How To Care For Your New Pet Rabbit
Right around Christmas and Easter time each year, bunny sales and adoptions explode. Unfortunately, many rabbit owners don’t know much about what kind of animal they have. All too often, those adorable bunnies end up growing into rabbits which are left outside in cages or hutches with little human interaction. Rabbits are cute, cuddly and very quiet, making them the perfect small pet. While rabbits do make wonderful pets, but there are some things to keep in mind before you rush into bringing one home.
Rabbits Can Make Wonderful Indoor Pets!
Rabbits are social animals and will quickly learn to recognize and grow fond of their owners. They love to receive attention, to run around the house, jump and kick up their heels, and to interact with you! They are as playful as kittens and as much fun, too!
Rabbits are not meant to be kept in outdoor cages where they can get bored, lonely, and cold! Rabbits should be kept indoors, or at least have an indoor space, where they can live permanently or when the weather is too hot or too cold.
Rabbits are very active.
Indoor rabbits will get plenty of exercise, but outdoor rabbits must be let out of their cages for some active fun. Take them out regularly so they can run and jump. Also, provide your new pet with plenty of chew toys, fresh food such as pellets and vegetables and water to keep them healthy.
Rabbits are smart.
They will become attached to their owners, greeting them when they return after a day at work. They will develop their own personalities as they grow and can be a pleasure to have around. Rabbits also will instinctively go to the bathroom in the same place, which makes them smart enough to be litter box trained. This means that your new pet can be part of the household and live indoors.
Housing Your Rabbit Indoors
As a pet, your bunny will get emotionally attached to you, just like a cat or dog. Keeping them inside your home is best for them for many reasons, a few being:
- They are safe from other wild animals and predators
- They are sheltered from severe weather
- You can have so much more interaction with them!
You'll have to bunny-proof your home (rabbits like to chew-just as cats love to scratch). If you can't allow your new pet in every room, you can limit it to a few rooms (at least one room, so it can play with you) and get an indoor cage so it's confined safely while you're not home. But do spend time playing and interacting with him/her, they need attention just as much as any kitten or puppy.
Keeping Your Rabbit Outdoors
Rabbits should never be kept outside all day and night. If they can't live inside the home, they should at least be taken in at night and in severe weather.
If you must build an outdoor enclosure, put it as close to the house as possible so you easily remember to spend time with them and check their food and water supply. Here are some tips for an adequate rabbit hutch:
- Your rabbit will require roughly 35' of outdoor area, preferably with grass and low shrubs or other natural floorings. It's best not to use a raised, wire floor as it can injure the pads of the foot and become painful and cause sores, but if you absolutely must, at least use 'hardware cloth wire' NOT 'chicken wire (See Picture Below) and make sure they have an equal-sized area of solid flooring.
- Bury the side wiring about 4" into the ground so your bunny cannot dig it's way out (or a predator dig it's way IN)!
- The roof should be a minimum of 3' high to allow jumping and playing. A weatherproof, 6' high run will allow you to easily enter the hutch to clean, feed, and play with your rabbit!
- Provide a secure, weather-proof, indoor area for sleeping and hiding from inclement weather and predators (minimum 6' long and 2' high and wide).
- Provide plenty of hay or alfalfa (for snacking and chewing), and toys like cardboard boxes (for pushing around or hiding in), chew toys, plastic balls (for pushing around-then destroying) or a maple, pine or oak tree branch (to gnaw on). WARNING: CHERRY, PEACH, APRICOT, PLUM & REDWOOD ARE ALL POISONOUS!
All in all, rabbits can make great pets!
With proper training, rabbits can enjoy the run of the house and interact with you regularly. They can get along with cats and even some dogs!
If you're unsure about owning a pet rabbit, try being a foster family for a rabbit at your local pet shelter first! If it works out, adopt your own!