Where Do I Begin When It Comes To Caring For My Rabbit?

Two words “rabbit” and “care.” Yes, it’s rabbit care. Rabbits are complex creatures and taking care of them is an equally complex task.

When we talk about rabbit care, we aren’t just talking about cleaning their cage and feeding them the right rabbit food. Your knowledge would have to extend much deeper than that. But to go too deep, would be to become a veterinarian ourselves. I am not one, and perhaps you are not one either. Let’s leave the complicated stuff to the professionals.

In this short rabbit care 101, we will try to discuss some fundamental things about taking care of rabbits. It is much easier than you may expect, but it is essential to know what you are doing. So, in this article, we will try to put you on the right track regarding caring for your pet rabbit.

Caring For Your Rabbit 101

Whether you are a newbie or an experienced rabbit owner, there is always something new to learn about rabbit care. Hence, we have put together this rabbit care 101, which we hope will be useful to new and experienced rabbit owners alike.

Should My Bunny Be Indoors Or Outdoors?

The consensus between rabbit owners is that indoors is the safest place for a rabbit to live. Pet rabbits are not as hardy as their wild cousins and do not handle extreme temperatures well. Best rabbit care practices would be to let them run free within your home, safe from the elements and predators. Since that’s not always possible, let’s look at a few reasons for a cage, and how it should be set up in this rabbit care 101.

Does My Bunny Need To Be In A Cage?

A rabbit can cause a lot of damage to your home if left to roam free, and can also get harmed by ingesting toxic substances or chewing power cables, and so on. You may have other pets that pose a hazard to your rabbit. Due to these reasons, a cage for your bunny might be a good idea. Get a cage that is at least five times the size of the animal and roomy enough for the rabbit to stand up on its hind legs and not touch the top.

Avoid cages with wire flooring. Rabbits do not have protective pads on their feet like dogs and cats. Hence, they can get injured in a cage that has wire flooring. Place a piece of cardboard or a straw mat on the floor of the cage. Ensure that your rabbit has a place to hide in a small carton or cardboard box because that’s what they love to do. These rabbit care tips will help your new pet stay safe and enjoy living with you.

Rabbit Toilet Training Tips

Like cats, rabbits can be litter box trained.  If your rabbit roams free, place litter boxes around the house. Make sure that these litter boxes are spacious and comfortable and preferably packed with fresh straw. Your rabbit will sit on this straw and munch some of it. Persistence is the key here.

Tips On Feeding Your Bunny

Take special care of how and what you feed your bunnies. Rabbits have complex digestive systems. Follow these rabbit care 101 recommendations, and you will have a happy bunny on your hands!

Hay: Provide your rabbit with unlimited hay. Timothy grass hay is the best. Hay contains fiber. This will prevent obesity, diarrhea, and hairballs. You can provide Alfalfa hay, but only in limited quantities to adult rabbits.

Pellets: If you feed your rabbit pellets, ensure that you use it as a supplement to leafy vegetables, and not as a replacement. 1/8 to 1/4 cup per day for every five pounds of body weight is a suitable daily dose for proper rabbit care. Use Timothy-based pellets only, and don’t get misled by-products that feature other additives, as they are likely to contain excess calories.

Water: Proper rabbit care should include providing your rabbit with an unlimited supply of fresh water. Change your rabbit’s water at least daily. You can give the water in a sipper bottle or a spill-proof bowl. Most rabbits prefer a bowl to a sipper bottle. Rabbits are destructive by nature so any bowl used for water should be heavy so they don’t tip it over.

Vegetables: Let’s start with what veggies you should NEVER feed your bunny. The strict no-nos of rabbit care are:

  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Cabbage
  • Corn
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Beets
  • Onions
  • Rhubarb

In addition to the above, never feed your rabbit human food. For more information on what you should NOT feed your bunny rabbit, click here. Remember, certain foods are toxic to rabbits. If you suspect that your rabbit has eaten any of these toxic foods and you observe a reaction, rush to the vet immediately.

