So you got a cute little bunny for Easter, now what? Don’t worry, with proper care and attention that bunny can become a beloved pet for years to come. But rabbits require more specific care than cats or dogs. There’s a lot you need to know about diet, housing, bunny-proofing, health and more to keep your new friend happy. Maybe you’re wondering how long rabbits live or if they’re good with kids? Should you spay or neuter them? What if you can’t keep it? This article covers everything you need to know to make sure your new Easter bunny thrives under your care. Let’s hop to it and learn how to become a responsible rabbit owner!
How to care for a rabbit
Rabbits require proper care and attention to stay happy and healthy. Make sure to feed them a balanced diet of hay, pellets, and vegetables. Provide fresh water daily. Set up an enclosure large enough for them to move around, at least 4ft x 2ft. Give them places to hide like cardboard boxes or tunnels. Clean their litter box frequently. Brush them weekly to prevent shedding and hairballs. Clip their nails every 4-6 weeks. Socialize them daily by spending time together in a rabbit-proofed area. Watch for signs of illness and take them to a rabbit-savvy vet for checkups. With proper care, rabbits can live 8-12 years.
The bulk of a rabbit's diet should be timothy or other grass hays, which provide fiber needed for digestion and wear down teeth. Provide unlimited hay. Limit pellets to 1/4 cup per 5 lbs body weight daily. Feed leafy greens like kale, parsley, cilantro daily, about 1 cup per 2 lbs body weight. Small amounts of vegetables like carrots, bell peppers and broccoli can be given 2-3 times per week. Avoid sugary fruits and treats. Always introduce new foods slowly. Provide fresh clean water in a bowl or bottle daily.
Rabbits need enough room to hop around. The minimum recommended enclosure size is 4 feet by 2 feet, but bigger is always better. The enclosure should be tall enough for your rabbit to stand on its hind legs without hitting the top. Line the bottom with newspaper, carefresh bedding or timothy hay. Include a litter box with rabbit-safe litter. Provide hiding spots like cardboard boxes, tunnels or willow baskets. Make sure the enclosure is fully rabbit-proofed to prevent chewing of wires. Allow plenty of supervised playtime in rabbit-proofed areas.
Rabbits are social animals that require daily interaction. Spend at least 1-2 hours per day playing with your rabbit and allowing it to explore rabbit-proofed areas. Provide toys like tunnels, boxes, willow balls and untreated wood blocks to keep them stimulated. Sit on the floor as they run around you. Pet them gently and watch for signs they’ve had enough. Give treats for good behavior. If away for long periods, consider getting a companion rabbit so they are not lonely. Rabbits can bond closely with their human and rabbit friends.
Rabbits love to chew, so it's vital to fully rabbit-proof their space. Remove electrical wires or cover them with plastic tubing. Block access behind furniture and appliances. Remove baseboards or cover them with cardboard. Cover phone, TV and computer cords. Move houseplants out of reach or use bitter apple spray deterrent. Wrap table and chair legs with sheets of cardboard. Provide acceptable alternatives like cardboard boxes, untreated wood blocks and hard plastic baby toys. Supervise playtime outside the enclosure.
The rabbit lifespan
With proper care, rabbits can live 8-12 years. Some breeds like larger lops have a shorter 5-8 year lifespan. Diet, enclosure size, socialization, vet care and genetics influence lifespan. Spaying/neutering can add 2-3 years by preventing reproductive cancers. Signs of aging include reduced appetite and activity, cloudy eyes, matted coat and overgrown teeth. Adjust their care as they age, provide softer surfaces, check teeth frequently. Visit the vet if appetite or behavior declines. Enjoy every moment with your rabbit as a cherished family member.
Spay or neuter
It is strongly recommended to spay or neuter your rabbit. This prevents reproductive system cancers which are very common in older unaltered rabbits. Females should be spayed around 6 months old. Males can be neutered as soon as the testicles descend around 3-6 months old. Spay/neuter prevents hormone-driven behaviors like territorial marking, aggression and destruction. It greatly improves litter box habits. There is a small risk with any surgery, discuss with your vet. The long term health benefits outweigh the minor short term risks.
Children and rabbits
Rabbits generally interact well with gentle, respectful children, but always supervise playtime together. A rabbit may become frightened with loud noises, rough handling, or chasing. Show children how to properly pick up and hold a rabbit using both hands supporting its body. Demonstrate gentle petting and good treats to feed by hand. Teach them to never grab a rabbit by its ears or hind legs. Let the rabbit retreat to its enclosure when tired or scared. Rabbits can make great pets for kids when handled with care.
What if you can’t keep your rabbit?
If you can no longer care for your rabbit, do not abandon it outdoors or release to become an invasive pest. First see if a trusted friend or family member can adopt it. Local rabbit rescues often accept surrendered rabbits, find one via Petfinder.com or Google. Many animal shelters accept rabbits, but try no-kill shelters if possible. Include supplies like enclosure, food, toys with the rabbit. If absolutely needed, a vet's office or licensed breeder may accept an unwanted pet rabbit as a last resort. There are always better options than dumping outdoor or unethical places.
Find an animal shelter for your rabbit
Locate a rescue shelter for rabbits in your area before an emergency happens. Search online for rabbit rescues. Contact local no-kill animal shelters to see if they accept rabbits. Connect with rabbit adoption groups on Facebook. Ask your local rabbit vet if they work with any rescues. Call pet stores that sell rabbits, they may take in unwanted pets or point you to rescues. Get to know rescue staff before an emergency occurs. Keep shelter contact info handy in your phone and wallet. Consider volunteering or fostering for rabbit rescues.
Why you should never abandon a rabbit outside
Releasing a pet rabbit to live outdoors is cruel and irresponsible. Domestic rabbits lack survival skills to find food and shelter. They risk being hit by cars. Rabbits abandoned outdoors rarely survive more than a few days or weeks. Predators like dogs, coyotes, foxes, birds of prey and others will catch and kill lost rabbits. They can suffer slow painful deaths from starvation, dehydration, infection or predator attack. Released rabbits also become an invasive pest species that damages gardens, crops and wild habitats meant for native species. If you cannot keep your rabbit, take it to a shelter, do not abandon it outdoors.