Top 10 Things a New Rabbit Owner Should Know
Rabbits are soft, quiet, loving pets. If you have never shared your home with a rabbit before, there are some things you need to know. Handling. As ground-loving creatures, rabbits are not fond of being held or carried as adults. They are not good pets for small children. They are most active at dawn and dusk, and need their quiet sleep time during the day.
Housing. House your bunny in a cage at least six times the size of him as an adult (no fish tanks or cages too small where he cannot sit up and groom comfortably - 3 feet by 2 feet by 18 inches high is adequate). Make sure the cage has something soft to get your bunny's feet off the wire. Sea grass mats sold at places like Cost Plus make excellent mats for a bunny, as well as newspaper, straw, etc. Provide a large litter box inside the cage with recycled paper litter such as Carefresh, Cat Country, etc.
Supervision. You MUST supervise your bunny's outings, or he will chew through all electrical wires, which can be deadly! Get the plastic wire covers (called flex split tubing), at a hardware store, and cover all wires and computer cords.
Feeding. Your rabbit needs fresh unlimited hay all day; timothy and oat hay are excellent and loved by all. For rabbits under 8 months of age, you can add some alfalfa hay. Get the hay fresh from a feed store for horses, or from www.oxbowhay.com. Feed plain rabbit pellets, not those with seeds or nuts. Safe greens are carrot tops, parsley, small carrots, cilantro, etc. Provide fresh water at all times.
Safety Issues. Block off access under beds and couches. Your bunny could get trapped under there or get into mischief. Put sea grass mats over carpeting to prevent your rabbit from eating the carpet, resulting in illness.
Veterinarians. Have the names of several rabbit-savvy veterinarians by your phone. Rabbits can succumb to illness quickly. Any signs of loss of appetite, straining during urination, pain, diarrhea or nasal discharge should prompt you to get to a rabbit veterinarian immediately.
Indoor Life. House your bunny indoors for ultimate safety. Many rabbits escape out of backyards, are stolen, or are killed by predators, even in their own cages. Illnesses often go unnoticed in outdoor rabbits until it is too late.
Environment. Be aware of temperature changes. When temperatures get over 80 degrees Fahrenheit, outdoor rabbits and rabbits in homes without air conditioning need extra help. Have someone put on the fans, stop home to check on your bunny during the day, provide frozen water bottles in the cage and make sure he is in the coolest part of your home.
Spaying/Neutering. Rabbits can live 10+ years IF they are spayed and neutered after about 4 months of age. Unspayed females have a high incidence of uterine cancer. Altering your rabbits will settle both males and females down and improve their health dramatically. It will also prevent contributing to pet overpopulation, saving many bunnies from certain death at the shelters.
Learn all you can about rabbits first. Be prepared! Make sure this is the RIGHT pet for you and your home.