I remember bringing home my first rabbit – he was the size of my palm and I was ecstatic. The cuteness I see on videos was now right in front of me, all in its white fluffy glory. But what I, and most people, fail to realize is that raising and caring for your rabbit needs more prep compared to getting a puppy or a kitten.
Still, rabbits are loving, sociable, and curious creatures with a long lifespan, which places them up in the pedestal of perfect companions.
Much like any pet, they have their own care requirements and here are some tips to ensure that your rabbit has a happy and healthy life.
1. Set up a safe indoor housing
Rabbits can be in free reign in rooms or within a bunny pen or bunny condo. The House Rabbit Society recommends that they have at least 8 square feet of housing with at least 24 square feet of exercise space that they can have access to for at least 5 hours a day.
This measurement is the minimum requirement and many pet owners let their bunnies roam free once they have accomplished the next item on this list.
2. Bunny-proof your house
They are very curious creatures and thus need space to be able to move and run around. Since you are bringing a delicate rabbit into your household, make sure to do this step for both of your protection.
Remember to cover all the wires with plastic sleeves and/or position them 3-4 feet away from your rabbit’s reach.
3. Prepare chew toys in their living area
It is within a rabbit’s nature to chew – it is their way to keep active and amused. However, it doesn’t mean that it should be destructive. You may leave untreated wood blocks, tissue paper rolls or cardboard in their area. In short, leave things that could be thrown in the garbage once they’ve served their purpose. Make sure to avoid sharp edges, loose parts or soft rubber that rabbits could chew into pieces and swallow.
4. Get their bathroom ready
Like cats, rabbits have the habit of peeing and pooping in one area. But they can be trained to use a litter box. For bedding, shy away from cedar and other wood shavings or clumping kitty litter as it is toxic to rabbits. Lay down organic litter made of paper, wood pulp, or citrus.
5. Prep their meals
Rabbits have complex digestive systems, so it is very important for them to receive a proper diet to ensure that they are healthy.
A basic rabbit diet consists of the following foods: hay, vegetables, and fruits. If you will be introducing pellets into your rabbit’s diet, it should be a supplement to green and leafy vegetables, not its substitute.
Keep your rabbits away from iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cabbage, corn, beans, peas, potatoes, beets, onions, rhubarb, bamboo, seeds, grains, and many others so as not to upset their system.
6. Spay and neuter them with a veterinarian
Much like cats and dogs, a rabbit will need veterinarian visits. Take note that there are a small number of vets who can check rabbits and they are often referred to as ‘exotic veterinarians’.
During your veterinary visit, ask them about spaying and neutering. Aside from avoiding unwanted litters of kits, this procedure removes the risk of testicular cancers in male rabbits and reproductive cancers in female rabbits. Another side effect of this procedure is that it can reduce aggression and territory-marking behaviors.
Lastly, remember that rabbits are social and loving creatures. They can give you as much love as usual pets so make sure to give them the same amount of love as well.