Rabbits are cute. However, do not let their small size get you thinking that they do not require as much care as feline or canine pets. Having rabbits as pets require full- and long-term commitment as a house rabbit can live up to 12 years. To help you start your rabbit ownership on the right foot, we have drawn up the following basics on caring for your bunny.
What to Prepare
- Large crate, hutch, or Wendy house (183cm x 90cm x 90cm) The cage or housing must be high enough to allow the rabbit to stand on its hind legs without touching the ceiling. This hutch must be large enough to accommodate the litter box, a hiding place, and a toy.
- Bedding Soft wood shavings or hay (grass or timothy) are recommended.
- Hiding place This can be a hollowed-out log, cardboard box, or some other alternative that your bunny can fit into when he wants some privacy.
- Litter box Paper pulp or newspaper can be used to line the litter box.
- Food bowl and water bottle or bowl These should be stable and made of heavy material so they do not get knocked over easily. You can also get a water bottle to prevent spills. Observe your bunny when using a bottle as some rabbits do not like drinking from one.
- Food Hay, rabbit-friendly pellets, leafy greens, and fruits are good choices. Avoid giving bamboo, dairy food, cooked food, iceberg lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, beets, corn, kale, peas, beans, and rhubarb.You may feed your pet grass, but it should be pesticide- or chemical-free. Mower-cut grass should not be offered as it is not as fresh. It has been exposed to the heat of the mower, which jumpstarts fermentation. Fermented food can induce upset tummies amongst rabbits.
- Toys You can provide bunny-safe chew toys, small balls, or even plain cardboard boxes and paper bags. Clean and untreated twigs from non-poisonous trees are also suitable.
- Grooming accessories You will need a soft brush and nail clippers.
- Animal carrier This allows you to bring your pet to the veterinarian. It should be lined with something soft before letting your bunny in.
- Veterinarian contact details Choose a veterinarian based on the recommendations and feedback of your friends who have pets.
How to Rabbit-Proof a Room
Rabbit teeth are constantly growing, thus the need for them to constantly chew to keep the teeth from becoming too long. It is important you protect your furniture from chewing attempts and make your house rabbit-proof.
This means concealing cables or encasing them in protective tubing or cable wrap. If you have houseplants, take them out or placing them in a high place. You can opt to replace houseplants with those that are safe for rabbits jut in case they do get hold of them.
You should also lock away chemicals or cleaning products in a secure place. If there are cracks, gaps, and holes in your home, do seal them so your pet will not burrow into them.
You can cover walls with clear plastic panels to keep your bunny from chewing into the wallpaper. Cover wooden or upholstered furniture and skirting boards.
How to Handle Your Rabbit
When you pick him up, slide a hand under his body, particularly in between his front legs. Your other arm should go around his rear legs to support his weight. Let the bunny lean against your chest or torso, with his head in the direction of your arm.
Rabbits usually do not like to stay long in our arms. As such, try only do this to transfer him or show him to someone else momentarily. Do not pick him up by the ears or neck. When putting him down, do so gently and with his back legs touching the surface first.
Introducing Yourself and the Home to Your Rabbit
You must do your research about the rabbit’s breed and needs before bringing your new bunny home. Then let your bunny get familiar with his new home. Observe him as he explores his hutch. Whatever he does, avoid disturbing him as he is still adjusting to the new environment.
In the next few days, sit close to the rabbit’s crate regularly and since rabbits have sensitive hearing, try to speak to him quietly and calmly. When your rabbit is more comfortable with you, let him venture outside his crate on his own. See to it that all doors are closed in the room where your bunny is staying.
As soon as your bunny hops over to you, allow him to smell you. Offer him a little piece of food. If he is wary, be still and speak calmly and in a low voice. Avoid making fast or sudden movements as these will startle him. If he does not take the food, put it down and go back to what you were doing. Let him eat the food on his own time.
Once he consumes the first piece, offer another one. When he eats it from your hand, remain still and speak to him quietly. You can start petting him after he has consumed the food. If he lowers his head or stops moving, keep stroking. If he hops away or twitches, stop and get busy again. When he comes near again, repeat the careful petting. You can switch up the petting and the offering of food.
Keep repeating the process until he is more comfortable with you. If your rabbit butts you with his head, it means he wants you to pay attention to him. The bonding may take a couple of days.
Feeding and Grooming Your Bunny
Although rabbits can survive on hay alone, it is good to feed your pet a mix of veggies, pellets, and hay. It ensures that your furry buddy has the nutrients he needs. Feed your pet twice a day, although you can make hay available at all times. His water should be fresh, clean, and available at all times. The quantity and type of food to feed your bunny depend on his breed and age.
As rabbits are good at grooming themselves; only brush them when they are shedding. Nail clipping is usually done every couple of months.
Caring for Your Rabbit
Ensure that you clean your pet’s crate 1–2 times a week, and change the litter everyday. Keep checking on your rabbit daily for any changes in his behaviour and appearance. His teeth particularly need to be checked as dental issues are fairly common amongst bunnies. Your rabbit should get his vaccinations to prevent him from catching fatal diseases. Neutering is also recommended as it helps minimise behaviour issues.
As rabbits thrive on companionship, you may need to provide a friend for your bunny. See to it that new bunny is compatible with your rabbit.
Rabbits have their individual personalities. Some like to be petted whilst others do not.