How To Keep a Pet Bunny
Rabbits make sweet pets, but they are more intelligent than you may think, and they can be fragile
If you're thinking about adding a rabbit to your household, be sure to do your homework first. Many people classify rabbits with guinea pigs, hamsters and gerbils as small pets that are low maintenance, requiring little attention and care. While rabbits can be kept in a cage, are quiet, and don't require walking, they need more attention and care than you might think. But if you invest some time in your pet rabbit every day, the rewards will be great!
Where to Find Your Rabbit
You'll find many homeless bunnies of all ages, sizes, and colors listed on Petfinder.com. Adopting a homeless bunny is a great way to acquire a new pet because you're giving an animal a chance at a happy new life. Rabbit rescue organizations will usually spay or neuter a rabbit before adopting it out, and you definitely want a pet who's undergone this procedure. Rabbits reproduce quickly, and you don't want to add to the rabbit overpopulation problem!
A New House for Bunny: Indoors or Outdoors?
Now that you've found your new friend, get his home ready for him. First big decision: Are you going to keep him in an outdoor hutch, or will he be a house rabbit? Rabbits can be housetrained to a litter box, just like cats, so letting your bunny hop freely around the house can work well. Bunnies do chew, though, so be sure that any area where the bunny will be roaming has been "bunny-proofed": move electrical cords out of the way, or cover them with chewproof tubing.
Rabbits who live indoors have a better chance of living longer lives, as they're not exposed to the elements or to the dangers of wild animal attacks. Plus, it's fun to watch your furry little pal hop around and do "binkies," mid-air twists and turns that only a bunny can do!
The House Rabbit Society [http://www.rabbit.org] -- an indispensible resource for rabbit owners -- recommends keeping rabbits indoors, but if you do decide to keep your bunny outside, make sure he has a sturdy hutch to live in, with an enclosed space for him to hide in as well as an open area for him to get the air. In winter, if you live in a place where the weather can be harsh, you may want to partially cover the hutch with a plastic tarp, for extra protection.
If you choose to make your bunny a house rabbit, buy the largest cage you can fit into the space where you'll be keeping him. Bunnies need exercise, so a cage where your little fellow can only sit still is definitely not adequate. Look for a cage that's at least about four times the size of your rabbit, and if he's not going to be out of the cage hopping around for at least part of every day, the cage should be even larger.
Cages with wire floors are popular choices for small animals, but wire floors are hard on rabbits' feet. If you do choose a cage with a wire floor -- because it can make the cage cleanup job easier -- make sure the bunny has a wooden board or other solid surface to sit on while in the cage.
The cage should also have a litter box, which can be an inexpensive plastic dishpan. Line it with newspapers and place a handful of hay on top of the newspaper. The bunny becomes trained to use the litterbox by sitting in the box as he munches away on the hay and does his business.
You'll also need a gravity-fed water bottle, which attaches to the side of the cage and is available at any pet store. Some bunnies don't like water bottles and will only drink out of a dish, and you can buy a dish that attaches to the side of the cage, so that Mr. Bunny doesn't tip it over.
Hay is the most important element of a rabbit's diet. Bunnies need a lot of roughage in their diets, and the hay also helps to wear their teeth down, which is necessary to prevent the teeth from growing too long and causing health problems. You can buy bags of hay in the pet store -- make sure you buy timothy hay rather than alfalfa, as it's better for the rabbit's digestion. You can also buy bales of hay at a farm store like Agway, if you have one near you.
Bunnies also need pellets. Avoid the commercial pellets that contain "treats" and stick to the plainer types of pellets. Agway's Big Red is a decent pellet. Read the bag to see how much your rabbit should be getting every day, and try not to overfeed pellets. Your bunny will also appreciate fresh veggies every day.
There's so much more...
...to know about keeping a pet rabbit! Rabbits are fascinating, adorable, yet sometimes complicated creatures, and they are a joy to keep as pets. Do your homework, and you should be rewarded with a healthy, happy bunny who will be your devoted friends for years.
For more information
The House Rabbit Society [http://www.rabbit.org]
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