a rabbit that has had enough and not to bang or stick fingers in the cage.
Your child may build a friendship with the rabbit by sitting on the floor with the rabbit while doing homework, art work, reading, or watching TV. The rabbit will eventually come to investigate and to be petted. Children have many of other interests, therefore, expect to see inconsistencies in their interest in having a rabbit. The rabbit’s care should continue to be your responsibility, but your child may help with feeding and grooming
- Show and demonstrate to your child how to appropriately interact with her new friend. Set your child and the rabbit up for success. Try to anticipate and prevent inappropriate interaction by often showing your child how to interact.
- Set up the cage so the rabbit can get away from the children and have a “safe zone”. It is important for rabbits to have a place to retreat to whenever they don’t feel safe – whether it is from the doorbell, dog, child or a loud noise.
- Put the rabbit in a closed-off room when there are lots of playmates or parties. It is often better if the guests don’t know there is a rabbit. Refrain from having children’s friends in to see the new rabbit for the first week or so. The rabbit needs to get comfortable in his new surroundings and having too many people coming in will cause stress.
- Show children’s friends where rabbit lives and how to pet at times when only 1 or 2 friends visit, and then make sure the rabbit is safe during the visit.
Thinking About A Second Rabbit?
Rabbits are highly social creatures who love the company of others and who bond for life. Your bunny may be much happier with a companion, and we encourage anyone considering a second rabbit to do so. There are some rabbits who prefer to be only bunnies and enjoy the company of their human companions.
Rabbits are very social animals and appreciate living with other rabbits, especially if they spend much of the day without human companionship. Usually a neutered male and a spayed female are the most successful matches although male-male and female-female bonds are also possible.
Before attempting to bond two bunnies, it is strongly recommended that you try some bunny dates to see if the two seem interested in each other. Contact us and we can arrange a bunny date for your rabbit to meet one of our lovely singles!
It is very importnt to know that bonding takes time – do not put two rabbits together to see if they will get along – they will fight and potentially injure or even kill each other. Because bonding takes time, you must be patient, and initially, you must closely supervise both bunnies when they are together in order to break up any fights and prevent injury.
In the beginning, you should let your bunnies get used to each other by keeping them separate but where they can still be near each other, such as in cages that are side by side but not touching. Once it appears that the bunnies are tolerating each others’ presence and they no longer have their ears pinned, tail up, marking and chin scenting but are instead lying side by side in their separate cages, then it is safe to introduce them outside of their cages and in a neutral area. Be prepared to break up a scuffle but be careful doing so as you may get bit in the process. Allow them to have supervised meeting times several times a day until they are comfortable with each other. You will know this is so when you see them lying side by side, sharing food and playing with one another. Only after you are sure there is no aggressive behavior or body language can you leave them unsupervised and able to share a cage.
- If your bunny skips a meal, try to give him one of his favorite treats to see if she’ll eat it. If he doesn’t eat for at least 24 hours, take him to the vet.
- Sneezing, weepy eyes or nose, and lethargic behavior are other signs of ill health. Consult your vet.
- If her poops start decreasing in size or lose their shape, consult your vet. Diarrhea should be considered an emergency.
Choosing A Veterinarian
Not all veterinarians are knowledgeable about rabbit care, so you should make an effort to find the right doctor for your bunny now, before she gets sick. A list of South Florida exotic vets are listed under “links” on our website.
Feeding Your Rabbit
In general an adult rabbit’s daily diet should consist of unlimited grass hay such as orchard grass, timothy hay, or oat hay, 1/8 cup of plain pellets twice a day, and a small salad of at least three vegetables. Do not purchase the rabbit mix with the colored treats – this mix is not good for them. A rabbit’s diet is first and foremost unlimited grass hay then greens and then pellets. Rabbits can tend to get over weight rather quickly, so watch those pellets!
- You may serve a small amount of vegetables each day. Make sure you introduce one new food at a time. If you see a change in their stool, then you will know they have a sensitivity to that particular vegetable and to eleminite from their diet.
- Any food is high in sugar, such as fruit, should be served as a treat only. This means only several times a week with each serving being no bigger than your thumb.
- Vegetables that are high in calcium should be served in moderation.
- Do not feed your rabbit cereals, crackers, and oats as they are simple carbohydrates and will be digested as sugar. Too much consumption of these foods will cause diarrhea.
- Remove food that causes diarrhea should be removed from the diet immediately!
(feed a handful of a variety of these suggested greens several times a week)
- Beet greens (tops)*
- Bok choy
- Broccoli (mostly leaves/stems)*
- Brussels sprouts
- Carrot and Carrot tops*
- Clover and Clover sprouts
- Collard greens*
- Dandelion greens and flowers (no pesticides)*
- Green peppers
- Kale (!)*
- Mustard greens*
- Pea pods (the flat edible kind)*
- Peppermint leaves
- Radish and Radish tops
- Raspberry leaves
- Romaine lettuce (no iceberg or light colored leaf)*
- Spinach (!)*
- Wheat grass
(!) = Use sparingly.
(*) = Vitamin A – include at least one a day
(feed only as a treat several times a week)