Tips for Raising Rabbits
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Rabbits are among the five most popular house pets. As first time owners, more and more people want to know the best ways to look after their pet bunnies and improve the health and quality of their lives. Looking after a rabbit
Rabbits need specific care to stay healthy and happy. AnimalWised is here to give you some important tips for raising rabbits. If you have just adopted a bunny, baby or adult, look no further to learn the basics of rabbit care, including advice on feeding and housing your pet and useful tricks for training it.
Rabbits as pets
Rabbits are usually affectionate and appreciative, but in their natural habitats they are often prey. So, for the first days or weeks your pet rabbit may be reserved or seem frightened. This is especially true of dwarf rabbits which are smaller and tend to be more cautious. Be patient with your rabbit. Use gentle movements to gain its trust.
If you have children you are may be looking for a manageable and sociable breed. Try adopting a Lop Rabbit or its dwarf version, the Mini Lop. They are known to be a calm and docile. If you are keen on a smaller rabbit there are also other dwarf rabbit breeds you can consider.
Tips on caring for an orphaned rabbit
An orphaned baby rabbit requires extra care and attention, especially when it comes to feeding. Like all newborn mammals, a newborn rabbit ideally feeds on breast milk during its first weeks. When this is not possible, a good tip is to give it goat's milk. You can also feed it formula meant for newborn kittens, which is suitable for newborn rabbits. Never give a baby rabbit cow's milk, as that will harm its digestive system.
If you do not know exactly how old your bunny is, it is best to consult a veterinarian. Never give your rabbit food that is not suitable for its age. This could cause diarrhea and dangerous levels of dehydration.
From the third week of the baby rabbit's life, you can start feeding it hay. Grass hay or alfalfa hay can both be used for weaning. Alfalfa hay is considered the best, because it contains more nutrients and calcium, ideal for the rabbit's development at this stage. Do not feed a rabbit alfalfa beyond 6 months, as it can cause kidney stones and possibly premature death.
Here are more tips on what to feed a baby rabbit.
Feeding your rabbit
Rabbits are herbivores. Their diet is largely made up of grass, hay, fruits and vegetables. It is important that your pet rabbit has a balanced diet. Here are three key elements of rabbit nutrition to help ensure overall health:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables: these are fundamental to keeping your bunny healthy. Green leafy vegetables, such as lettuce, chard, cauliflower, spinach, celery or kale are especially good. Give your rabbit a helping of ‘salad’ everyday, along with its regular feed and hay. Here is a list of fruits and vegetables recommended for rabbits.
- Feed or pellets: you can find rabbit feed in most pet stores, but it is not essential to a rabbit's diet. It is a processed food and is often used on farms to fatten rabbits for human consumption. If you give your rabbit too much feed it will become obese, with serious health consequences. A good tip is to feed it just one tablespoon of pellets per day.
- Hay: hay helps rabbits to brush their teeth and promotes proper digestion. It is best to give your pet unlimited hay. There are many types, so if your rabbit does not eat the hay you provide, try changing the type or brand.
Some foods such as tomatoes, carrots, apples or mangoes are suitable for rabbits but are best avoided. They contain a lot of sugar and eating them could make your bunny gain excess weight.
Toxic foods for rabbits
Some foods are poisonous for rabbits, causing damage to their sensitive digestive systems. These include some processed meat intended for humans as well as fruits and herbs. Avoid feeding your bunny the following:
- Sugary cereals
- Custard apples
For a more exhaustive list and to learn about why these foods are toxic, check out this AnimalWised article on poisonous food for rabbits.
Of course, raising a rabbit includes not only feeding it well, but also making sure it has enough fresh water to drink. Remember to regularly refill your rabbit's drinking trough.
Housing your rabbit
Choosing the right home for your pet bunny is very important. Rabbits need lots of space to move around, so pick a cage that big and roomy enough. If you are handy, you can even build one. There are many types of cages for rabbits. The most common are:
- Indoor Cages: you can find these in most pet stores, and in several sizes. Even if your baby rabbit is small now, it will soon grow. If you pick a small cage, your pet will soon outgrow it.
- Outdoor Cages: these are perfect if you have a garden or backyard. This way, your rabbit will be in direct contact with the earth or the grass, instead of on plastic. An outdoor cage is much more comfortable.
- Rabbit Hutches: if you adopt a pregnant rabbit, it is good to invest in a large rabbit hutch. This will have all the necessary fittings for the mother and the baby bunnies.
Setting up and using your rabbit cage
You must provide a covered space inside the cage for your rabbit to hide in. This will help your pet feel safe in its new home. Other basic elements to include a water bottle, a bowl for food, a hay feeder and a small litter box. The litter box can be added when the rabbit is slightly older.
Now that you have chosen and properly equipped the cage, it is also important that you let your bunny out at least twice a day. Like most pets, rabbits need their daily exercise. They are very curious and like to explore their surroundings. Another tip is to ensure they have enough exercise time, which is also the perfect opportunity to play with your pet.
Tips for litter training your rabbit
Raising a rabbit well includes potty-training. In its first weeks, you will notice that your bunny always urinates and defecates in one or two corners. To start teaching your rabbit to use a litter box, first place the box in the corner where it usually does its business. To help your rabbit learn to use the box, put some of its feces inside. Another trick is to wet some paper in its urine and and gently squeeze it into the litter box. The smell will help the rabbit associate the litter box with urinating.
Initially, it is advisable to place a second litter tray in another corner of the cage, repeating the processes above. When your bunny starts regularly using one of the boxes, you can remove the other one.
Tips for choosing a litter box
There are different types of litter boxes and materials on the market, as you can see in the image. Never use cat litter as it could be dangerous for you bunny. Paper or wood are the most commonly used materials for rabbit litter. Do your research before picking a material.
When it comes to the box, choose one that is large enough for your rabbit to be comfortable in. It should also have low sides or an entrance to make it easy for your pet to get in and out.
If you want to read similar articles to Tips for Raising Rabbits, we recommend you visit our Basic care category.