Some bunny would like to become part of your family, but there are a few things you will need to know before they hop into your life… With any new companion, the family will need to make adjustments to “bunny-proof” the home and to be able to housebreak your rabbit. Animals will always be animals, but we learn to adapt and live with them, as they do with us.
It is preferred that Rabbits be kept indoors. If caged outdoors they face predators and inclement weather, threatening their health and life.
The cage needs to be cleaned once or twice a week. While cleaning the cage, place your rabbit in a safe play area, and be sure to scrub the cage clean with soapy water, and rinse well.
Bunnies under a year of age require a more confined play space because they are more inclined to troublemaking. If you decide to take your rabbit outside, play areas should be enclosed, and it should always be supervised.
Like many young companions, bunnies have a tendency to chew on furniture, cords, drapes, plants, and rugs. By providing your new rabbit with attention, toys, and items okay to chew on, you can distract or redirect bad chewing habits.
Rabbits tend to be fairly clean animals by nature; most rabbits and bunnies will choose one corner of the cage for a bathroom. Once your rabbit’s choice has been made, place a litter box in that corner, covering the bottom with hay or pelleted litter. The litter box will need daily cleaning to remove waste. Never use cedar shavings or pine as litter because the fumes may cause your rabbit to become ill. Also, cat litter may cause gastrointestinal or respiratory problems; avoid using it.
Rabbits, and bunnies especially, are very fragile. When picking up your rabbit, support its forequarters with one hand and hindquarters with the other. Never pick your rabbit up from the scruff or ears; it will cause serious injury. Because they are delicate, they are timid by nature; so, patience is needed when first introduced into the home. Hand feeding treats is a simple way to become more acquainted. Rabbits are social animals, making them wonderful companions when given the chance to interact with you and your family.
Bunnies, like children, go through several phases. And just like raising children, we need to remember it’s a phase and it will pass!
Adolescence may begin as early as three months, but five to six months are generally when the transition occurs. Adolescence can happen almost overnight. The hormone switch flips on, and they move from the passive, curious bunny to the rambunctious, assertive “teenaged” rabbit.
Behavior changes during adolescence, just as in humans. These behavioral changes are from the high levels of hormones your companion’s body is adapting to. The simple cure-all is to have your bunny spayed or neutered—at six months for females and four months for males. It will take time for the hormones to calm down; surgery is not an instant cure. Also, some bunny behavior is developmental, not hormonal, and it will just have to run its course.
After about a year, bunnies make the transition from adolescence to rabbithood. As rabbits mature, their personalities and behaviors mellow out. Senior rabbits move slower but are still able and willing to learn new things. They tend to sleep more, but a treat will perk them up.
Your rabbit’s diet is especially important. Rabbits’ diets consist of grass hay—to keep their intestinal tract healthy—rabbit pellets, and fresh, leafy greens. Fresh, clean water is also vital for a rabbit’s health. Water should be provided in a dispensable bottle or ceramic or metal bowl. Both hay and water should be available to your companion 24/7. Be sure to brush your rabbit on a regular basis to maintain the health and cleanliness of its coat.
With all new companions, the family will need to make adjustments to “bunny-proof” the home. Rabbits require specialized veterinary care. If you have any questions about your rabbit or bunny, contact Dr. Christine Hartwig, DVM who specializes in rabbits, or your veterinarian.