Caring for Your Pet Rabbit
Should I Own a Rabbit?
Rabbits are lovely animals. They are inquisitive, interesting, and obviously, very cute! They are social animals and enjoy living in company, so it is usually advisable to have a pair; just make sure they are both neutered if you don't want lots of baby rabbits! They are notorious for breeding, and it's not fair to have loads more brought into the world if you don't know what you would do with them, so avoid this if possible!
Rabbits tend to live 8-12 years too, so make sure you're committed to this amount of time because they will become part of the family!
If you have the time and effort to give your rabbit the best life, please continue below for my handy advice and tips that I've learned over the years of owning a rabbit myself.
First Things First: Choosing the Hutch
Before bringing your new additions home, you need to make sure you have somewhere suitable and comfortable for them to live.
Wooden hutches from reputable pet stores/garden centres are your best bet. They are made from durable wood, that won't be damaged in bad weather, and will keep your rabbits safe.
Make sure it is big enough for both the animals, and also big enough for when they grow. If not, please be aware you will need to purchase a larger hutch as they grow. Rabbits need enough space typically, so that they can stretch up on their hind legs easily, and also do at least two hops in a row. Any smaller, and they won't be able to move comfortably enough.
There are also other items that you will need to provide the best home for your new pets:
- A water bottle
- A food dish
- Newspaper and sawdust for the base of the hutch
- Hay for their bedding, and for them to eat
- Toys, wooden tubes, or salt blocks
Rabbits are fun animals, and will like to have things to occupy them whilst they are in their hutch. It is a good idea to get some wooden/cardboard tubes for them to play in. Your bunny will thank you for it!
Getting Set Up
To set up the hutch, I advise laying newspaper throughout the bottom. This helps to soak up any urine, and stops the wood getting as wet, which helps it last longer.
The next step would be putting down a thick layer of sawdust. This helps to provide and dry and comfortable environment for your furry friends. Rabbits will dig and flick this about, but it just means they are happy! Rabbits usually choose a corner as their bathroom, which makes it easier. And don't be alarmed, rabbits do eat their own droppings! They do it to get as many nutrients from their food as possible, and this is healthy for them.
After you have a good layer of sawdust, you then need to make up the bedding area. Use a good quality hay, and fill their bedding area. I usually fill this area three-quarters of the way up, especially when they are babies, to make sure they are warm enough. Rabbits eat a lot of hay, in fact it is the staple of their diet, so always make sure there is plenty available.
Next you need to provide food and water. You can give dishes for both, or use a dish for the food, and a bottle for the water. It depends on what your rabbits are used to, and what you would prefer. I've always used a bottle, as it stop them getting in the dish of water and making a soggy mess of sawdust!
Once you are happy with the set up, you can move your little ones in. Give them plenty of time to get accustomed to their new surroundings. If they came with some hay in their box from where you purchased them from, add this into their bedding, as this makes them feel more at home.
Staving off Boredom
Like I mentioned previously, rabbits are fun animals, and will get bored if they aren't given enough to interest them.
Signs that a rabbit is bored include gnawing the hutch's bars, over-grooming, hiding and a reluctance to move. There are many other signs to watch out for. If your rabbit is behaving differently, than what is normal, then make sure you investigate and make sure you are meeting your bunny's needs.
I would advise getting an outdoor run when you purchase your new family members. Rabbits need and love exercise, and getting to go outside on the grass is the perfect way for them to get rid of excess energy, and stretch their legs. I make sure to put them out in the run as much as possible, every day if the weather is suitable. I include fun things within the run; boxes, tunnels, treats, and their normal items such as their food dish and water bottle. I make sure to put some of the bedding hay in with them, in one of the boxes, so they have got somewhere comforting to hide in should they want to.
You will notice rabbits love being outside! They will run about, hop, skip and jump, and do twists in the air. These are signs that they are enjoying themselves, and they are happy! You will also spot they munch the grass pretty quickly, so you may need to move the hutch around the garden!
If you have rabbits with long, fluffy fur, then it is a good idea to groom them once a week. This helps stop their fur from matting and leaving them uncomfortable, and it is also a good bonding moment between you and your bunnies! It helps them feel safe around you.
You can use a soft brush, something like a nail brush for babies would be a good choice, as you won't pull or scratch them. I sometimes use a thin toothed comb to get out any tangles, but do so very carefully. They will not thank you if you are rough with them!
Everyone loves a treat don't they? And rabbits are no exception! There are many things you can give your rabbits that will love you for. Always be careful that you are giving them the correct thing, and if you aren't sure, don't do it!
Foods rabbits can eat that you would have in your kitchen/garden:
- Dandelion leaves
- Cabbage - dark green varieties
Please see the Rabbit Welfare website for a full extensive list of what foods are safe for your bunnies to eat, and other helpful information on caring for your pet rabbits.
Simple Enough, Right?
So, now you have an idea of what it takes to own a rabbit!
They really are wonderful animals, and will provide you with hours of joy. They are friendly and happy, as long as they are cared for properly.
Make sure they have a clean home, taking the time to clean it out at least once a week, give them a supply of fresh hay, and make sure they have their water changed daily, and give them fun things to do; no-one wants to be stuck in a cage all day!
And enjoy your lovely new furry family members!