There is nothing more fun than bringing a new pet home, and a pet rabbit is no exception. However, there are a lot of things that you need to learn about rabbits and keeping them before you bring one into your home.
Rabbits need a lot of time and attention, and it is important to ensure that whoever owns the rabbit will be able to give it everything it needs. You also need to think about the financial side of owning a rabbit, and make sure that you can afford everything it will need, including vet care.
Think Carefully First
Rabbits are a big commitment, and they can live for up to twelve years, which is a long time. Throughout those years, they will need cleaning out, feeding, playing with, talking to, and caring for. They may take up a lot of your time, especially when they are sick.
Do not get a rabbit for a child unless you are prepared to do the bulk of the care. Your kid might be extremely enthusiastic about owning a rabbit, but these animals need a lot of time, and even the most dedicated child can end up bored, distracted, or disengaged.
Rabbits are also unsuitable for young children, as they can be quite nervous and they don’t like to be handled too much. You should avoid picking your rabbit up – and this is something that kids will always be eager to do.
While rabbits are great pets when chosen with care, it is important to assess all their needs and your ability to meet them before you take on a bunny. You should also note that these animals prefer to be kept in pairs or larger groups, and a lone rabbit may be unhappy.
Housing Your Rabbit
One of the most important things to think about is your rabbit’s hutch, and where you will put it. If your bunnies are to be kept indoors, they will need a good amount of space to play in.
If they are going to be kept outdoors, they will still need plenty of space, but they will also need a good, warm, weatherproof hutch that does not get too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter.
Your rabbits’ hutch should be put somewhere that ensures your rabbits will get to socialize with you. It is better not to have it in your bedroom, as rabbits can be noisy, but it should be somewhere that you will see it every day.
Equally, you don’t want the hutch in the busiest room of the house. Your bunnies will not be happy if they have to deal with a lot of noise and chaos. They like some time to themselves. A living room can be a good spot.
The hutch itself should be bought from a pet store, because it needs to be safe for your rabbit to inhabit. Most hutches are made of wood, and many have an attached run that allows the rabbits to get out and play.
The housing also needs to have a dry, dark area that the rabbits can retreat to, and this should be filled with soft hay. The rabbits will go there to rest, and to hide from cold or wet weather.
You may be able to attach a playpen to your rabbits’ hutch if you want to give it more roaming space, but make sure that this is secure, especially if your rabbits are not in the house.
Making Your Home Safe
Another important step is making your home, or at least the room(s) that your rabbits are kept in safe. You may not be planning to let your rabbits roam freely, but rabbit-proofing is still important in case they escape.
Rabbits will chew and destroy all kinds of things, and you should remove anything precious from the room, especially if you are going to let the rabbits out. Items that they particularly enjoy chewing are:
- Wooden furnishings
Take away things that your rabbit might eat, especially if they could be harmful to the bunnies. If you can’t remove things like cables, install protective cases so that the rabbits cannot munch on them.
Getting Toys For The Rabbit
Next, you’ll need some toys for your rabbits. Rabbits need a lot of play, and they like to have plenty of enrichment activities in their pens. Make sure your rabbits aren’t getting bored, or they may become destructive or depressed.
There are many rabbit toys on the market, but a few ideas that they might enjoy include cardboard boxes, toilet tubes, and plain paper. They will enjoy shredding these up and climbing through the boxes.
Tunnels are another great option, and you can buy these commercially. They will usually be made of wicker or fabric. Rabbits love running through these, and will hop on top of them if they are stable enough. You can also cut holes into cardboard boxes to make hideaways for the bunnies.
Rabbits will enjoy toys that they can toss around too, such as wicker balls, untreated straw, and solid plastic balls. You should always check that your rabbits cannot bite through bits of the plastic and swallow them.
Another great option is to give them a box full of shredded paper, and hide some treats at the bottom. The rabbits will dig to find the treats, and this can keep them occupied for hours.
Don’t Expect Them To Follow Your Schedule
Before you get a pet rabbit, it’s important to think about your schedule and your bunnies’ schedule. Do not expect your rabbits to be awake and ready to play in the day just because you are. Bunnies are crepuscular.
This means that they are usually awake around dawn and dusk. They will often show some signs of activity during the day, too, but the earliest and latest hours of daylight are their most active periods.
