Whether you have a rabbit or intend to buy or adopt one, there are a few steps you can take to keep your it happy and healthy.
As with any pet, it’s important that you have your new bunny’s home and supplies ready when before it arrives at your home and that you know how to care for the rabbit. The following 4 steps highlight some areas in rabbit care.
Preparing the Space
You should have a hutch that is at least 4 feet long, 2 feet wide and 2 feet deep so your rabbit has plenty of room to move around. If you get a pair of rabbits, you’ll need more room. If the hutch is made of wire, make sure there are plenty of areas where your pet can rest its feet.
If the rabbit hutch is outside, you may have to make weather provisions depending on your climate — or consider bringing the rabbit inside when outdoor conditions are not favorable.
If you plan to litter train your rabbit (which is simple enough), place a litter pan in the cage with some organic litter material, such as wood pulp or paper, in the bottom of it. Also place another box in the hutch that is large enough for your bunny to sit in.
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You’ll also need to place food and water in the hutch. The main staple of the diet will be timothy hay. Your rabbit will consume a lot of hay daily; it’s vital for digestive health. When rabbits become adults, they will be able to eat some alfalfa hay on occasion, but young bunnies need to stick with timothy hay.
You will also want to have vegetables available. Dark, leafy green vegetables, including collards or dandelion greens and some lettuces, are best. Steer clear of iceberg lettuce and make diet changes gradually. Young bunnies shouldn’t get fresh vegetables until they are more than 3 months old and then started with only very small doses. Despite what you may have seen on TV, bunnies should eat carrots only as an occasional treat because they are high in starch and sugar.
Rabbits also enjoy apples, berries and melons as occasional treats. If you feed pellets, buy those that are made primarily from timothy hay, as other types of pellets often contain far too many calories than is healthy. Pellets shouldn’t be given in place of hay or vegetables.
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You need to have fresh water in the hutch daily. You can use a tip-proof bowl or a sipper bottle, which you can buy in pet supply stores. If you get a sipper bottle, and your bunny hasn’t used one before, keep an eye out to make sure your pet is using it. Change the water daily.
Proof Your Home
Because rabbits love to chew, you need to make sure that any areas of access are free from electrical cords, cleaning products and any other chemicals that your bunny could have access to by chewing through a container. Put chewable items in the hutch and other areas accessed so that the rabbit can chew. This is essential for reducing the length of your rabbit’s teeth. You can also manually trim the teeth for your rabbit.
Wood items are good for chewing on, but they must be made from untreated wood. Cardboard, such as from an empty roll of paper towels, also provides something to safely chew on.
Don’t Forget Play and Exercise
Rabbits are quite social, and it will be up to you to provide play and entertainment. Letting your rabbit out of the hutch to roam around and interact with you is important. You will find that your bunny has favorite spots to be scratched and petted, but most like to have the tops of their heads touched. Petting your rabbit also helps to remove loose hair that can form hairballs when your rabbit self-grooms if the hair isn’t removed.
Unlike cats, rabbits can’t cough up the balls of hair that form. You should also take your rabbit outside on occasion for some time in the fresh grass. An outdoor hutch will provide access to fresh air and ground for digging. Make sure your rabbit is kept away from areas that other animals can access, in order to ward off parasites or prevent injuries. Also, make sure the grass hasn’t been treated with pesticides.
With these simple steps, your pet rabbit can be happy and healthy.
If you are interested in having a rabbit as a pet, consider adopting one from Petfinder or The House Rabbit Society.
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