Rabbits are a very common household pet, they come in many different breeds and varieties and make a very friendly companion. My friend Hugh has daughter who has a rabbit for a pet. Being a roofing contractor so he has the skill to build a suitable cage and living quarters so the rabbit can stay outside. She’s brings the bunny inside sometimes but mostly it stays outside. She quickly realized keeping the the bunny in the house presents some sanitation problems.
Rabbits are herbivores and so need a herbivorous diet including grains, pellets and hay. It is best to get a good quality rabbit mix from a good pet store and use this as the main part of your rabbits diet. They will also need good meadow/timothy hay every day to keep their constantly growing teeth trimmed and to keep their digestive system functioning properly. Once a week treat your rabbit to some vegetables just to provide variety in the diet. It is best not to try and mix your own rabbit food as it is unlikely that you will get the nutritional balance right so stick to commercially prepared feed.Hay should be fresh smelling, dust free and mold free. Never feed damp or moldy hay to your rabbit. Allow your rabbit constant access to hay. Fresh water should be available at all times and water bottles should be cleaned regularly.
Rabbits are very hardy animals and are fine to be housed in outdoor hutches but some people enjoy having their rabbit in the house as a ‘house rabbit’. Rabbits generally live in hutches outside or in cages inside. The outdoor hutch must be sturdy with a metal roof and good quality wire mesh on the front not only to prevent the rabbit from chewing its way out but to prevent predators getting in. The hutch should have a partition separating the main compartment from the bedroom so that the rabbit has a comfortable area to sleep in. The hutch must be out of direct sunlight and out of drafts. It is a good idea to have a run attached to the hutch so that your rabbit can run around and exercise as they are very active animals. They love to be able to run fast and kick up their heels to release tension and energy. If you decide on an outdoor hutch, make sure it has a cover for bad weather as even rabbits can catch cold and get sick. If you decide on an indoor cage, make sure it has deep sides in the litter tray to prevent bedding spilling everywhere and once again, make sure the cage is sturdy to prevent escapes. Needless to say, rabbits should never be allowed to live with a guinea pig as they have different dietary requirements and rabbits can seriously injure a pig, even unintentionally. Your rabbit will need to be cleaned out a minimum of once a week. It is recommended that you clean them out more then this to keep your bunny happy and healthy and their home odour free. Remember that your bunny’s living space, bedroom and eating area is also its toilet so keep it clean!
There are many choices of bedding material for you to choose from but only a few are good for your rabbit. Here are some listed below:
• Wood Shavings – these are fine as long as they are dust free and kiln dried. If they are not kiln dried, the oils in the wood produce phenols which harm the eyes, nose and respiratory tract and also do damage to the liver over time. Kiln dried pine or aspen is ok but never ever use cedar as this is toxic. Although it is not the best bedding around, it is extremely popular due to its odour control and ease of use and it is economical if bought in large amounts.
• Hay on Newspaper – this is a rabbit-friendly way of bedding your animal. It does not harm their respiratory systems as long as the hay is dust free, they can eat it and they can play in it. It is however, a less absorbent bedding and more frequent changes are needed but the rabbits do love it! The paper must not be glossy (e.g magazine paper) or highly coloured as this can have adverse effects on your rabbits health.
• Chopped Straw – there are a few chopped straw products such as Dengie Medibed and Russell Bedding and both are good beddings. As with hay, they are not as absorbent but they are very soft and sweet smelling and Medibed has the advantage of being naturally treated to repel fungus and bacteria.
• Shredded paper – Carefresh is probably the most well known paper based bedding but this bedding tends to be quite expensive. It is absorbent and controls odour but is less economical if you have a larger number of rabbits.
• Sawdust – never use sawdust as it affects the respiratory systems, gets in the eyes, nose, ears and genitals and is generally a bad idea for your rabbits health.
Rabbits, especially the large breeds, have extremely powerful back legs so it is important to get the rabbit used to handling before allowing very small children to hold it. Handle your new baby rabbit carefully and handle it often. Never grab at it to pick it up or it will fear your hands. Crouch down and pet the rabbit and then gently pick it up. Once the rabbit is used to being held and doesn’t kick or struggle away then it is safe for smaller children to hold it. Time, care and patience is all it takes to get a rabbit to tame. Don’t rush things and let the rabbit control the pace of your friendship. When it feels ready it will be calm and steady around you. Never pick a rabbit up by its ears or its tail as this can seriously harm your rabbit.
Short haired rabbits need occasional brushing but long haired rabbits need grooming much more regularly to prevent matting of the coat e.g at least once a week and more often if you notice that your rabbits fur gets knotted around the bottom area and along the stomach. Give your rabbit everything he needs for a happy life. Give him a lot of love and patience and you will find that he bonds with you and will even respond to his name once he knows and trusts you. Enjoy your pet rabbit!