Rabbit Care

Please check out The House Rabbit Societies website, it’s full of useful information about learning how to accommodate an indoor bunny!

http://rabbit.org/Timothy&Pellets

Great news! Mini Plush Lops are quite simple to take care of. They make great indoor pets and are perfect for apartments or small homes because they aren’t loud and hardly take up any space. They also shed tons less!

Holland Lops are also easy keepers. They, like the Mini Plush Lop, do not require any special grooming.

Lionheads and English Angoras do require grooming and shed like an indoor cat, please refer to the Lionhead page or English Angora page to read about their individual grooming needs.

Rabbit Pro’s

  • Bunnies do not require (or even have) any yearly shots or vaccines. No need to take your bunny to the vet unless he or she is ill.
  • Bunnies are quiet! They are perfect for someone who doesn’t want a pet to wake up the baby, bark at the mailman or whine when they want something.
  • Unlike dogs, rabbits don’t mind being home alone all day. They are similar to a cat in that they won’t become depressed or deprived if they don’t have human interaction for hours a day. They are great for working people or kids that are away at school during the day.
  • If you provide your bunny with an extra water bottle and plenty of food, you can leave your bunny at home in their cage on the weekends, so your family can go on short trips, no pet sitter required.
  • Bunnies are cheap! I buy 50-pound bags of rabbit food at my local feed store for $12. This will last one rabbit at least 2 months.

 

Cages and Litter Training

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I personally use 24” x 24”  Wire Bottomed Cages in my rabbitry for my Mini Plush Lops, Lionheads and Holland Lops and 36” x 36” wire bottomed cages for my English Angoras. They are the easiest for me to clean and keep the rabbit the most clean, too! I also recommend using a wire bottom cage for an indoor rabbit, even though most people assume an indoor rabbit needs a plastic bottomed cage. Some people do not like the thought of a rabbit sitting on wire bottomed cage floors in fear that they will get sorax or “Sore hocks.” This is always a concern and possibility if you do not provide the rabbit with a platform to stand or sit on. Fortunately, a rabbit is still safely able to sit, stand and hop on wire with no problem as long as a wooden platform or plastic mat is provided. If I felt that wire bottomed cages were harmful or painful in any way, I would not use them. But, because all my cages have platforms, the bunnies feet are safe and well taken care of.  Even with the wooden platform or plastic mats in their cages, many still choose to stand, hop and lay on the wire. I make my own wooden platforms by simply going to Lowes or Home Depot and purchasing a non-treated piece of plywood. I go home and cut the wood into 12 x 12” pieces for my Mini Plush Lops, Lionheads and Holland lops and 18” x 18” pieces for my English Angoras.

The traditional inside rabbit cage route is getting a Plastic Bottomed Cage. Keep in mind you will have to clean a plastic bottomed cage much more than a wire bottomed cage. A rabbit has the opportunity to step in its own waist in a plastic bottomed cage, so it’s important to keep a plastic bottomed cage very clean to prevent your rabbit from getting messy! You will also need to purchase bedding for the bottom of a plastic bottomed cage. I prefer Care Fresh bedding, it looks a lot like lint. Rabbits don’t tend to eat this which makes it a great choice. DO NOT PURCHASE ANY KIND OF WOOD PELLETS OR SHAVINGS for the bottom of your cage. Rabbits will eat wood based bedding which can be very harmful! Lots of wooden shavings say they are made especially for rabbits, but I still would not purchase it.

An Outdoor Hutch is also a good choice for Holland lops or Lionheads if you’re not interested in having an indoor bunny. Mini Plush Lops do best indoors because their fur is not as weather resistant as a Holland Lop or Lionhead. English Angoras are hardy winter breeds but can get very hot in the summer with all their beautiful thick wool. I would also recommend keeping an English Angora inside to keep them out of the hot summer weather. If your Holland Lop or Lionhead is going to be an outside bunny, make sure your hutch is very similar to the one pictured. It must have 3 covered sides and a covered roof and it should have a nesting area to one side so the rabbit can hide from rain and wind.

