7 Things to Consider When Adopting a Rabbit

Cute and fluffy, rabbits make for great pets. But these sociable pocket pets need just as much attention and care as large companion animals. Read on to learn how to look after them.

Whether you decide to keep your rabbit outdoors or housetrain her, creating a loving, safe environment for her will ensure she lives a long and happy life. Desexed house rabbits usually live to be between eight and 12 years old, and the oldest rabbit in the world lived to be 18! RSPCA NSW’s seven top tips will help you care for your own curious, gentle herbivore, and maybe even beat that record.


1. Companionship

Rabbits are very social and enjoy having a buddy around, so having a pair of females works well. However, always separate rabbits of the opposite sex if they aren’t desexed. Otherwise, you’ll soon have a lot of unwanted baby bunnies on your hands!

RSPCA NSW does not recommend keeping guinea pigs and rabbits together, as rabbits can pass on diseases to guinea pigs. They may also bully each other.

2. Exercise

Rabbits are very social and enjoy having a buddy around, so having a pair of females works well. However, always separate rabbits of the opposite sex if they aren’t desexed. Otherwise, you’ll soon have a lot of unwanted baby bunnies on your hands!

Alternatively, you can housetrain your bunny and let her exercise safety in your home, but be careful that she doesn’t chew on electrical cords. Rabbits like to keep their teeth in order and will chew on lots of things we don’t want them to in the house.

3. Food


Most commercial rabbit foods don’t contain enough fibre for your rabbit. Instead, they need a constant supply of good quality fresh grass or grass hay. This helps wear down their teeth. Oaten, meadow, timothy, paddock, pasture, ryegrass and wheaten hays are all good options. Avoid clover and lucerne hays, which contain too much calcium and protein.

Your rabbit also needs around two packed cups of leafy greens per day. Include a mixture of three, such as Asian greens, beetroot tops, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, dark leafy lettuces, endive and spinach.

Mixes and pellets should be considered occasional treats, as these don’t provide a balanced diet. Carrots are also a treat, as these contain high levels of sugar.

Your rabbit also always needs access to clean, fresh water. A bottle-type drinker works well, as the water won’t get dirty.

Click here for more information about feeding your rabbit.

4. Grooming and nail trimming

Some rabbits need regular grooming, particularly ones with long fur. Make sure to check for any parasites or dirt, especially under their tails, as these could lead to a fatal condition called flystrike.

Your rabbit’s nails may also need occasional clipping. If you’re unsure how to do this yourself, take him to your veterinarian. It’s very important not to cut them too short, as this can be painful.

For more information about trimming your rabbit’s nails, click here.

5. Handling

Rabbits like being handled, especially if you start from a young age, but treat them gently. Never lift your rabbit by her ears, as this can cause serious damage. Always make sure you support her body with your arms, as she won’t feel secure otherwise. She might also hurt herself if she kicks out while her body is not supported properly.

If your rabbit is biting you and you don’t know why, click here for advice.


6. Health

Desexing your rabbit is extremely important to prevent unwanted litters being born. Desexing is also essential if you want to housetrain your rabbit and, in female rabbits, prevents uterine cancer.

Your rabbit needs yearly vaccinations against Calicivirus and regular health checks, including flea, mite and worming controls, and teeth checks.

Rabbits are also susceptible to heatstroke in hot weather, so always ensure your bunny is given shade and water. A plastic bottle filled with water and left in the freezer to freeze can be put in his enclosure to help him cool down.

If you notice any changes in your rabbit’s droppings; his drinking, eating or urination habits; or if he loses or gains weight, take him to your veterinarian.

For more information about Calicivirus, click here. For more information about heatstroke, click here.


7. Shelter

Your rabbit needs a good-sized, well-ventilated hutch in which he can act and live naturally and normally. It must have regular natural sunlight, use flyscreen wire or mosquito netting to keep out insects, and preferably have two compartments. One should be a safe place for him to hide and sleep. Cover the floor in newspaper with a layer of bedding material on top, such as grass hay, shredded paper or straw. Change this as soon as it becomes dirty. His entire hutch needs cleaning thoroughly at least once a week. Make sure your rabbit also has unpainted, untreated wood to chew.

If his hutch is kept outdoors, it must be rain and windproof, and also safe and secure from predators.

If you have an indoor rabbit, he will need a burrow area to run and hide in, such as a box.

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