Rabbit Care

(Oryctolagus cuniculus)

Some tips for beginners and new bunny parents:

Common things about Bunnies:
Bunnies are very social animals who live in groups. That is why they should ideally never be kept alone as a single bunny.
A human or an animal of a different species like a guinea pig for example cannot replace another bunny partner. A couple usually works out best. The male should be neutered early enough (until the 12th week) to prevent litter. If they are neutered early enough you don’t have to separate them from their female partners which is a big advantage. Two males that have been neutered early can manage to become real buddies. Females are often not getting along anymore once they become pubescent.
Bunnies can live up to 14 years, their normal lifespan however is more around 6-8 years.
Bunnies are no toys for children! Adults need to supervise the care of the bunnies at all times. Bunnies also are no calm cuddly animals. Some of them don’t like to cuddle at all and never become tame enough to pet them.

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What is important when bunnies move in?
Before bunnies are moving in a big playpen should already be in place. All family members should have an allergy test done for hay, dust and fur. We don’t support breeders while thousands of bunnies are being euthanized and looking for homes. Don’t shop, adopt…please!
Many bunny rescue organizations have babies which are looking for homes so if you want to adopt babies you can without having to buy from pet stores or breeders.
All too often the bunnies in pet stores are not healthy. They have been separated from their parents too early and their GI tracts are not fully developed yet. They are also too small to tell how big they will become.
For beginners it is best to take in a couple from a rescue organisation or shelter. Then the character of the animals is already developed and what you see is what you get.
Also, they will both already be neutered and spayed and that not only saves you money it also saves you from a lot of headaches when having to care for them after the surgeries.
After the bunnies have moved in they should be left in peace for 1-2 days. When you speak to them, speak calmly. Show them your hands so they can get used to your smell. Treats like fresh herbs or Oxbow snackies in your hand will help the bunnies learn to trust you. Don’t pet them from above! Bunnies are prey animals and whenever you want to touch or grab them from above they may think it could be a hawk and panic.

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How to pick them up properly
Usually bunnies don’t like to be picked up. Therefore they should only be picked up if necessary. Put one hand under their chest behind the front paws, the other hand supports their bottom.
If the bunny is fidgeting hold the bunny with your right hand on the back between the shoulders and with the other hand the hind paw to support them.
Bunnies can be extremely fidgety and children should only be picking them up under adult supervision while sitting on the ground or kneeling.

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Exercise time

Once the bunnies are a bit tamer they should be allowed to run around in the house/room for several hours a day.

Cables, plants or other dangerous or poisonous objects must be removed or covered.

Bunny friendly homes - The right to roam
We do not support cages and condos if these cages are the place where the bunnies are living all day long.
Animal organizations and rabbit vets in the U.S. and Europe advocate a size of 22 square foot per bunny is the minimum a playpen should have. Most cages are less than half that size! The bigger the better!!
Bunnies are moving around hobbling, therefore it cannot be bunny friendly if they reach the fence of their cage after hopping once.

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Interior Design
Levels and cork tunnels are a good and bunny friendly alternatives to houses you buy at pet stores. If your bunnies won’t eat cardboard then you’re free to build them tunnels and houses and levels from that and it doesn’t cost a thing!
Just be careful that the boxes are plain and not printed on. A good alternative to being creative on your own (and not everybody is) are the “bunny castles”.

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Change it up!

Many bunny lovers buy furniture from Ikea. Those little LACK tables covered with a blanket are perfect hideouts for the bunnies. If you want to use them as an additional level just attach some carpet on it so they won’t slip. Attach ramps or place cardboards underneath - all this makes wonderful playgrounds for bunnies and costs way less than the toys you find at pet stores.

Good houses are also big ceramic flower planters filled with hay or straw. If you are a little crafty you can build them tunnels out of wood or little high seats so they can overlook everything.

You don’t have to have everything in the beginning. Build new things over time and change the furniture. Bunnies love change and it keeps them healthy and happy as they can explore new things!

Accessories

Choose the place for hay wisely…as they tend to pee and poop where they eat. If you’re using a standard cage as a litter box for the bunnies, I recommend getting a hay rack or two and place them inside the cage. That way the playpen stays clean. However, they just love eating their hay from the floor. A good way to make that work is to get some fleece bedding that can be washed.

A lot of people put the hay directly into the litter-boxes. Just be aware that hay needs to be changed daily then since they do all of their business on the hay.

The Right bedding

Aspen bedding is the best way in my opinion. It is soft enough and offers a high filling volume. I would not recommend buying paper bedding… some bunnies eat it, as they eat cardboard. Needless to say that it is not very healthy. In some cases it can even lead to G.I. stasis. A good alternative to Aspen bedding is fleece. It’s washable and doesn’t leave those nasty chips all over the house.

Do not use cat litter! It can be poisonous and will expand in the bunnies’ tummies.

Depending on how clean your bunnies are, the playpen should be cleaned once a week; the litter box every 1-2 days - depending on how many bunnies you have and how many litter boxes.