You must monitor your outside rabbit closely! Rabbits are very susceptible to heat stroke. It the temperature is pushing 85 degrees, it would be best to take your rabbit indoors, or at least put a frozen milk jug in their cage for them to lean against and continue to monitor closely. In the winter time you must make sure your rabbits water does not freeze. Something that works well is stapling window plastic around the wire sides of the hutch. This will help trap warmth in the hutch and keep drafts out. If your bunny doesn’t have a buddy to huddle up with, I would recommend putting a hutch in the garage or bringing the rabbit inside on cold nights under 20 degrees. Also, provide lots of timothy hay or straw in their nesting area in the winter time.

Rabbits can be litter trained! In fact, most of my Mini Plush Lop rabbits end up going to litter trained homes. I would still recommend getting a wire bottomed cage for your rabbit to stay in while you’re not at home and at night. I am not a litter training expert, so please refer to the House Rabbit Society website, they’re the experts! http://rabbit.org/faq-litter-training-2/ They have great step by step litter triaging instructions. Two things I can highly recommend though, is the type of litter box to get and a cool little spray called Natures Miracle! Be sure to purchase a rabbit litter box, not a cat one! A rabbit litter box looks like the photo shown. It has a wire bottom, so the rabbit doesn’t step in his waist on his way out of the litter box. Natures Miracle has Pheromones in it which encourages the rabbit to go in the litter box and not on your floor.

 

Feed

Rabbits have a few food requirements, first they must have a Rabbit Pellet that are 16-18% protein. Check the nutrition facts on the back of rabbit feeds at your local pet or feed store to make sure the protein content is sufficient. Also, be sure to get food that is ONLY a green pellet like the pellets shown in the below picture. Do not get any food that has nuts, seeds, oats or brightly colored treats in it. This will cause your rabbit to be a very selective and picky eater! A boring old pellet is the best pellet to get for your bunny. Oxbo, Country Roads or Mana Pro rabbit foods are great. Something to keep in mind is, going to a feed store like Rural King or Tractor supply will have good quality rabbit feed in 50-pound bags for much cheaper than pet stores like PetSmart and Petco. Consider going to your local feed or country store so you don’t have to pay the big bucks for feed! Do not get “Young” rabbit food or “Baby” rabbit food! This is not necessary and will only make you have to switch your rabbits food again later.


Daily Pellet Amounts for Adults:

Mini Plush Lop: ½ Cup

Lionhead: ¾ Cup

Holland Lop: ½ Cup

English Angora: 1 Cup

When you take your new bunny home I would still offer the same adult amount each day, but don’t be worried if your bunny doesn’t finish it. Just add a bit more the following day to his leftover to make the daily adult amount.

When you take home your new rabbit I will send you home with a baggie full of the food I use. I feed Country Roads Rabbit Feed from my local feed store. You DO NOT need to feed your rabbit this specific food. Again, any food will work as long as it’s 16-18% protein and is nothing but a pellet.  When you get your new bunny home, feed him or her the food I gave you for one day, then start mixing your food of choice into the food I gave you a little more each day until you run out of my food. This will give the rabbit a gradual transition and no tummy aches.

Second, rabbits must have some sort of roughage in their diet. The best kind of food to meet this requirement is Mixed Grass hay or Timothy hay. DO NOT feed your rabbit Alfalfa hay. Alfalfa is too rich and will give your rabbit stomach problems. Alfalfa and timothy hay look very similar so be sure to check the packaging, or if you’re buying a whole hay bale like I do at the local feed store, ask an employee to check and make sure the bail is timothy. Pet stores and even Walmart has small packages of timothy hay, but you will pay $5-8 dollars for a small back when you could purchase a whole bail for about $12. If you have a garage or she in your yard, I would recommend buying a bale of hay and covering it with a tarp. It will last one rabbit a very long time! Mixed grass usually comes in bails too and looks very similar to timothy. It usually has dried clover and a variety of grasses mixed in it. This also works great and gives your rabbit a little variety.

