Like any other family member, rabbits require a lot of love, care, and attention. As opposed to what most people think, rabbits are not low maintenance pets. Please do not buy a bunny and just lock it up in a cage, or give it as a toy to a child. In fact, as compared to dogs and cats, rabbits need extra care as they are more sensitive and vulnerable.
Owning a rabbit does require a lot of care, patience, time, and money (yes, believe it or not but their needs do not come cheap), but we promise that a truly loved and cared for rabbit can give you the most heart-warming feeling.
FOOD & DIET
Rabbits should always have access to proper food and clean water. Rabbits need unlimited access to quality Hay – it should be available 24/7 and should make at least 80% of their diet. Hay not only provides rabbits with all the nutrients they need, but it also helps keep their teeth trimmed, and their digestive system healthy. Having unlimited access to hay prevents a lot of illnesses that rabbits are prone to, like G.I. Stasis, overgrown incisors and molars, and diarrhea, which we will explain in a separate post later.
There are two main types of hay – Alfalfa Hay and Timothy Hay. Alfalfa Hay is best for young bunnies below a year old, while Timothy Hay is best for adult rabbits. Alfalfa hay has more calcium, fat and protein which could be harmful for adult rabbits — this is why when they turn 1 year old, switching to Timothy Hay is recommended.
Rabbits, like humans, also have their own preferences in hay. Some may like the more leafy ones, some like the crunchier stalky ones, some may like longer strands, and some may like the shorter ones. Whatever brand it may be, the most important thing is that your rabbit finds his preferred hay and gets to eat it as much as he wants.
Once rabbits reach 12 weeks old, they can be introduced to vegetables. Always make sure to only give them those that are safe for rabbits like the ones in this list. A serving of fresh (and washed!) romaine lettuce, basil, and wansoy twice a day is a treat that our own rabbits enjoy. When introducing any new food to your rabbit, always keep in mind to start with small amounts. At the first sign of diarrhea or watery poop, please immediately stop giving the new food.
Another part of a rabbit’s diet is pellets. For bunnies 6 months and below, they can be given unlimited alfalfa-based pellets, along with unlimited alfalfa hay. However, when a bunny reaches 7 months, the amount of pellets should gradually be decreased, and timothy hay can already be introduced. For a more detailed description of a rabbit’s proper diet, please click here.
Rabbits are very sensitive creatures, which is why it is highly recommended to give them a safe and comfortable place to call their home.
As the weather and temperature in our country can become quite extreme, we highly encourage you to keep your rabbits indoors. You must understand that rabbits are very sensitive to heat, so if you want to avoid them getting sick or harmed, please let them stay indoors in a well-ventilated area. Aside from the getting heatstroke, rabbits can easily catch diseases from other animals like rats and other pests. There’s also a danger of getting harmed by stray animals. To keep them safe, it is best to keep them indoors. You can opt to let them stay inside a spacious cage or inside a pen with their own litterbox. If you are also able to, you can also let them freely roam inside your house or in their own room — please just make sure to make everything “bunny-proof” to avoid accidents.
Basic items that your rabbit may need to live comfortably in his home would be a water bowl or bottle (depending on what he’s used to), a hay feeder, pellet bowl, a litterbox or a place where he can use as his toilet. To keep him or her from getting bored, you can also give him rabbit-safe toys that he can happily chew on and sometimes throw around. Also, if he or she is living inside a cage with a wired bottom, please do provide him with proper matting as rabbits’ feet can easily be injured with wired floorings.
GROOMING & CLEANING
Rabbits do not require any bathing, in fact, bathing them is highly discouraged as this could stress them out and cause them intense panic. Rabbits are very meticulous in licking themselves clean, which they do very often, so there’s really no need to bathe them. If in case, you need to wash an area, you may do so by spot cleaning it with damp towels, or alcohol-free baby wipes.
Basic grooming for rabbits include regular brushing and nail trimmings. A good slicker brush can help with all the loose fur, while a nail clipper made for rabbits is a good tool to have to keep the length of your little one’s nails in check. Nails that have grown too long will cause your rabbit pain, so it’s best to trim them regularly. Always remember to only trim the edge, avoiding the quick or the blood vessel inside the nails to avoid bleeding! If you’re nervous about trimming your own rabbit’s nails, most rabbit-savvy vets offer nail trimming services.
Rabbits molt or shed their fur a lot especially those with thick coats. Because of this, they need to be brushed or combed at least once a day during shedding season to remove all the loose fur. If not done, this could lead them to ingest an unhealthy amount of their fur, which can badly affect their digestive track. Unlike cats that can easily cough the hair blockage out, rabbits are not capable of doing so. In fact, a critical build up of fur in the stomach can lead to a very serious illness called Gastro Intestinal (G.I.) Stasis, which can cause death in rabbits. In order to prevent G.I. Stasis, your rabbit may require frequent brushing to remove loose hair, plus his daily dose of unlimited hay that provides him the fiber to keep his gut moving.
