Tips On Taking Care Of A House Rabbit and Rabbit Supplies
Adopting and Caring For Pet Rabbits, and Bunny Supplies and Toys
House rabbits are pet rabbits that lives inside a person's house, rather than outside in a hutch. Many house rabbits are allowed to come and go from their hutches at will (usually under supervision). Romping around the den, leaping into the air, and turning this way and that are all such fun for a bunny, not to mention for their human companion to observe! Rabbits are very easy to litter-box train. Many even get along well with the family cat or dog! And, they don't bark!!!
My family has had the pleasure of caring for two house rabbits. In this article, I'll tell you about our pet house rabbits and provide you with some tips on the care of house rabbits. You'll also find some Rabbit Supplies and Toys below.
Above you can see a picture of Amerisa. She's our current house rabbit.
The Story Of Benji - Our first house bunny!
Before we had kids, my husband and I adopted a house rabbit during a visit to our state fair. It was my birthday, and the bunnies were sooo cute! Although the rabbit would live at our house, I taught kindergarten and knew my kids would love an occasional visit from a rabbit! It's actually much better to plan for your house rabbit, learn about their needs, and gather the necessary supplies before going to pick out your new rabbit, but it all worked out okay for our rabbit anyway.
Our rabbit's name? Well, that's a funny story. The people from whom we adopted our rabbit assured us that he was a boy, so we named him Benji. Quite some time later, while I was talking to the vet on the phone about some unusual behaviors in our bunny, I found out that Benji was really a girl! The vet said those "unusual behaviors" were "nesting" behaviors! We decided to keep calling our bunny Benji though, as she'd grown accustomed to that name by then. By the way, unlike with dogs, cats, and horses, it's not easy to tell the sex of a rabbit!
Benji, a Netherland Dwarf Lop, lived in the house with us. In fact, her hutch was right there in the great room - in the very heart of our house, which was appropriate because she was in the very heart of us too.
Benji was soooo super sweet! She was a real snuggler! And watching her hop around the living room brought us much joy. She'd leapt up into the air and then change directions before landing again. She'd hop (it was more like zooming, at times!) this way and that across the floor. When she'd get tired of hopping around, she's come over for a face to face snuggle or to munch on a carrot or some kale we had waiting for her.
We were good friends with our bunny-loving next door neighbors, so whenever my husband and I went camping or to Grandma's house for the weekend, our neighbors delightedly agreed to take care of Benji until we returned. Sometimes though, we opted to take Benji with us. Benji's larger cage was fairly big - much too big to put in the car - so we bought a smaller cage to serve as our bunny's home when we were on the go.
This is our daughter, Jessica, and our rabbit, Benji, with Benji's smaller "traveling cage" that we used when we took her places for the weekend.
The Story of Amerisa - Our Current House Bunny
Soft and sweet!
Amerisa is our current bunny. This time, we visited several different breeders before selecting one from whom we wanted to purchase a pet bunny. Like Benji did, Amerisa lives in an indoor hutch in our living room. Unlike with Benji, she has quite a few other animal "siblings." In addition to Amerisa, we now have two dogs and a cat. We also have two kids.
Amerisa is a very calm bunny. She seems to be a bit more shy than Benji was. But she's super sweet! In addition to hopping all around the living room, she loves to crawl under chairs, playing hide and seek with us. She's a lot of fun to watch as she explores the living room, comes nose to nose with our Cocker Spaniel, and nibbles on carrots and other veggies.
This is our son, Alex, petting Amerisa.
Amerisa and Bowzer
Selecting A Pet
Should you adopt a rabbit as a pet?
To adopt a rabbit or not?
A few things to consider when selecting a pet
I'll leave it to other websites and books to give you information about dogs,cats, gerbils, and other pets, and focus my discussion here on rabbits. In deciding if you'd like to adopt a rabbit into your family, here are a few questions you might like to ask yourself.
1. Is anyone in your home highly allergic to grass? If so, they may also be allergic to Timothy hay, which is a very important parts of a rabbit's diet. My son and I both react to Amerisa's Timothy hay, but manage fine as long as someone else gives her the hay and cleans her cage.
