If you want to give your new pet rabbit the very best care possible, don’t miss our must-read guide to everything you need to know about looking after your furry friend, including grooming, maintenance, health and hygiene.
Rabbit fact file
Life span – 5-15 years
Size – Up to 40cm
Diet – Veggies, hay, pellets and fruits as treats only
Home – 1.8m x 0.6m with larger area for exercise
Care and maintenance
Rabbits are happy to be kept on their own but it is preferable to house them in groups. Unless they have been desexed, avoid housing males and females together as they won’t hesitate to breed.
Having your rabbits desexed will stop your family growing, increase life span, keep them calmer, and reduce risk of disease. Your local Greencross Vets will be able to do this for your rabbit. Undesexed female rabbits over the age of four, have 50-80% chance of developing cancer of the uterus.
Once you’ve brought your new rabbit home, they might need a few days to settle in. Be sure that their hutch has space for them to hide and get cosy. Once they feel comfortable, you’re likely to hear them being active at dawn and dusk. You should allocate some time for your rabbit to exercise outside every day. Set up a play area or use a rabbit harness so they can explore safely.
If you want to let you rabbit run around your home, be sure you’ve hidden potential health risks, including electrical cords and unsuitable foods. You might want to leave chew toys out for them so they avoid your furniture.
Your rabbit’s new hutch must be at least four times the length of your adult rabbit, bearing in mind that the average rabbit is between 20cm and 30cm, depending on their breed. Make sure their hutch is escape proof and includes an area with a solid surface. Talk to your local Petbarn team member about the hutch you will need.
When setting up your pet rabbit’s home you have two choices: indoors or outdoors. Outdoor enclosures will need to be weather resistant, provide adequate warmth in winter and enough shelter all year round. The best place for your rabbit is inside the house, in a room that your family spends a lot of time in, as rabbits love being sociable. Position your rabbit away from direct sunlight, draughts, central heating or places that produce a strong aroma, like your kitchen.
Line the hutch with bedding to keep your bunny comfy. Hay, straw or shredded paper are all small animal bedding options you can find at Petbarn. As long as the bedding absorbs water properly, doesn’t smell and is soft, your rabbit will be happy.
Your rabbit’s enclosure needs feeding accessories including an easily accessible hay rack, and a drink bottle that you hang on the outside of the enclosure with the stainless-steel spout pointing inside so they stay hydrated. A heavy food bowl is necessary and, of course, toys to keep them entertained.
Usually, rabbits decide on their toilet corner very quickly and stick to it. Clean this corner every day and the entire cage every week or as needed. Remove and replace the bedding, wipe down the cage with hot water and wash the elements, such as toys and drink bottles, in soapy water. You’ll need a substitute home while you clean – a travel cage is perfect.
Appropriate hay should make up 90% of your rabbit’s diet and give them the nutrients they need. Find rabbit hay at your local Petbarn.
Your rabbit will also need to be chewing throughout the day to keep teeth length to a minimum, and veggies will help. The leafier and darker the better! Kale, parsley, coriander and dandelion greens are all great options.
Fruits are a tasty treat you can add to your bunny’s menu. Blueberries, papaya and peaches are a rabbit’s favourite. Bananas or grapes will satisfy your rabbit as well. These treats must be kept to a minimum as they can cause weight gain and, more importantly, upset tummies. Make sure that you throw out any fruit and veggies that have sat in your rabbit’s hutch for more than 24 hours.
Your pet will also feed on dry foods such as pellets that you can find at your local Petbarn, but make sure these are only supplemented with your veggies (not given as substitutes) to maintain a complete and balanced diet and keep your rabbit healthy.
You must check on your rabbit’s water supply every day and change it daily. We recommend using a water bottle dispenser as rabbits are likely to knock over water bowls. When it’s hot, be sure to check your pet’s water twice a day as an extra precaution.
Do NOT feed your rabbit:
- Cat/dog food
- Green beans
Rabbits groom themselves often and go through shedding cycles throughout the year. Give your bunny a good brush during this time; otherwise they are at risk of ingesting fur. Their claws will need to be clipped regularly. Ask your local Greencross Vets to do this for you.
Check your pet doesn’t have faecal matter on their behind. If they do, use wet paper towel to remove it as best as possible. If this problem continues, see your local Greencross Vets.
Use a pet carrier that is sturdy, ventilated and secure. Carriers should be big enough for your bunny to lie comfortably, but not too large. Line it with a towel and bedding for comfort and include a toy, hay and water. Keep the carrier out of direct sunlight and provide cool air ventilation. Place a small sheet or towel over the carrier to help keep them calm.
Conduct regular health checks on your rabbit. A healthy rabbit should be alert, sociable and lively with a smooth and regular coat. Signs that your rabbit isn’t feeling well are a withdrawn personality, lack of appetite, reduced or no faeces, a dull coat, raised back, excessive sneezing and skin abrasions or cysts. If you notice any of these symptoms or anything else peculiar about your pet, visit your local Greencross Vets.
Rabbits are susceptible to various health concerns such as respiratory infections, skin ailments, overgrown teeth, fleas and being overweight. The most common disease is calicivirus, which is spread by wild rabbits and insects, especially mosquitoes. Vaccinate your rabbit to avoid the contraction of illnesses or diseases. Book an appointment to have your rabbit vaccinated at your local Greencross Vets to keep them protected.
Pet safety tips
Handling is very important to establish the bond between you and your rabbit. The first step is to open the hutch door and let them approach you. Lift gently and hold them close to your body, remembering to support their hind legs. Never pick up your pet by the ears of scruff of the neck. Don’t let them jump from your arms or hold them down on the ground, as they may struggle and damage their hind legs.
Before letting your rabbit run free, make sure the room is safe. Close cupboards and toilets and put away anything they may ingest. Secure loose cords and remove any toxic plants.
When it’s time to return your rabbit to their cage, softly herd them back in rather than ‘catching’ them. Try saying ‘sleep time’ when you want them to head back to their cage.
Visit your local Petbarn or shop our small animal products online for some great products and advice to help keep your new pet rabbit happy and healthy.