Caring for Rabbits
Rabbits make great pets and can easily become a valued member of the family if you allow them to.
To give your rabbit the opportunity to have the best life possible follow these simple steps!
In the wild rabbits live in large family groups, so it is only fair to give your new rabbit a friend.
A pair of the same sex will usually be territorial or aggressive partly due to hormones produced, which would be of great use in a wild rabbit but quite unnecessary in our family pet.
The best pair is a male and female BUT they will need to be desexed first!
Desexing Your Bunnies
There are so many benefits and reasons to desex a rabbit
When a male or female rabbit is caged it may become defensive and try to bite whoever tries to ‘conquer’ its territory including YOU! This territorial nature comes partly from hormones which desexing can help to diminish.
Do you want two rabbits to turn into 50? No, well desexing rabbits will prevent unwanted young.
Desexing a female rabbit can almost completely eliminate the risk of reproductive cancer.
Desexed rabbits are calmer, more loving and dependable once their urge to mate is removed. It can help to prevent rabbits from chewing, digging, bitting, growling, urine marking, as well as being easier to handle and more reliably trained.
Did You Know? – Rabbits do not need to live in a cage or hutch but can roam the house much like a typical cat or dog.
You may be surprised to know rabbits can be house trained much like cats! This will allow you to spend more time with you new pet and give them the attention and love they deserve PLUS the freedom from a cage or hutch giving them the satisfaction of being able to roam and explore like wild rabbits do.
Helpful Tips: The litter tray should be away from food and water bowls and in a quiet corner. Your rabbit may choose this corner for you and you are advised to agree. An argument over the location will only end it soiled and stained floors, and mostly an agitated and unhappy rabbit. Rabbits tend to like to toilet in the same spot so the smell or their urine or faeces should tempt them to use the litter tray.
Training takes time so don’t rush or punish your rabbit
You will need to protect electrical cords from chewing. These can be enclosed in flexible electrical conduit (available from electrical suppliers) or hidden behind furniture. Furniture legs often need protection. The attached photo shows ‘Ag pipe’, an irrigation pipe easily bought from hardware stores.
Avoid access to glossy magazines. These have chemicals in the ink which are toxic to rabbits.
Rabbits being prey animals need to have places to hide and feel safe from predators. Even if your rabbit is not at threat it is only in their nature to feel exposed in the open, this can be highly stressful for them.
Some simple inexpensive way to give you rabbit the safety they need are:
- PVC pipes
- Cardboard boxes
- Rabbit hutches
- Hay bedding
- Bushes or Shrubs
- Igloo beds
- Plastic tub upside down with a hole cut out
Make sure your rabbit always has many places they can go to feel safe.
Get creative and treat you rabbit with new hiding places at least once a week!
Digging To China
Rabbits love to burrow and dig, obviously we do not want them ruining our gardens or escaping from the yard or their pen.
In order to give you rabbit the opportunity to dig, provide them with a dirt mound.
If having a big pile of dirt in your backyard is not appealing to you, simply put it in a sandpit box or a clamshell (Children’s plastic shell swimming pool). This will not only help to satisfy your rabbits urge to dig, but can help save your garden.
*To prevent you rabbit from digging out of its pen, place chicken wire along the floor and cover with dirt.
The Grass Is Greener
In the wild rabbits spend a lot of their day grazing and foraging for food. So when we as owners give them all the food they need for a day, they have a lot of free time!
A way to excite your new rabbit at feeding time is to allow them to graze on your lawn. Not only will it give them some pleasure, you wont be needing to get the lawnmower out as often!
Using a portable rabbit play-pen (a pre made one or one you make up just using some chicken wire) will allow them to be safely enclosed and enjoy nibbling some grass. If your grass is watered and fertilised, too much can cause diarrhoea.
Hiding your rabbits favourite treats amongst their daily serve of meadow or oaten hay will encourage them to look for food and can occupy some of their time.
Rabbits like routine and will begin to get excited at the different treat times so every morning and evening give them a different treat.
E.g. a teaspoon of chopped up mixed fruit hidden in their daily serve of hay.
Treats For Rabbits
Some other great treats to excite and entertain you bunny can include:
- Apple (without poisonous seeds)
- Cut up fresh fruit or vegetables
- Fruit tree cuttings
(With all treats very small amount should be given daily as they can be fattening)
Great ways to give these treats to occupy your rabbit’s time can include:
- Putting them inside a hay-filled toilet roll
- Using slow release treat boxes (a simple plastic container with a hole in it)
- Dangling treats off untreated twine so the rabbits have to reach up to get it
- Threading a toilet roll on a string and putting it vertically across the top of the enclosure then filling it with hay and some hidden treats, so the hay must be pulled out or eaten for the treats to be reached
- Placing treats on an untreated and blunt wood skewer so the treats need to be chewed off
*Do not over-feed you rabbits, keep treats as treats otherwise they will lose their value
*Keep certain treats for certain days and only give each treat once a week so your bunny will never get bored!
Non-food related treats for rabbits could be absolutely anything!
You can buy toys at many pet stores but there are easy, cheap Do-It-Yourself alternatives.
- Putting a bell inside a tin can for pushing around to make a fun exciting noise.
- Wrapping a bouncy ball in untreated twine for chewing and pawing.
- Hanging bells or small wooden blocks from twine to move around pull at and chew.
- Cardboard boxes for chewing filled with shredded paper plain paper or dried edible plant leaves (make sure they aren’t poisonous for your bunny!) for digging.
- Pine cones for chewing.
- Small natural fibre bags filled with herbs and sweet smelling grass.
- Thistles pulled from you garden for chewing and investigating new smells (ensure you know they have not been sprayed).
- Getting different types of hard and soft untreated woods attached to untreated natural fibre rope for chewing and flinging around. Oak (Quercus spp.) and white cedar (Melia azedarach) are poisonous.
- Paper towel or toilet tubes with a bit of paper towel still attached for chewing.
- Paper bags for shredding, chewing and moving around.
- Metal lids for pushing around to make fun noise.
- A tissue box with the plastic removed filled with hay to get out and eat.
- Untreated straw or wicker baskets that can be chewed or filled with straw for digging.
- Phone books for shredding (without any plastic on or inside).
- Certain cat toys, which cannot have any parts chewed off or removed.
- Certain baby toys that are hard plastic and can not be broken into small bits (e.g. blocks, cups, plastic keys).
- Towels for moving around, hiding under and tossing around.
- Balls that they can push around.
- Cardboard tubes or plastic tubes they can run through (make a activity yard with things to go through and jump on).
MONTHLY – each month make new and different toys
Use your imagination and get creative
*Toys are fun and exciting for rabbits BUT NOT if they are left with them all the time
* Supervise your rabbit with new toys be sure they are safe and can not harm them