Getting first pet rabbit

Preparing for Your First House Rabbit

Getting a rabbit is an exciting experience for adults and kids alike, but there are some major factors that you need to think about before you do this to make sure your new pet will be happy and comfortable in your home. Keeping a rabbit indoors presents some challenges that you will need to overcome.

You will need to think about your rabbit’s enclosure, companionship, feeding routine, safety, and comfort. All of these things should be considered in advance. You should also make sure an adult will be caring for the rabbit, even if it officially belongs to a child.

Create A Budget

Price is probably the most boring thing to think about before you get a rabbit, but it is very important to cover this. You do need to think about both the upfront costs of your rabbit, and costs that will be ongoing, such as food.

You must organize a comfortable hutch and enclosure first, as well as feeders and drinkers, and hay for your bunny. You must also think about how much money you can afford to spend on your rabbit each month for food and toys, and how you are going to deal with big costs, such as vet bills.

Many people do not realize how expensive keeping a rabbit can be. The rabbits themselves can be as little as $40 for one, and this means some people assume that they will be cheap pets. In actual fact, they can be pretty pricey!

You will need to buy a hutch, which can cost up to $200. You will also need to buy bedding and toys and food, which will often cost around $40, depending on what you buy and where you purchase it from.

You will also have to think about vet fees, which can be steep. You may have to find a specialist vet to see your rabbit, which is often expensive. Getting your rabbit neutered/spayed can cost as much as $250 in some cases.

A normal checkup at a vet’s is usually around $30-$70, but it does vary greatly between vets, so look into local costs before getting a rabbit. If you plan to insure your bunny, get prices for this too.

You may also need to pay to get your bunny groomed occasionally, and you might have to pay to board it if you are away on vacation or for work. 

Add on other potential expenses like damage that the rabbit may do to your home, and any safety costs associated with rabbit-proofing the house, such as cable protectors.

Rabbits can live for up to ten years, so do not take this lightly. If you spend $40 per month on your rabbit (ignoring upfront costs), it could cost you $480 per year, and almost $5000 in its lifetime. This only includes food and toys – not upfront costs or vet care.

Altogether, it is probably reasonable to estimate that you will spend up to $10,000 or even more on a rabbit if it lives to a good age. It is better to have extra money budgeted in case of unexpected expenses like vet fees than to find you cannot pay for your bunny’s care.

If you plan to get more than one rabbit, remember to increase these numbers accordingly. Bunnies like to have companions, so consider having at least two.

You can learn more about the cost of a rabbit by reading our How Much Does a Pet Rabbit Cost article.

Make A Checklist

Before you get your rabbit, you should print out a checklist of all the things that you will need for it. Use the below ideas to create one:

  • A safe, weatherproof hutch with a dark corner to retreat to, and plenty of clean hay
  • A play area that the bunny cannot jump out of, but can exercise and explore in
  • Food bowls, a hay rack, and water bowls
  • A litter box to make cleanup fast and easy, plus litter
  • Toys for your rabbit, and cardboard boxes for it to hide in
  • Nail clippers suitable for a rabbit
  • A comb
  • Protective covers for wires/baseboards
  • A playpen/enclosure, plus a rabbit-safe room beyond in case of escapes
  • A carry case for any vet visits
Pet rabbit in a cage

Create An Enclosure

You will need to contain your rabbit in an enclosure within one of the rooms of your house. We will talk about which room might be suitable in the next section. 

Some people do let their rabbits have an entire room to roam in, but you’ll need to think about how to stop it from getting out of the door, or being bumped by someone coming into the room.

A playpen is often a better solution. Rabbits need a lot of space, and their enclosure should be at least four times their full body length. A larger enclosure is always better, so if you can dedicate a whole room, your bunny will be very happy.

An enclosure should have a litter box, a food/drink area, and a safe hiding spot in it. You can use any sort of box for the hiding spot, but you should make sure it is safe for your rabbit to use. If it is plastic, ensure the rabbit can’t chew bits off.

Cardboard boxes are popular. They will need replacing from time to time, but this gives your rabbit variety and enrichment. A wooden box is another good alternative.

Tunnels will also make your rabbit happy and ensure that its space is interesting. Add more cardboard boxes and toys to keep it entertained.

The enclosure’s sides must be at least three feet tall if you have a large rabbit. The smaller breeds may only need two feet, but you must be absolutely sure that your bunny can’t get out, especially if you aren’t able to rabbit-proof the rest of the room.

