Rabbits are popular pets. They are relatively low-maintenance and tend to keep themselves to themselves. Plus, they are totally adorable! However, while you don’t need to take them for walks or obedience train them like you would cats and dogs, there are a lot of considerations to be made when you take on a furry little friend. Quite often rabbits are cute, impulsive buys, which is why a lot of pet stores don’t sell bunnies around Easter.
The fact is, a lot of work goes into properly caring for your bunny to allow them to live their best life. Fortunately, everything you need to do for your bun is simple and cost-effective. Rabbit care goes a lot further than a lot of people think: from when you first bring them home to consistent aftercare. We are going to take a look through each section of caring for your bunny to keep them healthy, happy, and safe.
The Right Home
Rabbit care starts before you even bring your bun home. Picking out the right hutch or cage is the first step to making sure your bunny can get settled in and you can plan out whether they’ll be living outdoors or indoors.
- Figure out what kind of space you have. You should already know the breed of the bun you’re taking in, as their size has a big impact on the hutch you need. Bunnies need enough space to hop three times across their hutch, as a general rule, and should also be able to stand up fully with plenty of headroom.
- Make sure you’re getting a reliable structure – especially if you’ll be keeping your bun outdoors. Check out the material before you buy – most pet stores have display models that you can get a good look at. The wood should be sturdy – stay away from anything that feels like cheap plywood – and any mesh or bars should be spaced tightly enough that no predators can get in.
- Take an extra interest in hutches that have an extra level. These are particularly good for two rabbits to cohabit as they have plenty of room to get away from each other when needed. Trust me – my two buns love each other like a married couple… but they also fight like a married couple! Having their own floor to go to helps massively, doubling your space while not taking up more of your garden or living room.
You have the perfect hutch. You now want to set your new friend up with the comfiest environment in which they’re going to spend most of their time. Throw a little bit of extra straw or hay in there on top of their bedding for them to build a nest. If there’s one thing rabbits love, it’s making themselves a nest and burrowing down into it. Just as they would in the wild!
- When you’ve got their hutch or cage set up it will be time to get everything in there to give your bunny a warm and cozy welcome. Pick up some soft, natural bedding. Make it an absorbent (preferably odor-controlling) bedding. A lot of rabbit products are made and packaged fresh from farms, so don’t forget to have a quick rummage through to get rid of any debris.
- Your bunny will soon choose a corner or side of their hutch to relieve themselves. Once you’ve identified where they are going pack a load of extra bedding in a litter tray and put it down there for much easier cleaning. If your bun has a spot to go in they will have a much more hygienic home.
- Cleaning out your bunny’s dirty bedding is absolutely essential to do on a regular basis. You wouldn’t let your cat lay around in their litterbox, would you? Get in there and change their bedding every few days to a week, depending on how many bunnies you have and how messy they are.
A Balanced Diet
Feeding your bunny the right stuff is a cornerstone of a happy and healthy pet. A good diet will give your bun everything from a soft and shiny coat to well-worn teeth and clean gums. Bunnies need to be chewing almost constantly as their teeth are always growing. Your rabbit’s digestive system is also very sensitive, and needs a good mixture of food types to keep it regular.
- A good helping of high-quality hay is a daily requirement for your bun. The most commonly found types are timothy hay and alfalfa hay. You will want to feed your bunny timothy hay, as alfalfa contains a high level of calcium which can cause a buildup of ‘sludge’ to form in their digestive tract, and lead to a variety of health complications that can even be fatal. Give them a bundle of hay around their body size per day so that they have a constant source of munchy goodness.
- Next, you’ll need some pellets. There are so many different types and flavors on the market, so sifting through them can be a challenge. The most important thing to look for when you check the ingredients is to see whether the pellets contain any additives or sugars that aren’t naturally present otherwise. Try to keep to the most organic ingredients, because that’s what your rabbit would eat in the wild.
- You’ll want to round off the perfect diet with a decent helping of fresh vegetables. While Bugs Bunny has taught us that bunnies love carrots (and believe me, all three of mine can’t get enough of them!), leafy veggies like spinach are more suited to their digestion. They’ll also go wild for a handful of kale. Mix it up, but be sure to feed vegetables in moderation. Watery options like cucumber and some types of lettuce aren’t as good for them.
Plenty Of Entertainment
This area is probably the most overlooked by a lot of rabbit owners. It’s easy to forget that bunnies need a lot of mental stimulation, especially if they live outside. Rabbits can get lonely if they are in their hutch by themself, so it’s important for them to be provided with plenty of entertainment to keep them occupied between snacking and snoozing.