Your rabbits will not wake up and want to play with you just because you are moving around – any more than you want to play with them at four in the morning.
Be aware of this and make sure you keep some time free in your schedule to play with them during the evening, when they are awake. They will enjoy your company, and playtime is one of the biggest reasons to keep rabbits, so make sure you have a bit of free time at an interval that suits their natural body clocks.
It’s important for rabbits to get a good amount of play, because they are very social creatures and they will love interacting with you.
Don’t try and wake your rabbits up in the day just because you want to play with them, however. They may get tetchy, just as a disturbed human might, and they are unlikely to want to play with you.
Learn About Their Food
Knowing what your rabbits should eat is another important element of keeping them happy and healthy. If you think rabbits will only eat carrots, you need to do a bit of research.
Rabbits need to get the majority of their food from either fresh grass or high quality hay. They do eat other things, but they should mostly be living on one or the other (or both) of these.
You can feed your rabbits some fresh vegetables, and these will be very good for the bunnies, but they are to be used as treats and supplements only. You will not be putting a big bowl of chopped vegetables in your bunnies’ cage every day.
There are all kinds of vegetables that rabbits can eat, but there are a few that they can’t. Some of the big “no” foods include:
- Iceberg lettuce
- Hamster food
- Peanut butter
There are many fruits and vegetables that your rabbits can safely consume, including things like broccoli, parsley, pineapple, carrot, and Brussels sprouts.
You should be feeding your rabbits on a variety of foods every week, rather than letting them eat the same thing time after time. This will ensure they get a good range of vitamins and minerals.
When introducing a food to your rabbit for the first time, you should only ever give it a very small quantity. Watch over the next few days to see how the rabbit does, and if it gets an upset stomach. If it does, do not feed it that kind of food again. If not, you can give it some more of that food.
Rabbits have quite sensitive digestive systems, so be careful and make sure that your rabbits do not get large quantities of anything that they cannot eat. You might find it helpful to pin up a chart of the “yes” and “no” foods to refer to from time to time.
Get A Litter Box
You may be surprised to learn that you can train your rabbits to use a litter box, rather than making a mess all over their hutches. This is great, because it means you will not need to clean them out as frequently, and they will be more comfortable in their hutches.
You should buy a plastic litter box, as this will be easy to clean, and it gives your bunny a clear spot to toilet in. You should put plenty of clean hay in the litter box, and then place the box in an area where your rabbit naturally seems to go when it needs the toilet.
You can then offer your rabbit treats when it successfully uses its toilet, encouraging it to do so more often. Keeping your rabbit in a small area with its litter tray may prompt it to use it, because it limits the other options.
It may also help to add a few of their droppings to the tray. Although they do like the tray to be reasonably clean, they will associate their droppings with toileting, and they are therefore more likely to use the tray for its intended purpose.
You should keep the litter tray nice and clean for your rabbit once it is an established place for it to go. You may want to clean it as often as every day, especially if you have several bunnies.
That might sound like a chore, but it’s better than cleaning the whole hutch out every few days. Rabbits are clean animals, and like their homes to be fresh.
One very important aspect of getting a pet rabbit is the financial one. You need to look at costs – both upfront and ongoing. The upfront costs usually include:
- The rabbits
- The hutch/pen
- A water bottle
- A hay rack
- A litter tray
- A carry case
There may be other upfront costs, but these are the major ones. You will also need money for vaccinations.
Ongoing costs will usually just be food, toys, and your rabbits’ annual health checks. However, you also need to think about unexpected bills, such as if one of your rabbits is sick.
You should be aware that rabbits need quite specialized medical care, and not all vets will treat them. The vets that do may charge higher fees, so get some actual prices for your budget sheet.
If you plan to take out insurance to cover health costs, you should add this to your calculations and ensure that you have budgeted for it.
Make sure that you have extra money available in case of unexpected costs, and you will then know whether you can afford a rabbit.
There are a lot of things to think about when you want to get a pet rabbit. Housing, medical care, ongoing costs, and toys are all important factors. You also need to make sure that you can commit the level of care that a rabbit needs, because your bunnies will want your love and companionship, as well as all the physical things that they need.
Don’t take on a rabbit unless you have done your research, and always consider rehoming one from a shelter before you buy one from a breeder.