The enclosure you use for your rabbit should be sturdy and secure, with no gaps for the rabbit to squeeze through. You can choose from the various pet enclosures, or even use a child’s playpen. Just make sure that the rabbit does have enough room and cannot gnaw its way through the walls.

Create A Space

Next, you need to prepare a space for your rabbit that is safe and comfortable. Rabbits are sociable creatures and they like to be around people, but they also like peace and quiet, so you must think carefully about where to put your rabbit.

If you have a reasonably quiet living room, consider putting your rabbit there. Alternatively, a study or office may be a good place. Kitchens are often too noisy. Bedrooms aren’t ideal, as rabbits are crepuscular and are often awake at dawn, so they may disturb the humans sleeping in there.

Once you have settled on a room, get down onto your hands and knees, and view the room from “bunny level.” What do you see that looks like it might be interesting to nibble on? Rabbits love to chew!

Your rabbit may eat loose bits of fabric (so any frayed carpet edges), wood, cables, toys, electronics, shoes, paper, etc. It is particularly important to remove or use cable guards over any live cables in the room, as these could hurt your bunny if it chews them.

Put anything precious out of the room. Rabbits can be surprisingly destructive, and it is up to you to prevent this, as they won’t understand that they are doing damage to things. Paperwork and books are common targets, so these should be kept elsewhere.

You may want to think about laying some protective matting to keep any accidents off your flooring. Rabbits can be toilet trained, but it is still a good idea to cover the area that they will be kept in, or at least the area around the litter box, to prevent damage to the floor.

Make sure that the edges of the mat are firmly sealed down or protected in some other way to prevent your bunny from eating them.

You may also want to buy some covers for your baseboards, as rabbits are keen chewers and may well damage the edges of these if left to their own devices. Anything chewable needs to be covered up or removed if you want to protect it from being nibbled!

Establish Rules For Rabbit-Handling

This is important if you have children or family members who are not familiar with rabbits. Rabbits are nervous animals and do not particularly like to be picked up. They do not like loud noises, either.

The rabbit’s room should therefore be treated with respect, and young children should only interact with the bunny if they have some supervision. They might be able to help look after the rabbit by feeding it, cleaning it out, and stroking it, but they should not be allowed to carry it.

Older children may be able to hold a rabbit safely, but even this should be minimized as your rabbit will not usually enjoy it.

It is also important to note that rabbits often sleep during the day. They are most active at dawn and at dusk, and you should respect this, because this is just their natural pattern. Waking your rabbit up in the middle of the day is not very fair, and it may not want to play. 

Make sure all family members understand this.

As long as rabbits are treated with respect and love, they will usually make excellent pets. You should minimize their stress by not making loud noises or sudden movements near them

Think About Food

If several family members want to be involved with feeding the rabbit, it is a good idea to create a checklist and a rota so that the rabbit does not get fed too often, or underfed. Work out who will feed the rabbit on which days, and what treats it can have.

Your rabbit needs to get the bulk of its diet as hay if it is kept in the home. It can have grass too, so feel free to pull up handfuls for it, or to put its enclosure in the garden. Wild rabbits eat a lot of fresh grass, and not much else!

Eighty percent of a rabbit’s diet should be grass or hay, and it’s important that all household members recognize this. Getting too many treats will make your bunny fat, sick, and vulnerable to health problems.

Print out a menu of healthy foods that your rabbit can have, and work out the quantities that are right for it. It needs a handful of washed leafy greens every day, approximately the size of its head, and it can also have some treats.

Chopped carrots, a little broccoli, sticks of celery, dandelion leaves, parsley, and other fresh vegetables are good in small quantities. They must not be given in large amounts. 

It may help if family members check off the foods that they have given to the rabbit each day so the rabbit doesn’t get extras from different people.

Prepare For Settling Your Rabbit In

Before you get your rabbit, take some time to read up on how to settle a rabbit into a home. You want a quiet, peaceful environment for it, especially in the early days. You should not introduce it to lots of people all at once, or to any other household pets. It needs time to settle into its surroundings.

It can take up to six months for a rabbit to feel truly comfortable in a new home, but usually it will start to relax after a couple of weeks. 

You should get some used litter or bedding from its previous home and put this in the pen, and ensure that your bunny has about a day to acclimatize to its surroundings before you expose it to people or sounds. A little gentle music should be okay, however.

Conclusion

It’s really important to be thoroughly prepared before adding a rabbit to your family. Think about the challenges that you need to overcome, check your finances, and dedicate a space to your new pet. 

Rabbits should never be adopted on a whim; they are a big commitment and take a lot of love and dedication!

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