- There are plenty of rabbit-safe toys available that will cater not only to your buns need for play, but also encourage a healthy mouth and clean teeth. Pick up a bundle of chew toys for them to nibble away on. Twig balls are a personal favorite of my three as they can bite onto them and throw them around to their heart’s content!
- Don’t be scared of plastic toys as long as they are well-made and hard-wearing. Look at reviews of different options to find a truly long-lasting toy that your bun can keep coming back to for fun. My smallest bunny, Sherlock, has a little ball with a bell inside that she enjoys tossing around and hiding.
- A nice bit of static exercise comes from hanging toys. If you have a hutch or cage that allows for toys to be hung from its roof then they are the best toys for a rabbit’s mental exercise ads well as physical. Giving them the opportunity to stretch up and investigate is good for their spine as well as their curiosity.
- An ideal combination of fun and exercise is to attach a run to your bunny’s hutch. Scattering their toys around the run gives them something to keep them occupied. Your bun will appreciate the extra space to hop around. Bunnies are very particular creatures that like things a certain way, and keeping their toys in order will contribute to a sense of positive mental wellbeing. Speaking of adding a run, that leads us onto…
Ample Exercise Time
A hutch big enough to hop around in is a good start. After this, your bun will need more exercise than their home can offer them. Taking them out of the hutch for play can be great for their happiness. It also offers you some playtime fun and creates a bond between the two of you that you just don’t get otherwise.
- As we just touched on, adding a run creates a massive amount of floor space for your rabbit. It also creates a sense of freedom while keeping them safe from any potential threats. You don’t have to fit a permanent run either, you can attach it when you’re home or in the garden to supervise. If you do have it fixed permanently, make sure to get a cover for it or keep the hutch doors locked!
- For your indoor bunny, you have a little more work to do to keep them safe. As we know, rabbits are chewers. Whether it’s a tasty treat or an electrical wire makes no difference to them! It might even be easier to get them an outdoor run just to give them some fresh air for a couple of hours.
- If you have a properly secured garden you should absolutely let them explore. Make sure they’ve had their appropriate shots first because they’ll quite happily hop around in nature all day. (Or all night, as I’ve found mine hiding in bushes from rain when an old hutch broke open!)
Trust And Handling
Rabbits are natural prey animals. It takes a lot to get your bunny to trust you. You should start early and pick them up often for some cuddles, to let them know that you’re OK. Gaining the trust of your bunny is a long process. You have to go into the bonding experience with a ton of patience, as their natural instinct is to bolt in the face of a giant human leaning over them.
- Spend an hour or so a day sitting with your bun on the couch or the floor near their cage. Let them hop around (remembering to keep an eye on them) and don’t go chasing after them for cuddles. They will eventually come to you when they feel safe.
- This one sounds crazy, but I know first-hand that it works. One way to get your bunny to feel safe around you is to start cleaning your face with your hands, mimicking your bun. Rabbits clean themselves when they are confident that they are in a safe environment; and if you’re doing it, they will relax and even lay down next to you!
- The only exception to this rule is if your bun happens to have babies. Handling baby buns while they’re still being fed by their mother will transfer your scent across to them. If the mother smells your scent on them then the chances of her rejecting the baby are high.
You can do all of this for your furry friend and more, but proper rabbit care will come from the professionals. Your bun will need their myxomatosis shots once a year to keep away the most common killer for rabbits.
- On top of that bunnies have very delicate digestive systems. Any irregularities in their waste are a call to change up their diet. Soft stools and thick urine are the easiest to spot. If those symptoms continue then a vet visit should be organized in the following days.
- Folding into points on both diet and bonding, warning signs will jump out at you if you give your bunny regular checks yourself. If they trust you enough you will be able to check their teeth to make sure they aren’t overgrown. You’ll also want to check their coat to make sure it is still soft and shiny. If not then the fix is as simple as a tweak to their diet.
- It is true that rabbits have a much more sensitive system than larger pets. However, they are made of tougher stuff than you might be led to believe. If something is wrong then you will know about it. Just keep your eyes peeled for any signs that they aren’t acting like themselves.
Rabbits can provide you with some of the most fun moments (and most adorable Instagram pics!) of any pet. They have a unique way of showing affection once you’ve gained their trust. Bunnies are inquisitive, extremely cautious, and not difficult to keep happy. They should be comfortable, well-fed, and regularly exercised. They will let you know how pleased they are with the happiest of binky jumps and contented teeth grinding.
- Keep their diet balanced and varied.
- Give them plenty of exercise.
- Don’t forget, toys keep them happy and occupied in their hutch!
- Make sure they have plenty of soft bedding that you change regularly.
- If you notice anything unusual about their behavior – go to the vet.