Lastly, your rabbit need fresh water available to it at all times! I use a rabbit water bottle with a ball just like the one pictured below. Just be sure to fill it up when it starts running low. I fill mine up every day just to make sure they don’t run out. The more expensive the water bottle the better, the cheap ones tend to drip…a lot.

Bunnies do love treats! There are many food people assume they can give their bunny that are actually harmful. The most commonly fed dangerous foods are leafy greens like cabbage lettuce and spinach and broccoli. Very small amounts are usually ok, but I would still highly recommend not feeding them to your rabbit at all just in case. Bunnies can’t pass gas! And these foods will produce gas in their bellies they can’t get rid of.

Below is a list of treats that bunnies CAN have! Keep p in mind, they need to be small bunny sized treats and not large portions and I would suggest feeding the following foods no more than every other day.

GOOD FOODS:

  • Apple (any variety, without stem and seeds)
  • Cherries (any variety, without the pits)
  • Pear
  • Peach
  • Plum (without the pits)
  • Kiwi
  • Berries (any type)
  • Pineapple (remove skin)
  • Banana fresh (remove peel) or dried banana chips
  • Melons (any – can include peel and seeds)
  • Carrots
  • Summer squash
  • Zucchini squash
  • Celery
  • Oats (the kind of oatmeal humans eat, uncooked.)
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes

BAD FOODS:

  • Bread
  • Crackers
  • Pasta
  • All kinds of Lettuce (Rabbits can’t pass gas. Some leafy greens produce gas in their bellies and makes them have a tummy ache.)
  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Nuts
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Cabbage (Rabbits can’t pass gas. Some leafy greens produce gas in their bellies and makes them have a tummy ache.)

 

Nails: Toe nail trimmers will be necessary every month or so. There are lots of rabbit trimming tutorials on YouTube that are very helpful. If you happen to cut a nail to short, apply pressure and dab with cooking flour to clot the nail and stop the bleeding. Even I accidently cut too short sometimes. It’s a very quick and easy process that anyone can do. I trimmed my rabbits nails when I first started 4-H at 8 so please don’t hesitate to trim your bunnies nails and don’t make a trip and pay a vet to do it! it is just like cutting a dogs nails, cut the very tip and don’t get into the “Quick” or where the blood starts within the nail. On most rabbits in good light you can see where the blood starts in the nail. Just don’t get into that part and you can’t go wrong!

Bathing: Rabbits do not need to be bathed. In fact, it is harmful because it washes of the natural oils on their skin and fur which often causes irritation. If your bunny gets messy just spot treat the area with a damp towel and Dawn dish soap.

Fix Your Rabbit!

If your not interested in breeding, I would HIGHLY recommend getting your rabbit fixed. This makes them very easy to work with. They no longer have any territorial issues meaning there is no possibility that they will spray or be aggressive around their cages. It also makes it much easier to potty train your bunny when fixed. Fixing your rabbit also lengthens their life expectancy. A well cared for fixed rabbit has the potential to live as long as a dog, 12 years! You can have multiple rabbits sharing a space with no issues as long as they are all fixed. Two bucks will naturally fight as well as two does. A buck and a doe will breed all the time. But, if fixed bunnies of any gender pairing can cohabitate safely and happily. Most vets will fix bunnies at around 6 months of age. It should cost the about the same as a cat to get fixed. You can find more rabbit fixing information here

http://rabbit.org/faq-spaying-and-neutering/

Rabbits Love Playmates!

Ideally every domestic rabbit has a companion rabbit. Keep in mind both MUST be fixed. Although not absolutely necessary, rabbits do appreciate a buddy. They will play, clean each other, eat and sleep together. If not fixed,  2 does will fight as well as 2 bucks. And, of course a doe/buck companionship will result in babies and lots of territorial issues including fighting, spraying and bad attitudes!