If you’ve owned two or more bunnies, you would definitely know that no two bunnies act, feel and behave the same. Each one has a different personality, which makes it more special. But before you can actually get to know your little one’s unique personality, you have to earn his trust first.
Rabbits are very cautious and sensitive especially around new people especially in a new environment, and it would take some time before they get comfortable with you and their new home. It’s very important to not do anything that could startle and scare them — keep a little distance if they seem uncomfortable, but also try earning their trust by staying near them, giving them pets if they accept the gesture, and hand feed them pellets, hay or veggies.
With enough patience, your little one will learn to trust you and his personality will shine through.
Most rabbits love exploring wide spaces, while some prefer to snuggle beside you as you watch TV. Some love to be carried around, while some do not want to be handled at all. Some would be comfortable splooting in the middle of the room, while some would prefer snoozing in tight spaces.
Through the years of owning rabbits, we can definitely say that no bunny acts, thinks and behaves the same, not even close. Bonbon was a really sweet but mischievous bunny that loved to be carried and hugged. Burrito hated to be carried but loved sleeping beside us while we petted her. Barley is a very feisty and independent bunny that would voice out his irritation by barking. And Acorn is just a sweet, timid rabbit who loved lounging on our couch asking for pets.
Another thing that we learned is that rabbits communicate using their own body language. To help you understand them better, we’ve created a simple guide so you can decipher what those actions mean. Remember, each bunny is different, and only by spending enough time with them will you really understand them.
Rabbits are very sensitive creatures and may contract a number of different diseases. Some may be hereditary, while some may be caused by external factors. The most common diseases to watch out for are snuffles or wet nose, parasites such as mites and fungus, sore hocks, G.I. Stasis and heat stroke. We’ll create separate posts about these later, but for now, if you think your rabbit is sick, please bring him to a rabbit-savvy vet. For our list of vets, please click here.
NEUTERING and SPAYING
Neutering (males) and Spaying (female) is the surgical procedure in which the reproductive organs are removed to prevent aggressive behavior and certain diseases like cancer. Today, the practice of neutering or spaying is more common in dogs and cats. It is important to note that neutering or spaying is an important procedure for rabbits as well, since it gives rabbits healthier and longer lives.
When rabbits reach around 4 months old, they can become more territorial and aggressive. This is because when rabbits are around 4 to 6 months old, their hormones are raging at this point. This is also the time that surprise pregnancies happen especially when 2 bunnies of the opposite sex are kept together.
Some rabbit owners get surprised with the sudden change in behavior — their once sweet and timid bunny has suddenly become an aggressive rabbit that lunges at anyone who comes near. Fights may also ensue if 2 or more territorial rabbits are kept together — if this happens, please separate them immediately to avoid unwanted injuries. Whatever happens, please do not punish your rabbits. Be very patient with them. Take time to show them that you will not harm them, but you are their friend and companion. But know that at this point, it’s clearly time to visit a rabbit veterinarian to talk about spaying or neutering.
Neutering is done on male rabbits to mainly prevent aggressive behavior and unwanted pregnancies. When male rabbits are aggressive, they tend to spray urine to mark their territory. They easily get threatened and may bite or scratch you. Spaying, on the other hand, is done on female rabbits mainly to prevent diseases such as reproductive cancers, and to also prevent unwanted pregnancies. Once a female rabbit reaches 5 years of age, the chances of getting uterine cancer is 80%. Yes, 80% is a huge chance, which makes it a serious threat to their health. With spaying, this could be virtually eliminated. Not only that, but spaying can also decrease their aggressiveness.
Spaying and neutering are important if you want to have 2 or more rabbits living in one space together. Unless your rabbit is altered, he cannot have a companion, either of the same sex or the opposite sex, because of the aggressiveness triggered by hormones. For more information about getting your rabbit spayed or neutered here in the Philippines, please click here.
The average life expectancy of rabbits is between 5 to 8 years old. But some rabbits can live more than 10 years old. In fact, the oldest living pet rabbit on record is 16 years old. Our Burrito lived a wonderful 8 years with us before she passed.
Rabbits can live longer if they are spayed or neutered and if they are given proper care and attention. For a comparison of rabbit years to human years, please visit this page.
For more information on proper rabbit care, we suggest to visit the Websites below. You can also check with a rabbit-savvy vet for any issues concerning your rabbit.
- Rabbit.org – House Rabbit Society
- myhouserabbit.com – My House Rabbit
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