What to Consider When Adopting a Rabbit
Thinking about adopting a rabbit? Rabbits can make wonderful pets when you understand their needs before bringing one home.
“Rabbits have a lot of personality,” says Barbara B. Tomaras, DVM, owner of Exoticare Veterinary Services in Miami, Florida. “You can find cuddly rabbits, and rabbits that are fun and entertaining. They’re very easy to keep.”
They also are “not an expensive pet,” Dr. Tomaras says. Compared to the annual expenses for dogs and cats, which are upwards of $1,000 dollars, rabbit care averages around $500 a year, not including adoption fees.
Read on to discover important information about rabbit care and the rabbit supplies you need before adopting a rabbit.
Top Rabbit Types
Like dogs and cats, rabbits come in different breeds or types. According to Dr. Tomaras, three popular types of rabbits are miniature rabbits, lop-eared rabbits and giant breeds.
The giant breeds, such as the Flemish Giant, tend to be calmer, she says. The miniatures, like the Dwarf Hotot, often are energetic and nervous, and the lop-eared, such as the Holland Lop, can be cuddly and friendly, she adds.
Although “pet store rabbits are likely 50 percent mix” breeds, people still seek out specific bunny breeds for a particular look or disposition, Dr. Tomaras says. For example, the luxurious locks of the long-haired Angora breeds are attractive to some, including knitters, but a grooming nightmare to others.
The adorably-maned Lionhead rabbits show off a lion-like ruff of fur around their heads and a sparkling personality. Laid-back Dutch rabbits are another popular choice, as are the playful Rex rabbits.
After researching and deciding which rabbit breed is right for you, make sure you are well prepared with the rabbit supplies below.
Best Rabbit Supplies
To keep your rabbit healthy and happy, you need the proper rabbit supplies on hand. These basics are best to have on hand when preparing for your new rabbit’s arrival.
A Well-Balanced Rabbit Diet
Hay is essential for healthy rabbits, Dr. Tomaras says. Not supplying enough is the No. 1 mistake she sees pet parents make.
“This is what rabbits should be eating the most of,” she says. “It’s fundamental.”
Dr. Tomaras recommends alfalfa hay for rabbits under 7 months old. After that age, they can eat timothy hay.
Hay provides fiber for digestion and helps wear down their teeth, which grow continuously in rabbits. Hay can be hung from a “hay feeder,” like the Ware small animal hay feeder, and placed in the litter box.
Along with hay, rabbits eat a pellet diet. According to Dr. Tomaras, the ideal feed is a uniform color and type. An example is Oxbow Essentials adult rabbit feed, which is made of timothy grass meal. If a rabbit’s base diet is mixed with seeds or colored treats, she might pick out her favorites to eat, resulting in poor nutrition.
Offer adult rabbits two handfuls of fresh vegetables a day, including leafy greens, carrot tops, and beet greens, and the occasional small piece of fruit as a treat. Introduce each new rabbit food slowly, one at a time, to watch for any negative reaction, such as diarrhea, Dr. Tomaras says. Check out this list of fruits and vegetables generally considered safe for rabbits.
Make sure to provide a solid ceramic bowl for water, because rabbits “don’t drink well” out of the bottle feeders, Dr. Tomaras says. The Living World green ergonomic small pet dish is a bacteria-safe ceramic bowl that can help quench your rabbit’s thirst.
A secure home will help your rabbit feel comfortable and safe. Dr. Tomaras favors a playpen setup with room for your rabbit to exercise, but a two-level cage will offer a rabbit room as well compared to a single-level cage. Too small of a space will stress out your rabbit.
Choose a unit with a wire-free bottom. Resting on a wire grate will hurt your rabbit’s haunches, so opt for a solid bottom.
Because bunnies are prey animals, your pet needs a place to hide within her living space. Include a cage or small hutch to give your bunny a little extra privacy.
Note: If you let your rabbit outside of her cage of playpen, always supervise her. Rabbits are ferocious chewers and sometimes chew baseboards, carpet, plants and furniture, which can result in costly vet visits or even death if they nibble on old lead paint, poisonous houseplants or ingest items. Also keep all wires and cables fully out of their reach to avoid electrocution, Dr. Tomaras cautions.
Rabbit Bedding and Litter
For bedding, wood shavings are not recommended because they can pose a health risk from the dust or if your rabbit ingests it, Dr. Tomaras says. Instead, try an option like Kaytee clean and cozy bedding, which is designed to be eco-friendly and dust-free.
Regular cat litter is unsafe for rabbits. However, Dr. Tomaras does recommend Yesterday’s News cat litter as the exception because it’s made from recycled paper. Always opt for paper or compressed-pine bedding and litter.
Add rabbit toys to your pet’s environment to provide enrichment and keep her engaged. Some of the best rabbit toys involve hay or straw as an enticement, Dr. Tomaras says.
Toys that satisfy a rabbit’s need to chew are always a hit. Try willow bark balls or rabbit toys designed for playing and tossing.
An empty cardboard box or paper bag stuffed with safe chew items can entice your bunny to play, as can tunnels or small climbing areas. These pets enjoy grass mats or jute mats, too. Just be sure your pet is not ingesting her toys or other non-edible playthings, Dr. Tomaras cautions.
Grooming Your Rabbit
Rabbits have two major sheds a year, but they will “groom themselves for hours every day,” Dr. Tomaras says. Because they can be sensitive about brushing, she suggests using the Love Glove, a grooming mitt that slips right on your hand.
Rabbits need their nails trimmed regularly. If you are uncomfortable taking care of your pet’s nails, you can have your vet do it.
Here’s a perk: There’s typically no need to bathe a rabbit. “Rabbits are very clean animals,” Dr. Tomaras says.
If you’re feeding your rabbit a healthy diet and have provided her with spacious housing, she won’t need much veterinary care, Dr. Tomaras says. There are no expensive vaccines or dewormers needed, so an annual or twice annual checkup, depending on your animal’s health and age, is enough.
However, Dr. Tomaras says that nearly 80 percent of female rabbits are likely to develop uterine cancer by 5 years old, so after you adopt a bunny, she recommends having your new pet spayed. Male rabbits can be neutered if they exhibit bad behaviors, such as marking or aggression.
Preparing Your Home for Bunny
Rabbits can live 12-13 years, so choosing to adopt a bunny is a long-term commitment, but they are enjoyable companions. A content rabbit might reward pet parents with a binky (a leap of happiness) or stretch out on their side in satisfaction to sleep. Read “12 Common Rabbit Behaviors That Might Puzzle You” to learn more about binkies and other rabbit behaviors.
Rabbits often are happier if kept in pairs, Dr. Tomaras says. Paired rabbits tend to experience less stress and even live longer, she adds.
Be sure to educate family members on proper rabbit care. Children especially must be taught how to handle these delicate animals. Rabbits have sensitive backs, Dr. Tomaras says.
“If they fall and break their back, they can be paralyzed very easily,” she adds.
A rambunctious puppy or child can stress your rabbit out. Cats and rabbits typically get along OK, but few dogs and bunnies do because of canines’ instincts to chase, Dr. Tomara adds.
“Rabbits are an independent pet, but they also love interaction with humans,” she says. “And they have the advantage of not requiring an enormous maintenance … it’s a pleasant and easy pet to have.”
By: Rose Sala
Featured Image: Via iStock.com/FatCamera