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Today I’m going to go over how to care for a pet bunny. If you are at all familiar with my blog, you know that I have chickens and ducks. Well, I also have cats and bunnies. Last week I made a post of some of our animals. You can check it out here to see some amazing pictures and even share some of your own.
When we started on this journey, living in the country, I never imagined we would have the animals we have. And I certainly never thought I would love them all the way that I do.
If you recently got a rabbit or are thinking about getting a bunny for your child or grandchild, then this is for you. So, how do you take care of a pet bunny?
MYTHS ABOUT CARING FOR a PET BUNNY
First, let’s unravel the fiction surrounding the care of rabbits:
- Fiction #1: Bunnies make the perfect pets for children.
False! Bunnies are easily frightened by sudden movements, noises, and really anything. It takes time for rabbits to feel safe in our presence. However, if you spend time with kids, showing and reinforcing them how to interact with a bunny, then they can be great with each other.
- Fiction #2: Bunnies are low maintenance.
False! Bunnies eat constantly; if they go without eating for 12 hours, their bodies can release toxins that could be fatal. Rabbits also have this mischievous side to them, that requires them to be monitored or they could get into trouble or have an emergency. And lastly, if you don’t pay attention to your rabbit at all, it will get lonely. There have been bunnies that have died from broken hearts.
- Fiction #3: Bunnies like to cuddle.
False! I know that I said rabbits get lonely if left to their own devices, (or into trouble) although that doesn’t mean they want to be cuddled. Especially when you just get your bunny, it won’t want to be handled very much at all. At least not until it knows and trusts that you are not a threat. Bunnies don’t like being picked up, and they will immediately try to get away. They have sharp claws, and if a child picks up the rabbit, this won’t be a good situation for either of them.
- Fiction #4: Bunnies can live outside.
False! Rabbits do much better indoors, due to the simple fact of the lack of predators in your house. They are prey animals, and they know it. So, imagine having your bunny outdoors where all of the noise surrounding them could be something waiting to devour them. They’re already extremely timid creatures, and they’ll remain so, unless they know they are safe.
Another thing to consider is if you live somewhere it gets hot in the summer, then your bunny won’t fare as well living outside. Rabbits do much better when it’s cooler than when it’s hot.
- Fiction #5: Bunnies can stay in a hutch or cage.
False! Keeping a rabbit cooped up in a cage all day is cruel. They need space to run and stretch. If you leave your bunny outdoors or in a cage all day, chances are high that you or your kids will eventually forget about it. The bunny may get fed and watered, however interaction will probably dwindle down to next to nothing. Out of sight, out of mind.
- Fiction #6: Bunnies like carrots.
False! Rabbits actually only eat the leafy part of the carrot. However, the main thing bunnies are supposed to eat is Timothy hay; that makes up the majority of their diet. The rest of their diet comes from leafy greens–no more than a cup per bunny per day. They absolutely love fruit, although these need to be treated like candy. Giving a rabbit fruits on a regular basis isn’t good for their health, so only a very tiny bit once a week. And then there’s the bunny food in pellet form, comprised primarily of alfalfa or Timothy hay. This should only be a handful, as the Timothy hay is the majority of what they eat.
Now that we’ve gone over some myths besetting the care of bunnies, let’s discuss the reality.
FACTS ABOUT CARING FOR a PET BUNNY
- Set up safe indoor housing.
Whether you choose to put your bunny in a cage or let it run loose in your home is entirely up to you. Though, if you have it in some type of bunny cage, make sure the cage is at least 5 times the size of the bunny. You want the cage that big so the bunny can stretch and jump.
Also, keep the bunny’s quarters close to the family, so it won’t get neglected.
We have two dwarf lop eared bunnies. They both sleep in cages, but when we’re home, they’re free in the family room and kitchen. The rest of the house is blocked off with child gates. Someday I want my husband to enclose the back patio, with the intention of that being the bunny room.
- Bunny-proof your home.
Bunnies like to explore and they like to chew. On everything. And even if you have your rabbit in a hutch or cage, you will need to let it out sometimes for exercise. You need to create a safe place for your bunny while also protecting your things. So, it’s a good idea to get wire covers, furring strips, and even get baby gates to block off certain areas.
