How to Properly Care for Rabbits
By Rita Haney
Copy edited by Kristin Johnson
Adopting a pet rabbit has many benefits: they’re great companions, generally quiet company, and they’re adorable, too! However, a common mistake is to assume that rabbits are easy-to-care-for starter pets. This isn’t necessarily the case! They often require more knowledge and effort to maintain than you’d expect. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t adopt one, it just means you need to make sure you have the right information to care for them. Don’t worry, we’ve got you! Read on for the do’s and don’ts of properly caring for a rabbit in your home.
When feeding your rabbit…
Do: Make sure grass hay is always available to your rabbit.. Grass hay will provide them with their daily dose of vitamins, minerals, and proteins while making them feel full and allowing for proper digestion. Acceptable examples of grass hay include (but are not limited to) timothy hay, meadow, oat, rye, barley and Bermuda grasses.
Don’t: Feed your rabbit legume hay such as alfalfa and clover. Legume hay is high in calories, calcium, and protein. Eating too much of it can cause your rabbit to develop obesity and digestion issues.
Do: Nourish your rabbit with green foods. Vegetables such as romaine lettuce, carrot tops, cilantro, basil, beet greens, broccoli greens, and cilantro are great supplements to your rabbit’s diet for proper nutrition.
Don’t: Overfeed your rabbit with commercial pellets. Although pellets are part of their diet, relying too heavily on pellets as a main source of intake can cause obesity and soft stool due to their low fiber and high carbohydrates.
When spending time with your rabbit…
Do: Allow your rabbit to have the occasional treat. They deserve it! Just remember to be mindful of sugar and starch content. Fruits such as bananas, blueberries, blackberries, apples, pears, and pineapples make good treats in small proportions.
Don’t: Handle your rabbit too roughly. Because of their fragile backbone, it’s crucial to support their hind end at all times.
When looking after your rabbit’s health….
Do: Have your female rabbit spayed when she is 4-6 months of age. Unspayed rabbits are at great risk for uterine cancer and other avoidable diseases.
Don’t: Let too much time pass between grooming sessions. Although rabbits are naturally clean animals and groom themselves regularly, it’s important to brush your rabbit on a consistent basis to avoid digestive issues.
Do: Pay attention to their regular behavior. Small changes in your rabbit’s eating and bathroom routine can be helpful insight into health issues.
Don’t: Skip regular vet check-ups. Vets recommend rabbit exams be completed at least once a year. If your rabbit is over five years old, it may a good idea to go twice a year.
When creating your rabbit’s space…
Do: Provide your rabbit with plenty of space to hop around. Even though they are small pets, they need space! Rabbits thrive when they have a playpen or large cage with enough room for their litter box, toys, food, water, and plenty of lounging space.
Don’t: Leave your wires and cords out in the open. Rabbits are known to get themselves into trouble with these items and are likely to chew them up.
Do: Stimulate your rabbit’s mental and physical well-being by giving them plenty of toys. Rabbits are always up for a challenge, and there are many toys designed to stump them! They tend to love crawling into or scratching and chewing paper bags and cardboard boxes. Small balls or cat toys work, too!
Don’t: Choose a spot where your rabbit may feel lonely. Rabbits are social creatures by nature and like to be around people and, if introduced properly, other animals.
Rabbits can be amazing and fulfilling pets, but if you aren’t familiar with caring for a rabbit, adopting your first one may feel overwhelming. Rest assured that if you take the time to learn how to care for them properly, you will be well-equipped to give them a long and healthy life! You can see all of Ruff Start’s available adoptable animals at ruffstartrescue.org.