Rabbit Care 101
By, Dr. Angela Damant, B. Sc., D. V. M.
if you are considering getting a rabbit this Easter, make sure to educate yourself as thoroughly as possible about rabbit care by talking to rabbit-savvy veterinarians and bunny owners, and by reading as much current information about rabbits as you can before bringing one into your home. Rabbits are a big responsibility and a long-term commitment and unfortunately, we see a lot of unwanted bunnies after the Easter weekend.
There is no doubt that bunnies are adorable and that rabbits can be super pets when taken care of properly. Before you get a rabbit, there are a few very important facts you need to know:
1. Bunnies are vegetarian.
They need to eat a lot of timothy hay, a little bit of pelleted rabbit food, and a small amount of fresh vegetables every day. Feeding them isn’t as simple as opening a can of food into a bowl, as you would for a cat or dog.
2. Bunnies need to be well-socialized.
People want to hold and cuddle rabbits like they would a cat or dog, yet what they don’t realize is that rabbits are prey species so are very skittish. With daily handling, positively reinforced with food rewards, rabbits can get very used to being held, and many pet bunnies come to enjoy it. The key is to take it slow and do it often! Keep in mind that rabbits have strong back legs and, if they kick while they are being held, they can break their backs so you must always support their hind legs.
3. Bunnies poop a lot.
Rabbits don’t eat large meals but instead graze for the entire day. Since they are always eating, they are also always pooping. Making sure that bunnies are on a wipeable surface when they are out is important to prevent carpets and furniture from becoming soiled. A rabbit’s cage bedding should be paper based, not wood shavings or corn cob which they can try to eat and become blocked. Also, the bedding must be spot-scooped daily and fully replaced at a minimum weekly. Bunnies can be litter trained but this takes time and patience.
4. Bunnies need preventative medical care.
Just like other pets, rabbits need regular medical attention. This means a trip to the vet after you get your new bunny to ensure that they are healthy and that you are doing all the right things to keep them content. It also means annual check ups. Rabbits may need their nails cut or their teeth filed. They may also need their fur brushed.
5. Bunnies are not good pets for very young children.
Rabbits are easily stressed and young children move quickly and can be loud so bunnies and little children generally don’t mix. Very active kids may scare rabbits, causing them to jump and injure themselves.
6. Bunnies kept as pets are not the same as wild bunnies.
Domesticated rabbits are not the same species as the hares that live in your yard. Pet rabbits do not know how to protect themselves from predators or how to find food and will likely die if left outside on their own. Too many people don’t realize this and simply release pet bunnies (especially after Easter) back into “nature”. Unwanted rabbits should always be rehomed or donated to shelters.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.