Bunny Care: Keeping Your Pet Rabbit Happy & Healthy

Rabbits are intelligent, curious and sociable animals that can make for amazing and interesting animal companions. We thought we would just remind our bunny lovers how to keep their fluffy friends safe, happy and healthy and for those considering adopting one, run over what to expect.

 

Habitat 

If you’re interested in adopting a rabbit, you’ll need to think carefully about where they’ll be living. Whether or not you keep them indoors or outdoors, rabbits need plenty of room to explore and feel safe. If you care for an indoor rabbit, it will need a ‘bunny-proof’ room, pen or large rabbit cage. This space should be large enough for them to hop around and retreat into if they feel worried or unsure. They must be let outside for at least a few hours each day. Providing cardboard boxes with doorways (and windows) cut in are great hiding spaces to help your rabbit feel safe too. If their hutch is kept outdoors, it must also protect your bunny from the wind and rain as well as any unwanted predators.  

Here’s a simple guide for you to consider when setting up an outdoor housing for rabbits:  

Find an enclosure suitable for your bunny.  

  1. Ensure the enclosure is lined with fly screen so no mosquitos can get in. This is extremely important as they can carry myxomatosis, a common disease that can be fatal for rabbits.  
  2. If the bottom of the enclosure is open or made of wire, you can make it more comfortable for your bunny by lining the bottom of the living and sleeping area with newspaper. Covering the lining with some hay or sawdust should make them feel warmer and more comfortable at home; the hay will also serve as a nutritious snack for them to chew.  
  3. Rabbits feel safer when given the opportunity to hide and burrow, so ensure they can do this within the enclosure. For example, you can make hideaways yourself made by cutting entry holes into old shoe boxes. 
  4. Ensure the enclosure is big enough for them to hop around, stretch up on their hind legs and lie comfortably on their side. 

Grooming  

If you’re caring for a rabbit with longer fur, remember that it will need to be regularly groomed. Be sure to check their coats for parasites or dirt to avoid conditions such as flystrike (a fatal condition that can be caused by the presence of parasites in their fur). 

Your adorable rabbits’ nails will also need to be occasionally clipped. It’s very important to not cut them too short – as this can be painful for them – so if you’re unsure how to manage their nails, please contact and visit your veterinarian.   

Nutrition 

A rabbit’s diet should consist primarily of hay, which helps maintain their dental health while providing benefits for their digestive system. Oaten, meadow, timothy, paddock, pasture, ryegrass, and wheaten hays are all good options for everyday use. However, avoid clover and lucerne hays, which contain excessive amounts of calcium and protein.  

Your rabbit also needs around two packed cups of leafy greens per day, as well as a small amount of special rabbit pellets. Don’t forget: your rabbit will also need constant access to clean, fresh water. Bottle-type drinkers will suffice, as their design ensures that their water stays clean. 

Exercise  

Rabbits are a foraging species.  This means that in a natural environment they would spend many hours grazing and moving around to find the food they need – they also choose from a variety of different plants.  In a domestic environment they don’t often get this opportunity. Allowing them an hour or two a day to graze and explore is so important to meet their physical and psychological needs.  You may also like to pick grass and spread it around the enclosure or provide enrichment items to chew. 

You can also litter train your rabbit!  Provide a hay feeder or hay rack above a litter tray and they will naturally pass pellets as they eat.  Over time they will associate this area with toileting and come back to use it as a ‘latrine’ or toileting area. 

Rabbits must continuously eat as their teeth are always growing.  If they are an indoor rabbit, they will therefore often chew things you will not want them to – or that may be dangerous, such as electrical cables.  It is very important that you ensure these are out of the way or protected from bunny curiosity before they are allowed to free range!  

Vaccinations and Desexing 

Rabbits should be vaccinated every 6-12 months against Rabbits Haemorrhagic Disease Virus (Calicivirus), or RHDV. Your veterinarian can help you organise a vaccination schedule appropriate for your rabbit. Along with this your rabbit also needs regular health checks, including flea, mite and worming controls, and regular dental checks to ensure their teeth are as healthy as can be. 

Desexing your rabbit is also extremely important to prevent unwanted litters. It can also help with housetraining rabbits and, in female rabbits, prevents uterine cancer. 

A healthy rabbit can live for over 12 fantastic years and, while adorable, they can prove to be quite the long-term commitment. Be sure to carefully consider their lifestyle before adopting a rabbit of your own, just know that they are just as loyal and loving as some of their larger animal counterparts.  

If you want to learn more about caring for rabbits, find more information on the RSPCA knowledgebase

OR

If you’re interested in adopting your very own rabbit, you can view all currently available for adoption here.