Also, there are a lot of houseplants that are poisonous to rabbits. And rabbits don’t have the good sense not to eat them. Bunnies are constantly chewing or nibbling on anything and everything. If you’re unsure whether a plant you have is bad for your pet bunny, you can look it up or just keep it out of reach. You can check this site out for more info.
- Set up a bunny bathroom.
No, really, I’m being serious. Bunnies can be trained to use a litter box like cats. However, with that being said, the litter materials are completely different. You don’t want to use the same litter you would use for a cat, because bunnies eat and eat. This will make them sick.
Instead stick with organic material like paper, although newspaper isn’t as absorbent. You don’t want to use wood shavings either, because they can cause liver damage or allergic reactions in rabbits. Once you have a thin layer of paper laid down, then spread a thick layer of hay. This is because rabbits like to eat while they do their business.
We’ve potty-trained one of our dwarf lop eared rabbits. The older one. When he would go to the bathroom on the floor, bunny pellets, we would scoop them and him up, and then deposit all into the bunny bathroom. Every time. It didn’t take long at all for him to learn that was where he was supposed to go potty.
- Give your bunny a balanced diet.
A big part of caring for your pet bunny is with nutrition. Most of what your bunny will eat or is supposed to eat is Timothy hay. Your bunny should also get some vegetables, like leafy greens. What we give our bunnies is Half and Half. It’s half baby spinach and half baby lettuce. But they also like Spring Mix. Iceberg is not good for rabbits, so you want to avoid giving that to bunnies.
I already mentioned that bunnies love fruits. Though you want to give fruit in moderation. Like a bite of an apple once a week. Our bunnies love blueberries, but again, we limit how many we give them. And how often.
Don’t give your bunnies rhubarb, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cabbage, corn, peas, potatoes, seeds, beets, onions, chocolate, candy, or most human foods.
If you have a bunny younger than 6 months, then you can give rabbit food pellets comprised of alfalfa. However, if you have a bunny older than 6 months, then you’ll want to feed it pellets made from Timothy grass.
Make sure your bunny has access to fresh, clean water daily. If it uses a sipper bottle, make sure the bottle works properly and that your bunny knows how to work it.
- Provide some chewing outlets.
Bunnies are going to chew no matter what. Although, with some cunning on our part, we can give them what they want. With some mental stimulation thrown in as well.
You can get some untreated wood or cardboard and give it to your rabbit. That will keep your bunny entertained. You can purchase bowls or balls of willow wood. Or you can even use items in your own home. Paper towel or toilet paper rolls, and other cardboard materials that we throw away, make good chew toys for bunnies.
Avoid giving your rabbit something sharp, with loose pieces, or soft rubber, in case the bunny manages to swallow it.
- Be gentle.
Again, bunnies are prey animals. I cannot stress that enough. They don’t like being held, but that doesn’t mean you can’t touch them. You just have to learn how to properly. So another big part of taking care of your pet bunny is when we’re being gentle.
Bunnies groom each other. Their noses, eyes, tops of their heads, and backs. Every rabbit is different. And whether you got a pair or just one at a time, (and introduced a second bunny later), will determine the rabbit’s preference of where they like to be touched. By you. Sometimes it will just take time for the bunny to earn your trust. And this isn’t necessarily a reflection on you, but a good place to start is by petting your bunny’s nose.
Bunnies are born scared. Remember the movie The Croods? “Never not be afraid?” Our second dwarf lop eared bunny is like that. We got him…or her… a month or two ago, and he/she still acts very scared. Our first lop eared rabbit warmed right up to us. He’s the boss. He thinks he owns the place, he’s that confident. But Ricardo, he’s another story entirely.
So how are you supposed to be gentle? Well, don’t pick the bunny up like a prey animal, for one. Always support it with one hand under its stomach and one hand on its back side. Lift carefully with both of your hands, bringing it close to your body. And don’t ever let your bunny hang loose or carry it by the scruff of its neck.
My most important piece of advice when it comes to being gentle and taking care of a pet bunny is to be patient. I have had a lot of animals in my life, and I never force my world into theirs; because I wait for them. I take care of them like they need, but I resist the urge to do what I want; whether that be picking them up or cuddling them. I wait for them to approach me. And you know what? They do. Always. Every single one of my animals trusts me implicitly. Because I take care of them and I’m patient.
I hope you enjoyed this post, and if you have any questions or have anything to share, I would love to hear from you!