2. Do you like to go places on the weekends? House rabbits, if left with plenty of water and food, can usually be left alone for an occasional weekend, now and then. Of course, you'd want to leave them in their cage - not loose and running around while you're gone. If you'll be gone for a longer period of time, or gone most weekends, you'll either need to take your rabbit with you, as we often did with Benji, or find a friend to come in and care of your bunny. Please keep in mind that house rabbits depend upon people for more than just food and water. They also depend upon their "people" for companionship.
3. Do you have other pets that might hurt your bunny? Many calm dogs and cats get along beautifully with rabbits..but not all do. One of our dogs is so calm and good with other animals. He gets along well with all of our other pets, including our rabbit. But we've not yet been brave enough to allow our puppy, Ben, to be in the same room with Amerisa when Amerisa was out of her cage.
4. Are you willing to bunny-proof your home? If not, I suggest you not get a bunny, as bunnies will be bunnies...and bunnies like to chew! There are many things you can do to keep bunny from chewing on all your things. But you do have to be willing to take the necessary steps to bunny proof your house!
5. Do you like quiet pets? Bunnies are very quiet. They don't bark. They don't neigh. They don't run around on wheels like a gerbil. With the exception of very soft noises that a bunny makes when it's hurt, the only noises you're liking to hear from your bunny are those made by the water bottle as the bunny drinks, the sounds of your bunny eating, and an occasional thumb of his paw on the floor if he senses danger.
Housing Your Bunny
What type of cage should you choose?
Do you even need a cage?
Housing Your Bunny
Will you need a cage for your house bunny?
For our family, it works well to have a cage for our bunny, but to open the cage door often so she can come out and play. That way, we can keep her safe (and our house safe too) during times when we're unable to supervise her. As mentioned above, bunnies do chew...and can chew electric wires or other unsafe things, potentially causing themselves great danger. We've encased our electric wires in a casing that runs along our baseboards for this reason.
This is Amerisa in her cage. It's a two story cage, with a ramp connecting the two stories. Amerisa can easily go up and down the ramp whenever she'd like.The bottom section has a large door which opens up and can be hooked onto the upper section of the cage to keep it open. This allows our bunny to come and go from her cage as she pleases, whenever we have the door open. The entire top lid of the cage also can be opened, to allow us easy access to Amerisa when she's in the top of her cage, or whenever we want to clean the cage.
In the photo above, Amerisa is eating rabbit food from a plastic container attached to the side of her cage. Her litter box is behind her, There is a chew toy hanging from the top section of her cage. (It's near her head.) On both the top and the bottom levels of her cage, we've placed timothy hay for her to nibble on. Her water bottle is on the bottom level. The entire cage sits in a plastic tray, to help catch anything that might fall out of her cage. (Timothy hay is what falls out the most!)
Although many people have wire on the bottom of the cage, this can be very hard on the bunny's feet. Having to stand on wire all the time can cause a condition called hock sores. For this reason, our vet advised us to use a cage with a wooden board on the bottom, rather than a wire grate. Because our bunny uses her litter box, there really isn't much mess to clean up in the rest of the cage! If you decide to use a wire bottomed cage instead, consider placing a large wooden board (of untreated wood) on at least one section of the floor for your bunny to stand on if her feet begin hurting. (Your bunny may chew a board you place loose in her cage, so please use wood that's safe for her to chew!)
What do bunnies eat?
Feeding Your Pet Rabbit
Rabbits need fresh water and three types of food every day.
- Fresh Veggies
Fresh Veggies - Enough, But Not Too Many
Although your bunny needs some fresh veggies, don't overdo it! Remember how Peter felt after he gorged in Mr. McGregor's garden in "Peter Rabbit?"
Our vet recommends two handfuls of fresh veggies every day for a rabbit of Amerisa's size. These can be carrots, dark leafy greens (but never iceberg lettuce), dandelion greens and flowers, parsley, etc. Although rabbits love fruit, fruit should only be offered once or twice a week, in very limited quantities.
Fresh veggies offer your rabbit some nutrients that they don't get in a diet of just hay and pellets. In fact, if your rabbit begins getting teary eyed, or sneezing, ask yourself if you've been giving him or her enough fresh veggies every day. (You may be, as there are other things that can lead to these problems too. But it's one thing you should definitely check, if your rabbit develops these symptoms.)
