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As a pet owner, you want to do everything you can to make sure your furry friend is happy and healthy. But if you're new to owning a rabbit, it can be hard to know where to start! After all, rabbits aren't your typical pet—they're not cats or dogs...I oftentimes tell people they're somewhere in between as far as the level of care and attention that goes into sharing your home with pet rabbits.
In this beginner's guide to rabbit care, we'll cover the essentials of providing a safe and nurturing environment for your pet rabbit. We'll explore everything from diet and nutrition to housing and health, giving you the knowledge you need to keep your rabbit hopping with joy.
Before we get started, let's dispel a common myth: rabbits are not low-maintenance pets. They may be small and fluffy, but they require just as much care and attention as any other pet. In fact, rabbits can be quite high-maintenance, especially when it comes to their dietary needs. But don't worry, we'll guide you through everything you need to know. Think of it as your crash course in rabbit wrangling.
Rabbits are herbivores, which means their diet should consist primarily of hay, fresh vegetables, and a small amount of pellets.
Hay is the most important part of a rabbit's diet, as it helps keep their digestive system healthy and their teeth trimmed (fun fact: rabbits' teeth are constantly growing!). It should make up about 80% of your rabbit’s diet. Timothy hay is the most popular type of hay for rabbits, but other options include orchard grass, oat hay, and meadow hay. Our bunnies love Rabbit Hole Hay; we highly recommend their hay as it's always fresh and delicious!
Fresh greens & vegetables are also an important part of a rabbit's diet, and should make up around 10-20% of their daily food intake. For an extensive list of safe, healthy greens and veggies, check out our blog post here.
Pellets should only make up a small portion of a rabbit's diet (about 5%), as they can be high in calories and lead to obesity if overfed but they are necessary to provide your rabbit with vitamins and minerals that they are not receiving from their hay, greens, or environment. I like to think of them more like a supplement - a rabbit multivitamin if you will - than a staple food item. Look for high-quality pellets made specifically for rabbits and never feed muesli (pellets with seeds, nuts, corn, etc. mixed in). They may look fun and exciting but they can wreak havoc on your rabbit’s digestive system.
Rabbits should have access to fresh, clean water at all times. Water is an essential component of a healthy rabbit's diet. It helps maintain the proper balance of bodily fluids and keeps rabbits hydrated. Water should be provided in a heavy ceramic bowl that can’t be tipped over easily like plastic bowls. Additionally, it's important to clean your rabbit's water bowl daily to prevent the buildup of algae, bacteria, or other contaminants.
Treats can be a fun and enjoyable addition to a rabbit's diet, but they should be given in moderation. According to the House Rabbit Society, treats should make up no more than 5% of a rabbit's total diet. It's important to choose healthy, natural treats. Avoid giving your rabbit high sugar or high fat treats, as these can contribute to obesity and dental problems. Treats are not recommended if your rabbit is struggling with obesity.
Yes, it's true that most rabbits love carrots. But while they're okay as an occasional treat, they should not make up a significant part of your rabbit's diet. Carrots are a root veggie high in sugar and starch and too many can actually cause digestive problems and even tooth decay. So save the Bugs Bunny impressions for special occasions.
Rabbits need plenty of space to hop, stretch, and play. A minimum of 16 square feet of living space (i.e. a 4’ x 4’ x-pen) is recommended for a single rabbit, with additional space needed for each additional rabbit. You want to make sure they are at least 3 ft high (from personal experience: always assume bunnies can jump much higher than you'd think!) and if you have an escape artist, you'll want to put a mesh top over the x-pen while you are not supervising them.
It's important to remember that these bouncy, hoppy creatures need plenty of space to move around and explore. Rabbits living in cages is an outdated method of housing, and while they may seem like a convenient option, cages can be restrictive and limiting for your furry friend. Think of it this way: would you rather spend your days cooped up in a tiny closet, or have the freedom to roam and explore to your heart's content?
For rabbits, x-pens or free-roam living is definitely the way to go! With a larger area to play in, rabbits can run, jump, and binky to their heart's content. Plus, you'll get to enjoy watching your bunny's silly antics and adorable personality shine through as they explore their surroundings. So go ahead, give your rabbit the gift of freedom and watch them thrive!
Rabbits have an extraordinary sense of smell and it's important to make sure your rabbit's living space is clean, dry, and well-ventilated. Remove any wet or soiled bedding daily from their litter boxes, and replace it with fresh bedding.
Provide plenty of enrichment for your rabbit, such as toys to play with, hiding places to explore, and tunnels to run through. Our shop offers a huge range of bunny-approved, safe enrichments items.
Keep your rabbit's living space away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures. Rabbits are sensitive to both heat and cold (although they can tolerate cold much better), and can easily become overheated or chilled. The ideal temperature range for rabbits is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (15-21 degrees Celsius).
Don't be surprised if your rabbit turns into a bit of an interior decorator. Rabbits love to rearrange their living space, so don't be shocked if you come home to find your rabbit has moved all of their toys to a new location. Just be sure to keep an eye on any potential hazards, like electrical cords or toxic plants, that your rabbit may come across during their decorating frenzy. Check out our Ultimate Rabbit-Proofing Checklist for a comprehensive list of over 50 potential hazards that you need to know about to ensure the safety of your rabbit.
Taking care of your rabbit's health and well-being is a crucial part of being a responsible pet owner. In this section, we'll cover some key aspects of rabbit health, including signs of illness, preventative care, and basic first aid. By staying vigilant and proactive about your rabbit's health, you can help ensure that they live a happy, healthy life by your side.
Regular vet check-ups are important for keeping your rabbit healthy. Find a veterinarian experienced with rabbits and schedule annual check-ups. The House Rabbit Society has a wonderful list of vets by country/state who see rabbits at their clinic.
Keep an eye out for signs of illness, such as changes in appetite, weight loss, lethargy, or diarrhea. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Keep your rabbit's nails trimmed to prevent overgrowth, and regularly brush their fur to prevent matting and fur build-up in the gut.
Rabbits are prone to dental problems, so it's important to provide them with plenty of hay and chew toys to help wear down their teeth.
Keep your rabbit's living space and litter box clean and free of waste, which can attract flies and cause health problems.
Spaying or neutering your rabbit can help prevent certain health problems and unwanted behaviors, such as aggression and spraying.
Always supervise your rabbit when they're out of their enclosure, and bunny-proof your home to prevent them from getting into dangerous situations.
Rabbits are notorious for their "binkies," or sudden bursts of energy where they jump and twist in the air. While it's cute to watch, make sure your rabbit has a safe and clear area to perform their binkies without knocking over furniture or injuring themselves.
Caring for a pet rabbit can be a rewarding experience, but it's important to understand their unique needs and behaviors. Providing your rabbit with a healthy diet, adequate living space, and regular veterinary care can help ensure they lead a happy and healthy life. Remember to bunny-proof your home, supervise your rabbit when they're out of their enclosure, and provide plenty of enrichment to keep them mentally stimulated. By following these rabbit care basics, you can develop a strong bond with your furry friend and provide them with a loving and nurturing home.