You CAN feed your rabbit dark, leafy, green vegetables. Collard greens, arugula, leaf lettuce, parsley, and cilantro are good choices. It’s important to introduce variety into the diet. Give your bunny three vegetables at a time and keep changing the combination. If you feed your rabbit a new vegetable, try a small quantity at first. You should feed veggies in limited quantities.

Fruits: The basic diet of your rabbit should be hay and leafy vegetables. It is a myth that carrots are suitable for rabbits as portrayed in cartoons. Carrots are full of starch and are best used as an occasional treat. You can feed your rabbit fruit like apples, blueberries, plums, melon, papaya, and strawberries, but in limited quantities. The same goes for raisins, grapes, and bananas, because of their high sugar content.

Treats: The market is flooded with treats for your bunny. A vet will tell you that in excess, these treats can be detrimental to your pet’s health. Give your bunny the occasional treat, but it is not good rabbit care to do this regularly.

Handling Your Bunny

Rabbits are nervous animals and have a very fragile bone structure. Because of this, you need to be extra careful while picking up your bunny. Rabbits have an aversion to leaving the ground and their instinct is to panic if picked up. You need to be careful while picking them up, as a struggling rabbit can easily break its spine.

Follow These Steps To Pick Up Your Rabbit:

  1. Put one hand beneath the chest.
  2. Place the other hand below the rear end.
  3. Gently pick up the rabbit and hold her against your body.

If your rabbit struggles put her down immediately. Once she is more relaxed, you can try to pick her up. Often, it helps to sit on the floor with your rabbit, allowing them a chance to get comfortable being on your lap, before trying to pick them up. 

The general rule of thumb is to only pick up a rabbit when necessary.  That said, you should know the correct way to pick up your rabbit if the need arises.

Under Proper Rabbit Handling Procedures, Do Not:

Let the rabbit hang loose

Lift the rabbit by her stomach

Pick up the rabbit by the ears

Hold your rabbit upside down

Do:

Use two hands at all times

Place one hand just behind the front legs, with a finger or two between them

Scoop the rabbit with the other hand under the backside, bringing them to your chest immediately

Commit to picking up the rabbit and hold them just tightly enough to keep them from kicking with their back legs

Hold them against your chest, in a football hold for larger breeds

Always support your rabbit’s weight, even when putting them down again

Tips For Grooming Your Bunny

Rabbits develop hairballs due to excessive shedding of fur, but unlike cats, they cannot cough them up. Hence, you need to brush your rabbit regularly to get rid of loose fur. This practice is not only part of basic rabbit care 101 will also help to reduce the fur level in your home. If you don’t have a comb or brush at hand, you can always stroke the rabbit firmly. You will notice loose fur flying around and getting caught in your hands.

Rabbits are in the habit of grooming each other around the face, ears, and on the back. Grooming a pet is also an excellent means of bonding with a pet. If you groom your rabbit regularly, you will find it both relaxing and something your pet enjoys.

Medical Care

Make sure to use a vet that is experienced in treating rabbits. These vets are called “exotic” veterinarians. Follow the vaccination schedule prescribed by the vet. Keep the clinic’s contact details with you in case of an emergency.

Although you would need to go to the vet in case of any medical issue, here’s a rabbit care 101 list of things you can do before the vet sees your rabbit:

Tooth Problems

Tooth problems are characterized by drooling, loss of appetite, and hair loss on or around the mouth region. Loud tooth grinding can indicate a problem with the large front incisors. If you suspect your rabbit has a toothache, rub the cheek and feed her soft foods like canned pumpkin, soft vegetables, or baby food until you can get her to the vet. In case your rabbit isn’t eating, you can try feeding Critical Care through a syringe.

Gas Pain

There is a loss of appetite, and the rabbit stretches out, pressing the belly on the ground. A loud gurgling sound will come from the gut. You may observe a reduction in fecal production. You can try giving baby anti-gas drops that contain simethicone to help dispel the gas. 

There is likely to be a reduction in body temperature, keep your rabbit covered and warm. You can also massage the belly area gently. If your rabbit stops eating, see a vet as soon as possible. Rabbits have very sensitive digestive systems and stasis can set in quickly.

