Pocket Pets & Rabbit Care
Pocket Pets | Rabbit Care and Nutrition | Stonebriar Veterinary Centre | Frisco, TX
Pocket Pets – Rabbit Care & Nutrition
Rabbits are very special animals. If you have never lived with one before, you are in for a treat. They are bright, interesting, curious, and affectionate. Your bunny will undoubtedly bring you a great deal of enjoyment and pleasure over the years. Keep in mind, however, the health of your bunny rests in your hands.
The popularity of rabbits as pets has increased immensely over the last few years. Their value as companion animals has burgeoned for several reasons. Rabbits make relatively few demands on an individual's or a family's life style. They are quiet and peaceful animals by nature. They do not bark, they do not disturb neighbors, and they easily get along with other small pets if introduced with care. Their exercise requirements are few and they arespond beautifully to attention and affection if they are handled frequently with gentleness and love. Rabbits are very intelligent, and can be house trained very easily.
Your bunny should be housed inside. He will need a cage of his own where he can find security and quiet time. If your rabbit is to be caged much of the time, the cage should be very spacious so that he can exercise, stand up and stretch out. Beware of purchasing a small cage which a tiny bunny will outgrow in a few months. The more spacious the cage, the healthier and happier your bunny will be. The minimum dimensions for an average 6-7 lb. rabbit should be 2 feet by 4 feet. Rabbits were not designed to live on wire floors – they're hard on their feet (which are not padded like cats or dogs). If you must use a cage with a wire floor, you need to provide your rabbit with a resting board or rug for her to sit on, otherwise she will spend all of her time in her litterbox. You can find cages with slatted plastic floors, which are more comfortable, or you can use a solid floor. As long as your rabbit has a litterbox in the corner that he chooses as his bathroom, there shouldn't be much of a mess to clean up.
A large cage, however, is not a substitute for running time outside the cage. Your bunny will need physical and social stimulation, which no cage can provide. Your relationship with your rabbit will be richer if you allow him spending time as a member of the family. Keeping the cage clean is extremely important in the prevention of disease. For bedding you may use Aspen, Total Comfort or my favorite, regular towels.
Rabbits are easy to house train, returning to the same spot in the cage each time nature calls. Place a litter box in the cage so that cage-time will also be learning time. Have at least one litter box outside the cage as well. Praise your bunny and give a treat whenever you see him in the box. Place a small amount of hay in one corner of the litter box to encourage him. Good choices for littler are: recycled newspaper pellets such as “Yesterdays News” or a wheat based litter “Sweet Scoop”. You should never use regular cat litter for your bunny since serious intestinal problems may arise if ingested. Some rabbits almost house train themselves: others require time and patience. Praise for doing the right thing and prevention through confinement and supervision are the keys.
Food and Water
Your rabbit should always have a fresh supply of water, either in a water bottle or a crock that cannot be easily overturned.
Your bunny will also need a fresh supply of commercially prepared rabbit pellets daily. Do not allow uneaten rabbit pellets to remain in the dish day after day. The pellets lose their nutritional value if exposed to light for a prolonged time. For this reason, your pellets should be kept in an air tight container away from sun and moisture. The most important part of your rabbit's diet is HAY. Hay should make up 80-90% of your rabbits diet.
Young Rabbits up to 1 year old:
- Alfalfa pellets 1/2 cup per 5 lb bunny per day
- Fresh Greens: 1/2 – 1 cup per day
- Fruits: No more than 1 T per 5lb bunny
- Hay: Some Alfalfa, free choice Timothy, Oat, Orchard, or other grass hay
- Timothy pellets 1/4 cup per 5lb bunny per day
- Fresh Greens: 2 cups per day
- Fruit: No more than 2 T per day per 5lb bunny
- Hay: unlimited grass ie timothy, oat, orchard
- If sufficient weight is maintained, continue adult diet
- Frail, older rabbits may need unrestricted pellets. Alfalfa can be given to underweight rabbits, only if calcium levels are normal.
Senior Rabbits (6+ years)
Safe Veggies, Fruits:
Carrots, carrot tops, parsley, romaine lettuce, cilantro, mint, watercress, radish leaves, beet greens, pea pods, spinach (small amount), celery and or leaves, brussel sprouts, broccoli (small amount), tomato, collard greens, pineapple, papaya, apples, grapes, kiwi, banana, pear, peaches, strawberries, blueberries.
NEVER FEED YOUR BUNNY THESE FOODS:
Iceberg lettuce, cabbage, raw beans, potato or potato peels, spinach, cauliflower, mustard greens, rape, kale, rhubarb, apple seeds, pits, honey coated treats.
Every rabbit has a distinct personality. Some enjoy being handled more than others. A bunny handled from a young age with gentleness and with consistency will generally respond positively to being handled and held. Children often do not know how to hold a bunny; consequently the rabbit becomes frightened or injured when he is squeezed too tight or kicks his strong back legs to free himself. Teach your child to respect the bunny's natural instinct to be close to the ground. Limit the amount of lifting and holding until you are sure that both child and rabbit are calm and confident. It is best and safest for children to sit while holding the bunny. Stroking the bunny gently and speaking to him softly will initiate the best response.
A bunny should NEVER be picked up by his ears.
Like dogs and cats, rabbits should be spayed or neutered. Breeding bunnies is not adviced. Every year, thousands of adorable, adoptable rabbits are destroyed at animal shelters. Thousands more are abandoned in fields and roadsides. Neutered rabbits are healthier, calmer and easier to house train, less aggressive and less destructive.
Your rabbit should have a physical exam by a veterinarian who is familiar with Rabbit Medicine at least once per year. The exam will include a thorough oral exam (may require general anesthesia) to evaluate the teeth for malocclussion (improper bite). Rabbit's teeth grow continuously. When teeth grow abnormally, he will not be able able to chew his food properly. Excessive points on teeth can also lacerate the inside of the cheek and tongue and cause your bunny pain.
Rabbits are by nature very meticulous animals, and will spend endless hours gromming themselves. They will generally molt or shed their coat somewhat seasonally about twice per year. Your bunny should be brushed with a small slicker or zoom brush on a daily basis to aid in the removal of excess fur. Your rabbits nails should be routinely trimmed with a small dog nail clipper. It would be wise to observe an experienced person perform this procedure before you attempt it yourself.
Additional resource to learn more about Rabbit Care and Nutrition: