Thinking of welcoming an adorable floppy-eared friend into your home? Rabbits make delightful pets but require some special considerations. Before hopping into rabbit ownership, get the inside scoop! This comprehensive guide reveals everything you need to know to successfully prepare for your new long-eared companion. You’ll learn all about rabbit-proofing your home, choosing ideal housing, providing enrichment through toys, understanding natural behaviors and schedules, proper diet and litter training, and calculating costs. Read on to discover the keys to creating a happy home for you and your future furry roommate! With the right prep, your new bunny can bring years of joyful companionship.
Think Carefully First
Getting a pet rabbit can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it's important to carefully consider if it's the right pet for you and your family before bringing one home. Rabbits require a lot of time, attention, care and financial commitment. Here are some key things to think about first:
- Rabbits are social animals and need daily interaction and supervised playtime. Are you prepared to spend at least a couple hours a day interacting with your rabbit?
- Rabbits need a lot of space to run and play. Can you provide adequate housing for a rabbit either free-roam or in a large enclosure/cage?
- Rabbits chew…a lot! You'll need to thoroughly rabbit-proof your home by removing wires, blocking off certain areas, and providing appropriate chew toys.
- Rabbits are crepuscular, meaning most active at dawn and dusk. Are you prepared for a pet that's awake and energetic when you want to wind down or sleep?
- Rabbits require specialized veterinary care from an exotic pet vet. Do you have access to a qualified rabbit vet and are you prepared for the costs of care?
- Rabbits have long lifespans of 8-12 years. Are you ready for a long-term commitment to caring for your rabbit?
- Some rabbits don't like to be held or cuddled. Are you okay with a more hands-off pet?
If you can commit to a rabbit's specialized care needs and lifestyle quirks, they can make very rewarding and interactive pets. But be honest with yourself before making the commitment.
Housing Your Rabbit
Providing appropriate housing for your pet rabbit is one of the most important parts of rabbit care. There are a few main options for housing rabbits:
Allowing your rabbit free access to your home or certain rabbit-proofed rooms is an ideal housing situation. Rabbits get to fully express natural behaviors like running and jumping when given plenty of space. To free-roam, you'll need to rabbit-proof the area by:
- Removing or blocking access to wires and valuables they could chew
- Covering baseboards and other chewable surfaces
- Blocking access to hazardous areas like kitchens and bathrooms
- Providing litter boxes in spots they frequent
Free-roam requires bunny-proofing vigilance and you'll need to keep a close eye on their activity. But it provides the best quality of life.
For rabbits that can't free-roam unsupervised, a spacious exercise pen provides room to hop and play. Minimum size recommendations are 10 ft x 10 ft for larger breeds and at least 6 ft x 6 ft for smaller breeds. You can add hideouts, toys and litter boxes to enrich the space. Let the rabbit have exercise time in the pen daily.
For overnight or when unsupervised, your rabbit should have a roomy cage. it should be at least 4-6 times the size of your bunny when laying down. Cages must be tall enough for your rabbit to stand on hind legs without ears touching the top. Make sure the cage has a plastic bottomed pan and wire sides for ventilation.
Cages are not recommended for full-time housing as they limit movement. But they can supplement free-roam or exercise pen time.
Outdoor housing like rabbit hutches are not recommended. Rabbits are very temperature sensitive and need climate control to stay healthy. They also require human interaction that is limited outdoors. An outdoor run can be attached to a hutch for some fresh air as long as supervised.
Whatever housing you provide, make sure your rabbit has opportunities for exercise, play, and bonding with you daily! This promotes good physical and mental health.
Making Your Home Safe
In addition to housing, you'll need to rabbit-proof the rest of your home before bringing your bunny home. Rabbits are prolific chewers and diggers and can get into unsafe situations if precautions aren't taken. Here are some tips:
Block access to any wires, especially electrical. Rabbits can easily electrocute themselves chewing wires. Use plastic cord covers or garden fencing to block access.
Remove houseplants or block access. Many common houseplants are toxic to rabbits if ingested.
Protect valued possessions and furniture. Rabbits may chew woodwork, carpet, books, leather shoes, and more. Move irreplaceable items out of reach.
Cover baseboards and trim. Protect wood surfaces with cardboard or plastic covers to divert chewing. You can also apply bitter apple spray.
Rabbit proof kitchen and bath areas. Block access to hazards like electrical appliances, medications, and chemicals under sinks.
Anchor rugs and secure flooring. Rabbits can dig at carpeting and slip on rugs. Use carpet tiles or secure edges with weights.
Hide or cover wires behind furniture. Rabbits love to chew on electrical, phone, internet and speaker wires. Hide them or use plastic covers.
Provide chewing toys. Giving rabbits appropriate toys to chew on helps divert negative chewing behavior.
Take precautions, but expect your house to be a little 'lived in' with a free-roam bunny. Protect risks but allow safe destruction outlets. And remember, supervision is key for catching unsafe behavior!
Getting Toys For The Rabbit
Rabbits love to play! Providing a variety of fun, enriching toys will keep your bunny active and engaged. Recommended toys include:
Cardboard concrete forms or pop-up pet tunnels allow rabbits to scamper through and play hide and seek.
Untreated wicker baskets, sticks, and balls satisfy chewing urges safely. You can also try edible wood chews. Rotate to keep it interesting.
