Do you need to know about caring for your first rabbit? Bunnies are beautiful creatures - fun, inquisitive and sociable. They can bring a lot of joy to the home and be an ideal pet for smaller spaces or families with young children.
You will be responsible for the health, safety and wellbeing of your rabbit, so here's what you'll need to know about before bringing your new furry friend home.
Getting your home ready for the new arrival
Rabbits love to roam, and they don’t mind chewing either. So for their safety, and your sanity, it can be a good idea to cordon off access to bedrooms, bookshelves and potential dangers like electrical cables or insect pellets. Baby gates or play pens can be really handy to keep them in one area of the home while they sleep or play.
Organising their accommodation
Rabbits need a hutch with dry, comfortable bedding such as straw, a litter tray with recycled paper, and easy access to food and water.
The hutch needs to be well protected from the elements, insects and other animals.
It should also have enough space to sleep, eat and jump about (1.5 to 2 metres long is a good guide). You can also get a separate exercise pen for your rabbit, which gives them more space.
More and more people are keeping rabbits indoors these days as well, just as they do with cats and dogs. As with any indoor animal this can work well, particularly given a rabbit’s sociable nature.
Feeding made easy
Rabbits are herbivores, and no, they don’t live solely on carrots! They need a low-calorie and high-fibre diet of timothy hay, grass hay, or oat hay supplemented with vegetables. A good mix is 80% hay and the rest green leafy vegetables to help keep their fast-growing teeth in good health. You can offers small amounts of fruit as treats.
There are several foods that are toxic to rabbits and must be avoided. These include muesli, nuts and grains, rhubarb, avocado, coffee, garlic and lucerne hay. Chocolate and other sugary foods are also off limits. Certain plants can also be poisonous to rabbits so keep your garden maintained and prevent your pets from being able to chew dangerous plants such as azaleas and oleanders.
Ongoing health care
Rabbits need regular grooming and nail trims. They require vaccination against rabbit haemorrhagic disease (calicivirus), a fatal infection with no cure. Immunise your bunny at four, right and 12 weeks of age, then every six months. It is recommended female rabbits are de-sexed to prevent cancer of the uterus and reduce the risk of mammary tumours; and this can also help prevent testicular tumours in males.
Understanding the need for fun and exercise
Rabbits need regular exercise. So if you do keep them in a hutch, it’s very important to let them out for several hours each day so they have time to explore and play. Keeping them stimulated is important. Consider getting a few rabbit toys. And a large cardboard box filled with a little hay can keep them amused for hours as they play and chew.
Keep your bunny as part of the family
Finally, think about a rabbit’s sociable side. Rabbits can get lonely if left alone all day without interaction with the family. Like all animals, pet rabbits need care and lots of love to stay healthy and happy at home – and live a beautiful life.