With twitching noses, soft cottontails and a spring in their step, rabbits make excellent pets. They are also some of the most common pets owned by children as they are small and fairly simple to care for.
But, as many parents have discovered, how to care for a rabbit requires specific attention to a rabbits important needs. You can’t just stick a rabbit in a hutch and give him food and water… Although these are the basic needs a rabbit requires a certain amount of attention to prevent boredom.
Pet rabbits aren’t just for children either! Many adults also keep rabbits as they make beautiful and unique pets.
Considerations before adopting a rabbit
When cared for correctly, rabbits have long life spans (between 8-12 years). This is something to bear in mind when adopting a bunny for a child. They may want a rabbit now but when they become a teenager will they be as interested?
Living in Australia, rabbit owners must be mindful of temperatures. They are sensitive to both heat and cold therefore their enclosure must be suitable for where you live.
Most rabbits get along well with children and other pets however they do need to be handled gently. A small drop could break their fragile bones and they are known to scratch when frightened or angry.
Before welcoming a rabbit in to your family, learn about what makes the best environment so you can keep your pet healthy and happy for years to come.
The best rabbit enclosure
The ideal rabbit enclosure is one that is suited to you and your home. There are two options available to you: An indoor rabbit enclosure or an outdoor rabbit hutch.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both options and it depends on what you are looking for in a pet.
Indoor rabbit enclosure
- Close to family life therefore won’t be forgotten.
- Easier to feed and check water.
- Better for hot and cold climates.
- More likely to receive the attention it needs
- Can safely run around the house for exercise
- Won’t be exposed to deadly diseases, predators or pests.
- Can create mess in home.
- Exposed to indoor pets such as cats, which could cause stress.
- Family members may be allergic to rabbits or bedding material.
- Have to rabbit proof house so there are no hazards.
With an indoor rabbit enclosure it is important to provide your rabbit with a litter tray that you should empty every day. Rabbits are clean animals but if you let the mess build up, their cage will begin to smell!
Indoor enclosures are commonly made from plastic, which is easy to clean with a rabbit safe cleaning product. Also remember that rabbits like to toss their litter and it may end up on the carpet outside the enclosure. Try putting up small barriers around the sides to prevent this.
For exercise you can let your rabbit run around your house. If you want to do this, you must make sure that your house is rabbit proofed. This means removing, hiding or fencing off any parts of your house that may pose a threat to your pet.
Outdoor rabbit enclosure
- Rabbits get fresh air.
- Have access to fresh grass.
- Can be put in a run for exercise or allowed to roam free in sealed space.
- Doesn’t matter about bedding or food being spilt.
- Good if other family member is allergic.
- Exposed to the weather.
- Exposed to outdoor animals such as foxes and birds.
- Easily forgotten about.
- Not as involved with family.
An outdoor hutch must be secure and waterproof. It should also be in a shady spot that's cool for the summer, but can be protected from wind and rain in winter.
It needs to be fully enclosed so that your pet can’t escape and it is necessary to install a fly screen.The fly screen netting must be small enough to prevent mosquitos and flies from entering into the hutch. Mosquitos spread a deadly disease called Myxomatosis and flies cause ‘flystrike’. This is where flies enter and lay eggs on a rabbit, which turn into maggots.
Wood is most commonly used for outdoor hutches as it withstands heat, cold and rain. Chicken wire should never be used on the floor of the hutch. This is an old fashioned idea and is one of the causes of ‘Bumblefoot’. This is a horrid infection that affects the footpads and is extremely hard to cure.
Both indoor and outdoor rabbit enclosures must be large enough for your rabbit to stretch out in all directions. A suggested minimum size is 6ft x 2ft x 2ft however can be smaller providing that your rabbit gets plenty of daily exercise outside of the hutch.
Friends for Your Rabbit
Even though rabbits fight frequently amongst themselves, they're social creatures. In nature, they live in large groups. A neutered male and spayed female make the best pairings. When another rabbit is available, they will cuddle and spend most of their time together: grooming one another, sleeping together and playing.
In homes that have only one, rabbits must spend plenty of time socialising with their human friends. They need to spend a lot of time with their person in order to bond correctly and when they're left alone, they will miss you!
Allowing your rabbit to bond with another rabbit can prevent this from happening since they'll have a companion even when you're away on holiday or at work.Rabbit toys and wood chews also work well to prevent boredom and keep their brain stimulated.
Rabbits that aren't socializing pull out their fur, overeat or won’t eat at all, tear apart their cage and gnaw obsessively on cage bars.
Carrots: Myth or Fact?
Despite what cartoons show you, carrots aren’t the only food that rabbits eat! Rabbit pellets provide a good source of nutrition but although they are specifically created for them, pellets do not provide all of the necessary nutrients.
The only way to meet a rabbit's dietary needs in full is by providing several different types of food. This includes:
- Rabbit pellets
- Fresh veggies
- Some fruit
These items provide rabbits with the variety they need and also provide the correct amount of fibre, nutrients and hydration. Vegetables and hay also allow rabbits to keep their teeth sharp and even. Variety is the spice of life: for rabbits as well as for humans.
Treats like fruit, should be offered only in moderation and corn and other seeds should not be offered to rabbits because they cannot digest it.
New rabbit checklist
The list below details several items you will need to purchase before you can adopt a rabbit. This checklist will help you to budget and see if you (or your child) are ready to welcome your new pet.
- Hutch or cage
- Rabbit pellets
- Food bowls and water bottle
- Hay and hay rack
- Hidey-house or tunnel
- Wood chews and toys
- Pet carrier
- Litter tray and litter
- Nail trimmers
- Grooming brush/comb
- Rabbit safe cage cleaner
- Things to rabbit proof home (indoors)
- A run (outdoors)
- Fresh food
Anyone can have a pet rabbit if they're prepared to provide the proper diet, socialization and living space. Bunnies are social creatures and once you have bonded with them, they make loyal and fun companions.