Getting Acquainted With Your New Bunny

A bunny is as sweet as you make it. If you never take the time to take your bunny out and spend time with it, it won’t be nearly as friendly. Luckily, Mini Plush Lops, Holland Lops and Angoras are pretty darn sweet to begin with, but it is still vital that you spend quality time with your rabbit! On your first day home with your bunny, it’s best to leave them in their cage and give them some quiet time to allow them to adjust to their new surroundings. On day two, get them out once or twice for about 15 minutes and let them sit in your lap. On day three it’s time to start making your bunny a part of the family! Keep in mind that young rabbits are hyper and full of energy like a puppy! Don’t be concerned if they act as if they don’t want to be heled and loved on right away. They have too much stuff to explore and don’t want to sit still for long! Pet your bunny all over, flip your bunny on its back in your lap and touch their toes and belly. Watch TV with your bunny on your lap and let them freely hop around the house. The more you do these things, the more comfortable your bunny will be with you. Soon your bunny will be following you around the house asking for attention. Rabbits in general are very social and do enjoy the company of humans if they are well socialized at a young age.

Bunnies can wear a harness and leash! A cat leash fits the best and the younger you start the better. In the beginning just out the harness on the bunny and let him or her freely hop around with the harness for an hour or so for a few days. Then add the leash and gently practice leading your bunny. This is a very fun way to spend time with your rabbit, but your bunny will need some practice to perfect this skill! Some people even do agility courses with their bunnies! I’ve never personally don’t this with my bunnies but apparently it’s quite the thing! There are tons of pictures an information about it online, check it out!

 

Did you know?

Many people simply associate rabbits with rodents assuming they aren’t intelligent and just sit in a cage all day and do nothing. Most don’t think they live very long and most also think they are strictly outdoor pets. This all couldn’t be farther from the truth! Rabbits are far more intelligent and social than people give them credit for. Rabbits can be trained to use a litter box so they can live in your house with you! There is even such a thing as rabbit agility. You can teach a RABBIT to do agility jumps! If you practice you can even teach your bunny to walk or hop on a leash. Rodent is simply referring to a mammal that has constantly growing incisor teeth, it has nothing to do with intelligence or longevity. Rabbits can live almost as long as a dog! An indoor well taken care of spayed or neutered bunny on a good diet has the potential to live up to 12 years!

Did you know rabbits do great in pairs? Just like humans, everyone prefers a buddy. They make great companions that will play and enjoy each other’s company. A pair of spayed or neutered rabbits will perform “allgrooming” which is when the two will simultaneously lick, and groom each other, just like cats, dogs and primates.

Just like dogs wag their tail, Mini Plush Lops and other rabbits also have their own happy language. A happy or excited Mini Plush Lop “binky’s.” This entails running, jumping in the air, twisting their body while in flight and simply being a joyful rabbit! Many have never heard of such a behavior in rabbits which is totally understandable. When you’re stuck in a cage all day, you don’t have a lot to be excited about. This behavior is mostly seen in inside rabbits that have space to roam and interact with their humans. It is also commonly seen in baby or young rabbits when playing with each other.

Although rabbits don’t make hardly any noise, they still communicate…a lot! To warn other rabbits or if they feel in danger they will thump their feet. If they want to show affection, they will make a very quiet hardly noticeable low humming noise. To show being content or relaxed they will groom themselves or lay down on their sides to nap.

As you can see, rabbits are probably a lot more interesting than you may have thought and certainly much better pets than you probably assumed. So next time your son or daughter wants a dog or cat, recommend a rabbit instead! Or, if you’re itching for something cute and sweet but don’t want something that shed’s as much as a cat, get a Mini Plush Lop!

 

 

 

Ellie McGinnis

Lexington, Kentucky

(859) 457-7769

elliesrabbitry@yahoo.com