Rabbits are known for their soft fur and sweet nature two traits that make them ideal as pets for children (who may be more inclined to take care of a cute little bunnies than a big one), adults who enjoy cuddling, and anyone who likes to have a furry companion around.
They’re also super-cute, so there’s no doubt you’ll want some in your life. Here’s everything you need to know about caring for rabbits. Check out the next page for our list of 10 things every rabbit owner should know.
Check Your State Laws
Just because you’ve gone through all the work of finding a breed that suits your lifestyle doesn’t mean you can just bring it home without any further ado. You still need to check local laws before bringing your new pet into your family.
In most places, rabbits must be kept in cages unless they are allowed outside by a vet. Some states require special licenses for owning rabbits, while others simply regulate where you can keep them. If you don’t know what state you live in, call your veterinarian or search online for your area’s regulations.
Get the Right Accessories
Your rabbit needs accessories like a cage, bedding, food container, water bottle, toys, an assortment of carriers, blankets, and other supplies. These items help maintain your rabbit’s health, provide comfort, and let it interact with its surroundings.
A good breeder will give you a complete set if you buy from them, though many people buy certain pieces themselves when needed. The right supplies vary according to the species’ size, temperament, and needs, so ask friends who own rabbits for recommendations on which type of supplies to purchase.
Choose a Suitable Home
You probably won’t want to put your new bunny in a spare room — that’s not a great idea, since rabbits prefer being near people. Instead, try choosing a location that is quiet, has plenty of light, and maintains a constant temperature. Rabbits thrive best in temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (about 18.3 to 26.7 degrees Celsius).
They also need lots of fresh air and exercise. So, consider keeping them in a kitchen, laundry room, bathroom, screened-in porch, enclosed space, or similar location that meets those requirements. If your rabbit is going to spend much time outdoors, you might even get away with setting up an indoor pen instead.
Socialize Them Properly
When you first bring your rabbit home, you should introduce her to members of your household, including kids and dogs. This makes your rabbit more comfortable and lets her know she’s part of your family. It also helps her adjust to living indoors. After this period ends, however, you shouldn’t socialize your rabbit too often until she gets used to you.
Doing so could cause separation anxiety or fearfulness. Experts recommend spending only short periods of time together after this point, then gradually increasing the length of visits over time. Make sure everyone involved — especially the rabbit feels safe during visits.
Feed and Water Them Correctly
It’s important to feed and water your rabbit properly. Overfeeding can lead to obesity, while underfeeding can deprive your animal of nutrients. To avoid either outcome, use feeding and watering schedules based on your rabbit’s age, weight, and activity level.
For example, small rabbits should eat only 1/4 cup per day, medium ones 3/8 cups, large ones 1/2 cups, and extra-large ones 1 cup. Always check your rabbit’s droppings for signs of dehydration, malnutrition, parasites, or digestive problems. Then clean his drinking bowl thoroughly.
Give Them Time to Adjust
Don’t rush your rabbit’s acclimation to her new environment. She’ll need several days to become familiar with her surroundings and meet her fellow residents. During this time, watch her closely and pay attention to her behavior. Does she seem nervous? Is she eating less than usual?
Does she sleep longer or more during the night? If so, take note of what happened to make her feel uncomfortable. Try taking her outside and letting her explore her new digs, or start playing with her toys. Soon, your rabbit will begin to relax.
Don’t Let Them Excessively Heat or Freeze
Bunnies aren’t meant to live outdoors year round, so you should never leave them exposed to extreme cold weather. Temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) and above 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius) are dangerous for them.
Even lower temps can cause hypothermia, while high temps can burn their delicate skin. Similarly, rabbits shouldn’t stay inside in hot climates for long stretches of time. High humidity causes condensation to form on their hairless bodies, leading to heat exhaustion. Extreme heat can also damage their kidneys.
Clean Their Food Containers
Cleanliness is extremely important for your rabbit’s well-being. Dirty food containers harbor bacteria, mold, and worms, which can harm your pet. Wash out each dish thoroughly after a meal to remove leftover bits, crumbs, and anything else that might attract bugs or fungi.
Also, clean the lids and bowls once in awhile using soap and warm water. Rinse off any excess residue left behind. Dry food dishes immediately after cleaning and store them safely until you’re ready to reuse them again.
Brush Their Coat Regularly
Brushing your rabbit’s coat keeps him healthy and reduces matting. Use a gentle brush made specifically for rabbits to reach areas like their ears and hind legs. Avoid brushing too hard or rough, which can hurt them. Brushing stimulates circulation throughout their body and encourages shedding, which keeps their coat looking nice.
Your rabbit needs something soft to lie down on and chew on. Many people choose hay, but this isn’t always the best choice. Hay can contain pesticides, mold spores, and other harmful substances, making it unsafe for a rabbit to ingest. Plus, rabbits tend to swallow hay whole and digest it inefficiently.
Instead, offer them a variety of soft fabrics like cotton, wool, fleece, and sisal rope. Most rabbits will enjoy chewing on these materials, and they’re safer for ingestion. However, they also shed fibers and can create dust, so it’s wise to wash these types of bedding frequently.
If you bought your rabbit from a breeder, he likely came along with instructions on proper care. But if you snuck one home from a shelter or found it abandoned somewhere, you need to learn as much as possible on your own. Look for books, videos, and websites devoted to rabbits to find information on common ailments, diets, grooming, and general care. Visit local rabbit rescue groups for advice on adoption procedures and training classes. And consult vets and experts whenever necessary.
Finally, remember to treat your pet with kindness and patience. They’re adorable, Smart, and full of personality, so having fun with yours is half the battle. There are hundreds of different breeds of rabbits, ranging from french and dutch varieties to alpine and himalayan kinds. The american rabbit breeders association recognizes more than 40 different rabbit breeds.