You can read more about what foods are safe for rabbits via the following website: Safe Foods For Rabbits. This website includes not only fruits and veggies that are safe for bunnies, but also safe trees, shrubs, and flowers, as well as those that are not safe!
Here's another excellent website on Foods That Are Safe For Bunnies. In addition to listing safe foods, it includes a guide as to how much fresh vegetables to feed your rabbit, based on the rabbit's size.
Timothy Hay - very important for the digestive system
Rabbits should have unlimited access to timothy hay or alfalfa hay all day. It helps keep their digestive systems working properly! Our vet told us that alfalfa hay is good for young bunnies, but that once they are adults, they should be given timothy hay instead.
This is the brand of Timothy Hay that we buy for Amerisa. It's worked great for us! Amerisa loves it!
Bunnies need dry rabbit food every day too. Our vet advised us to buy pellets, in addition to Timothy Hay, for our rabbit. He said to avoid those food mixes that have corn, seeds, and fruits mixed in. He said that although very small amounts of those could be given ever so often as a special treat, they shouldn't be given daily. Unlike hay, rabbits should NOT be given unlimited pellets each day. Amerisa is a small rabbit and is only offered 1/4 cup of rabbit pellets a day. Your vet can advise you on how much rabbit pellets to give your bunny based on your bunny's weight and activity level.
Training Your Rabbit To Use A Litter Box
Yes, it can be done! In fact, rabbits almost train themselves!
Litter Box Training - It's easy to litter box train rabbits!
Amerisa's litter box is in the back corner of her cage. When we originally got Amerisa, we gave her two litter boxes, one on each level of her cage. But after a few weeks, we were able to take out one. Since the one on the bottom level of her cage was harder for us to access for cleaning purposes, we removed it and kept the one on the top level of her cage.
To litter box train a rabbit is fairly easy. Watch which corner of their cage they use the bathroom in, and then place a litter box in that spot! Usually, they'll continue to use the bathroom in that same spot, especially if you keep their litter box at least somewhat cleaned out.
Shown here is the style of litter box we selected for our rabbit. Having a high back is a very useful feature of rabbit litter boxes! (In fact, even with the high back, be careful what's behind or beside your rabbit's litter box.)
This high back litter box has two little pegs that hook onto the side of the rabbit's cage to help hold the litter box in place. Rabbits love to toss things around, so being able to attach the litter box to the cage (and unattach it to clean it) is a very nice feature!
Here's what we use in our rabbit's litter box
It's very compacted in the bag, but expands into a loose litter when you remove it from the bag. One bag will last you quite a while. It's soft, highly absorbent, and can even be composted!
Whatever type of litter you use, don't fill the box too full, as the rabbit may spread the litter all around the cage!
Bunny Proofing Your Home
A few bunny proofing tips
Including toys for bunny's entertainment!
Blocking off areas that you don't want your bunny to get into, bunny proofing those areas in which your bunny will be allowed access, and providing plenty of things to chew and play with are keys to bunny proofing your house.
Put up makeshift barriers
We put various types of barriers up to keep our bunny in the living room, or to keep her from getting behind the sofa or in other small locations. Here, two notebooks block access to the area behind the sofa and piano. Bunnies do love to go behind things!
Using casings for wires and clear plastic corner protectors for wall corners
It can be very dangerous for your rabbit to chew on electric cords. And it isn't that great for the cords either!
We have our electric wires encased in on-the-wall plastic casings that run along our baseboards or up the wall beside doors. These casings can be bought at most hardware stores and are designed to encase electric wires. They even come with a sticky back to enable you to attach them to the baseboard or along the trim running up and over a door.
Benji, our first bunny, liked to chew on the corner of two of our walls, as the corner protruded out into the room. We purchased a clear, corner shaped plastic strip which we fastened onto the protruding corner and that instantly solved that problem. Before she was spayed, Benji also used to dig in the carpet some (it's a nesting behavior). We put other things on the spots where she liked to dig, and had her spayed.
Here's another type of protective casing for wires
As best as you can, keep all cords out of bunny's reach or encased in special casings you attach to the wall, as described in the section above. Yet cords that come directly out of the outlet (and thus are not flat against the wall in a wall casing), may also present a problem. Here's one solution.
Bunnies like toys they can chew. There are things available for bunnies to chew in the rabbit section of most pet stores.
