Congratulations! You are the proud new parent of a wonderful rabbit! Please refer to the following information to help make your transition into a new life together easier. Even if you are an experienced pet caregiver, there may be some new information here, so please take a few minutes to read over this guide.
You will need
- Roomy cage/exercise pen
- Litterbox (cat-sized)
- Paper-based litter or newspaper (no pine or cedar bedding/litter)
- Pellet and water bowls
- Plain pellets (no seeds, nuts, or dried fruit)
- Grass hay (e.g., timothy hay)
- Food storage bin and scoop
- Chew and toss toys
- Pet carrier
- Nail clippers
- Plastic tubing for electrical cords
- Plain white vinegar
Many people allow their rabbits free run of a room or a portion of their homes. At least initially, however, it's good for your bunny to have a home base - an exercise pen or a roomy cage. Exercise pens make ideal bunny habitats because they are spacious, easy to clean, easy to move, and no more expensive than a decent cage. If you opt for a cage, it should have at least enough space for your bunny to stand up on her hind legs without bumping her ears and to stretch out in both directions. The floor area should be at least six times the size of the adult rabbit and should have plenty of room for a litterbox, food and water bowls, and toys. The floor should be solid; wire bottoms are bad for a rabbit's feet.
Rabbits are full of energy and need plenty of space to run and play. If you house your rabbit in a pen or a cage, be sure to allow them time out every day for recreation. Your bunny will be so much happier - and you'll enjoy her so much more.
Because rabbits love to dig and chew, it's essential to "bunny-proof" the areas of your home your rabbit will have access to. Thread electrical wires through plastic tubing (available at most hardware stores). 2x4s around the perimeters of your room can protect carpeting and baseboards from diggers. Many people have found Ivory soap or bitter apple spray effective deterrents for rabbits who like to chew furniture. Rabbits often turn to carpets and furniture out of sheer boredom, so providing chewable toys or a place to dig can help. Cardboard cottages, toilet-paper rolls stuffed with hay, hard-plastic baby toys, and untreated willow balls and baskets are great favorites.
Rabbits that have been spayed or neutered are usually very easy to litterbox train. Start with a cat-sized litterbox; line it with newspaper or a paper-based litter, and top it with hay (change the hay and litter daily). Bunnies typically eliminate in one corner and munch the clean hay. Until your bunny is using her litterbox regularly, confine her to a fairly small area - ideally an exercise pen or a small room like a bathroom. If your rabbit picks her own spot to eliminate, move the litterbox to that spot. Bunnies are notoriously stubborn about where they want to go! Keep plain white vinegar on hand to clean up accidents; it works wonders on stains and odors.
An adult rabbit's diet should consist of unlimited grass hay (timothy, orchard, brome, or oat), limited pellets (1/4 cup per 5 lbs of rabbit), and green vegetables (dark leaf lettuce, dandelion greens, endive, turnip tops, parsley, cilantro). Putting the hay in your bunny's litterbox is a good way to avoid a mess. Choose a plain pellet (no "deluxe" brands with fruit, nuts, or seeds) that has at least 18-20 percent fiber and no more than 16 percent protein. Timothy-based pellets, not alfalfa, are the best choice for an adult rabbit. Fresh fruit and carrot should be fed sparingly as a treat (no more than 1-2 tablespoons/day).
Handling Your Rabbit
When you pick up your rabbit, be sure to support their hind quarters; never pick them up by the ears or the scruff of their neck. Most rabbits don't like to be picked up or carried and prefer to have their people get down on the floor to play or snuggle. If you already have another rabbit, introduce your new rabbit gradually and in a space unfamiliar to both rabbits.
Like cats and dogs, rabbits do get annual vaccines for Myxomatosis Viral Heamorrhagic Disease; at which time they can also get their annual check-ups to make sure they're healthy and to nip potentially serious problems in the bud. Be sure to take your bunny to a veterinarian experienced with rabbits; many veterinarians who are wonderful with cats and dogs know very little about rabbits.
Be loyal to and patient with your rabbit. Make sure the expectations you have of your companion are reasonable and remember that the vast majority of behavior problems can be solved.