Boxes of all sizes with holes cut in the sides make great hidings spots and play factories for bunnies. Toss empty boxes from home deliveries in for free fun.
Fill boxes with shredded paper, straw, or sand for bunnies to dig to their heart's content (supervised of course!)
Toilet paper tubes
Stuff toilet paper tubes with hay or treats and watch your rabbit fling them around for hours. Other paper products like paper towel tubes can work too.
Plastic baby keys, stacking cups, balls, and rattles often appeal to rabbits. Just be sure to size up for larger breeds.
Bunnies might enjoy pouncing on cat balls, batting around mice, and tossing jingle balls. Try out different types to see what engages your furry friend.
Rotate toys weekly to keep it fresh and interesting. Store extras to rotate back into the mix. With a bounty of toys, your rabbit will stay active and entertained!
Don’t Expect Them To Follow Your Schedule
One key thing to understand about rabbits before committing is that they are crepuscular. This means they are most active at dawn and dusk, and tend to sleep more during the day and night. Rabbits generally don't adjust their schedule to match their owner's lifestyle. Here's what to expect:
Early morning and evening frenzies – expect zoomies, playtime, chewing, digging, and demands for attention as rabbits come alive at dawn and dusk. Be ready for action during these periods.
More sedentary during daytime – rabbits sleep and rest more during daylight hours. Don't be alarmed if your bunny lounges more when the sun is up.
Less interest in night play – unlike cats, rabbits are not nocturnal and will not be as playful or active at night. They'll likely just sleep.
Demanding at transition times – right as the sun rises and sets, rabbits insist on playtime. Give them attention during these "rush hours."
Alterations to daylight cycle – as seasons change, rabbits will adjust their schedule based on light cues. Be flexible!
Rather than fight your rabbit's crepuscular nature, embrace it! Adjust schedules to spend more bonding time during their prime hours. Let them rest when they need. In time, you'll detect your individual rabbit's unique rhythms and quirks.
Learn About Their Food
Diet is vital to rabbit health, so learning proper rabbit nutrition is a must. Here are some key diet tips:
Hay, hay, hay
Unlimited timothy or other grass hay should form the bulk of your rabbit's diet. Hay supports digestion and dental health. Alfalfa hay is too high in calcium for adult rabbits.
Leafy greens daily
Feed a variety of leafy green veggies like kale, lettuces, parsley, cilantro, arugula daily. Introduce new greens slowly. Limit high-calcium greens like spinach and cabbage.
Pellets in moderation
Feed a limited, measured amount of plain pellets high in fiber but low in sugars and calories. Too many pellets can lead to obesity. Follow package portions.
Always provide fresh clean water in a heavy bowl or bottle. Change it daily.
Sugary fruits like bananas, berries, and melon can be fed as occasional small treats.
No nuts, seeds, grains
Avoid unhealthy foods like nuts, seeds, crackers, cereal, yogurt drops and all human treats. Stick to the basics.
Salt licks optional
Mineral- or salt-licks provide trace nutrients but are not required. Try them out and remove if not used.
With proper diet, your bunny will stay healthy and happy for years to come. Consult an exotic vet or rabbit-savvy resources for more detailed dietary recommendations.
Get A Litter Box
Unlike cats, rabbits are not instinctively litter trained. But with patience and training, most can learn to use a box consistently. Here are tips:
Get a large box
Rabbits need a box big enough to fit in and move around. A cat pan is usually too small. Try a low-sided storage tote.
Use the right litter
Avoid clumping and scented litters. Recycled paper pellets, aspen shavings, or hay work best.
Put box in bunny's area
Place the box where bunny spends the most time and is likely to go. Underneath favorite lounging spots is ideal.
Clean box frequently
Scoop urine and stray droppings at least once a day. Thoroughly change out all litter weekly.
Remove soiled areas
If bunny soils outside the box, remove all signs of urine and droppings immediately so they aren't drawn back.
It takes weeks or even months of consistency for a rabbit to become fully litter trained. Stay diligent.
Neuter for success
Un-fixed rabbits are harder to train. Spay or neuter your rabbit for the best litter box success.
With the right setup and patience, you can minimize messy accidents around your home. Litter training improves life with a house rabbit tremendously.
While less expensive than dogs or cats, rabbits do incur notable costs. Be prepared for:
Buying or building a quality cage, exercise pen, and accessories averages $200-$600 upfront.
Proofing and supplies
Bunny-proofing your home and buying basic supplies like litter boxes, food bowls and toys costs around $150-$300.
Vet and medical needs
Annual checkups, spay/neuter surgery, and medical issues range from $200-$1000+ yearly. Plus exotic vet visits cost more.
Between hay, pellets, greens and litter, food averages $15-$30 per month.
Bunny proofing maintenance
Replacing chewed up belongings, baseboards, shoes, and cords takes continual investment. Budget for damage!
Boarding and pet sitting
A qualified bunny sitter costs $15-$35 per day. Boarding is $10-$25 daily.
Rabbit expenses add up. Ensure you can comfortably handle the recurring costs before adopting long term. The joy of rabbit companionship outweighs the financial commitment when properly prepared.
So in summary, take time to carefully consider if a rabbit fits your family's lifestyle and resources. If you can provide the specialized care rabbits require, the delightful additions make wonderful companions. Just go in understanding their unique needs. When properly cared for, rabbits enrich lives with unconditional love, quirky charm, and endless entertainment.