Head Tilt

Head tilt is a sign that your rabbit is experiencing ear trauma or infection. The rabbit will seem to lose balance, and she will tilt her head, and perhaps roll her eyes. There’s not much you can do except keep your rabbit comfortable, keep her in a padded area where she can’t get hurt and get her to the vet quickly. Many times head tilt is correctable if caught right away.

Other 101 Tips

  • Avoid bathing your rabbit as the shock could be fatal.
  • Do not leave rabbits alone as they are social animals and need the company.
  • Never keep rabbits along with guinea pigs as they do not get along.
  • Feed your rabbit an unlimited supply of fresh green hay.
  • Know of your bunny’s body language to know when something is not right.
  • Learn how to detect gastrointestinal stasis (GI stasis). It is a deadly disease and can take the life of a rabbit in less than four hours.
  • Vaccinate your rabbit regularly.
  • Check and trim your rabbit’s nails as needed.
  • Do a visual check of your rabbit every morning and night.
  • Get your bunny spayed or neutered. It prevents multitudes of rabbits, improves the temperament of your pet. and they live longer, healthier lives.

Here Are Some Of The Best Brands Of Grooming Accessories To Assist You In Caring For Your Rabbit:

1. Dasksha Rabbit Grooming Kit

Dasksha Rabbit Grooming Kit with Rabbit Grooming Brush

This rabbit care kit consists of two tools, a comb for shedding and a gentle grooming glove. You can groom your bunny at two different levels, depending on the extent of grooming you need to do.

Dasksha Rabbit Grooming Kit with Rabbit Grooming Brush

Satisfaction guaranteed: gentle, effective and washable brush and glove kit. Perfect for grooming your rabbit.


2.Meng Two-sided Pet Grooming Glove

Meng Pet Two-Sided Pet Grooming Glove - Hair Removal Glove

This grooming glove has soft silicone rubber bristles which go easy on your pet rabbit’s sensitive skin. The bush is two-sided and goes on both the left and right hand.

Meng Pet Two-Sided Pet Grooming Glove - Hair Removal Glove

Great hair removal glove that's easy to clean. Offers a flexible grip. Made of soft, healthy and elastic silicone material.


3. Dougez Rabbit Grooming And Shedding Comb

Dog Cat Small Pet Rabbits Brush Comb Grooming Brush

This grooming comb removes loose fur from your bunny in a jiffy. It is anti-static and can be used for long or short fur. The comb keeps the collected fur efficiently until you need to remove it.

Dog Cat Small Pet Rabbits Brush Comb Grooming Brush

Made of stainless steel. Dimensions(WxDxH): 8x2x1.6 Inch. Easy to Clean.


Knowledge Is Power – You Hold The Key To Properly Caring For Your Rabbit!

As you share the journey through life with your pet, you will learn a lot about rabbits over the years. However, this brief but informative rabbit care 101 should help you on your way. We hope that you have found this article informative and that it adds to the valuable experience between you and your bunny.

If you have enjoyed reading this rabbit care 101 article, please let us know in the comments section below. Feel free to ask any questions, and we will be glad to get back to you.

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Miranda Hawkins
Miranda currently lives just outside Colorado Springs, Colorado with her husband, 8-year old son, and what she lovingly calls her “zoo.” Miranda grew up in the Midwest and always had animals around while growing up. After graduating from college, she married her husband Sam and they moved to the mountains of Colorado where Miranda became very involved with the regional rabbit rescues.

Currently, her “zoo” includes two dogs, one rambunctious cat, and three indoor rabbits. Oliver, a delightful Black Otter Holland Lop, and Juniper, a gorgeous Opal Satin Angora, are a bonded pair and have been together for three years.

She had the pleasure of adding an energetic Fawn Flemish Giant to her family one year ago, named Sir Gregor. He had been abandoned outside a pet store and was put up for adoption. Miranda feels very blessed to have this lovable lagomorph living amongst her family and is a strong advocate for educating people about rabbits and how special they truly are.

Miranda has put together a team of rabbit lovers and breeders from across the country and hopes you will find the information and resources on the JustRabbits.com site beneficial. She loves to hear from her readers and looks forward to seeing many more people become loving responsible bunny parents.