I think grass mats, balls, tunnels, etc, are great for rabbits as they are a play toy, and a chew toy, all in one. Unfortunately, I rarely see these at pet stores..
Rabbits who are busy playing or chewing on safe toys or grass mats are less likely to be chewing on your drapes!
Other bunny proofing tips can be found at Bunny Proofing Tips and Tricks.
Bunny Toys and Grass Mats
Many bunnies love toys like this that they can toss around and chew!
Grass play toys and other play things for your rabbit
Toys made of grass will be chewed up eventually...but isn't that the point? Much better to have your rabbit chew on these, then on your best furniture or carpet!
In selecting toys for your rabbit, keep in mind their love of tossing things, nudging things with their noses, and chewing on things. They also love to crawl into or through things. For this reason, tunnels make great gifts for rabbits. If it's a grass tunnel they can chew on, it's all the better!
Some cat toys are great for rabbits to toss about, but chose them carefully with safety in mind. The Flip and Toss carrot toy shown here is another option.
Check out the "Original Activity Zone Rabbit Toy" shown here. We don't own one of these, but it sure does look like fun! This toy has very positive reviews! Rabbits can and do hop on top of it, hide underneath it, and play with all the many colorful toys on it! It makes great "bunny furniture" to keep you rabbit entertained and happy. It's designed for rabbits up to 8 lbs.
Not all toys have to be store bought. Your bunny may love crawling into and out of a large paper bag, for example. Just make sure that anything you allow your bunny to play with is safe and non-toxic. (Close supervision is a necessity as well.)
This is great for helping a rabbit wear down their teeth! (If rabbits don't have things to chew on, their teeth can grow too long.)
More Bunny Toys! - Most of these toys are for chewing or tossing!
Amerisa received one of these for Christmas this year! Great toss and chew toy for rabbits!
What care do rabbits require?
Nails? Shots? Spaying and neutering?
Our first rabbit never needed her nails clipped, but Amerisa needs hers clipped fairly often. Luckily, she's such a calm bunny, she just lies there while we trim her nails! I wish it was this easy to trim our dogs' nails!! By the way, we just use the same nail trimmer on Amerisa that we use on our dogs.
Spaying or neutering your rabbit.
Yes, it is recommended that you have your pet rabbit spayed or neutered, even if they don't have access to another rabbit. Females who are not spayed run a much higher risk of uterine cancer, and both sexes engage in much less spraying and other unwanted behaviors if they'd been fixed. For more information about this, please ask your vet and/or read Altering Your Rabbit's Future.
If your rabbit gets infested with fleas, please consult with your veterinarian. Do not use flea powders, dips, sprays, drops, etc, on your pet bunny without the recommendation of a vet knowledgeable about the care of rabbits.
Vaccinations are not required for rabbits in the US.
Rabbits produce two types of fecal matter. One type they ingest - yes, on purpose - to gain necessary nutrients.
Sometimes these fecal pellets become overly soft, almost like diarrhea. This is a dangerous condition if not treated quickly.
Call the vet, and while waiting to hear back from the vet, remove any uneaten rabbit pellet food, but offer your rabbit plenty of water and timothy hay. Sometimes the problem is due to the rabbit not eating enough timothy hay, or eating too much fresh vegetables (especially if you suddenly increased the amount of fresh food you were giving the rabbit), so make sure you offer your rabbit an unlimited supply of timothy hay.
There are other reasons for this condition though, and quick action is required for most of them. You can read more about this health concern at GastroIntestinal Stasis, The Silent Killer.
Do you have a pet rabbit?
If so, is your bunny a house rabbit?
Pet Rabbit Manuals
The information on this webpage is by no means complete. I've really just given you a heads up about a few things regarding rabbit care. If you decide to get a rabbit, or if you already have one, I highly recommend you also purchase one or more rabbit books. I own four of them myself!
My two favorites are "Hop To It" and "House Rabbit Handbook." Both have a lot of info and discuss the care of house rabbits in specific, rather than just rabbits in hutches outside. I really enjoyed reading about rabbit body language (such as perioscoping, chinning, bunny air-o-bics, sidewinders, helicopter leaps, circling, etc.) in "Hop To It," and found the information about bunny proofing and playthings for bunnies to be very helpful in "House Rabbit Handbook." Both books also discuss ways to keep your bunny healthy and many other things.
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