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How to Care for a Pet Rabbit (A Beginner’s 101 Guide)

How to Care for a Pet Rabbit (A Beginner’s 101 Guide)

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The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care. In addition, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Rabbits are a fluffy bundle of joy who enjoy human company and adjust quickly to domestic lifestyles. This makes them an excellent pet choice for many people, even first-time pet owners!

With that being said, keeping your rabbit healthy and happy requires some special requirements, and that’s where this guide comes in handy!

Today, we’ll show you how to care for a rabbit along with other essential tips for their welfare. Let’s dive in!

1 – What You Need to Prepare Before Bringing Your Rabbit Home

As soon as you have your mind set on having a pet rabbit, you need to prepare your household to welcome its newest member. In this section, we’ll take a look at all the pre-rabbit essentials:

Safe Housing/Enclosure

The first thing you need to prepare for your new rabbit is its living environment. Rabbits need a safe shelter like cages for sleeping and spending time.

These enclosures make them feel safer so it’s not cruel. They also get plenty of time outside the cage. The cage should be sturdy, so metal cages are the best choice.

Keep the cage floor soft for bunnies by lining it with some aspen wood shaving or shredded newspaper.

How Much Space Do Rabbits Need?

You need a relatively large cage to keep your rabbit comfortable and provide it with enough head and legroom.

As a rule of thumb, the minimum cage dimensions for an average-sized rabbit are 3 ft high x 4 ft long x 4 ft wide, but you can always go larger if your house space allows it.

You’ll need to increase the size of the shelter by 8 sq ft for each additional rabbit.

Where to Place the Cage?

Rabbits’ fur keeps them warm, so you need to keep the cage in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight to prevent heat strokes.

Good ventilation also lowers humidity, which reduces the risk of respiratory infections among rabbits.

You should also keep the cage in a place where you hang out a lot because rabbits are social and need continuous interaction.

Remember to also rabbit-proof the surrounding area by removing valuable furniture from the area and covering all the cords with protectors because rabbits like to chew on them.

Do Rabbits Need Sunlight?

Like humans, sunlight helps rabbits produce vitamin D, which is integral for bone and teeth health.

However, direct exposure to the sun can be bad for rabbits. Typically, rabbits only need around 30 to 60 minutes of mild sunlight exposure per day.

Litter Box

Similar to cats, rabbits naturally tend to use the same spot to pee and poop, so you’ll need to set up a small bin as a litter box.

The litterbox should be small enough to fit at the corner of the cage and let the rabbit climb in easily, but spacious enough to be comfortable for the rabbit. You can also set up another litter box in the play area if it’s far from their enclosure.

You’ll also need to line the litter box with hay or shredded newspaper. Avoid using cat-specific litter pebbles for rabbits because they’re unsafe for them.

Hiding/Resting Hutch

Rabbits developed an instinct to burrow and hide while resting, so you provide each rabbit with a safe hutch made from cardboard or wood.

You can also find plenty of custom-made bunny hutches online and in pet stores. These hutches should be relatively small and cozy.

They might avoid it if it’s too big for them. Like litter boxes, you can also provide an additional one in their playing area.

Play Area and Toys

In addition to the original enclosure/cage, you’ll also need to set up a small playground for your rabbit.

Ideally, the rabbit’s playpen needs to be around 24 to 32 sq ft or larger, especially if you have multiple rabbits.

This way, the play area should be large enough for them to jump around freely without feeling overcrowded.

Ideally, your rabbit will need to spend around 4 to 6 hours per day in the playpen, so you should consider investing in some interesting toys and feeders to keep them happy and entertained.

2 – Rabbit Diet and Water Requirements

Rabbits are highly active creatures, so they burn a lot of calories per day for their size. For that reason, taking care of your rabbit’s diet and water requirements is critical for their health.

Despite being small, a rabbit drinks around 25 to 70 milliliters of water per pound of body weight. This is almost as much as a medium-sized dog!

You can choose between water bottles or water bowls, as rabbits are comfortable with both, as long as you’re providing clean water.

Do Rabbits Need Hay?

Hay is critical for rabbits and it makes up over 80% of what they eat per day. You need to provide your rabbits with an unlimited supply of grass hay because it’s necessary for the functionality of their digestive system.

Do Rabbits Need Pellets?

A healthy rabbit’s diet is mostly made up of grass hay along with 1 to 2 cups of leafy greens and fresh veggies daily.

Pellets are only used as an extra supplement but they’re not essential for the rabbit’s diet, so it should be limited to 1/4 cup per day.

How Many Treats Can a Rabbit Eat Per Day?

Avoid the overuse of treats when feeding rabbits to avoid disrupting their sensitive digestive system. Instead, you should only limit the treats to around 1 to 2 tablespoons per day.

3 – Medical Care

Rabbits typically have a lifespan of around 5 to 7 years. However, you can easily extend it to 9 years with proper care. Here’s what you need to know regarding these two aspects.

Do Rabbits Need Shots?

Rabbits are prone to a variety of infectious diseases, and some of them have no cure. Luckily, however, vaccination could protect rabbits from serious diseases like myxomatosis and Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (RVHD).

Rabbits are given vaccine shots from as little as 5 weeks old. Some rabbits may also need an annual vaccine shot to prevent various diseases. Consult your rabbit’s vet for the best advice depending on your rabbit’s age and health state.

Do Rabbits Need Neutering/Spaying?

Rabbits have a short gestation period and can have multiple litters of baby bunnies each year. For that reason, castrating/spaying your rabbits is essential if you don’t want your rabbits to increase in numbers.

Luckily, the procedure is relatively simple and only causes mild discomfort for as little as 3 to 5 days. After that, your rabbits will fully recover and live healthy life.

The ideal time for spaying/neutering a rabbit is around 4 to 6 months old, but the vet will pick the ideal time depending on the rabbit’s size and breed.

Do Rabbits Need Routine Health Checks?

You’ll need to inspect your rabbit weekly for any signs or symptoms of diseases and report them to the vet immediately.

Additionally, you’ll need to schedule a general wellness checkup every 2 to 6 months to make sure that they’re not suffering from any silent d

4 – Handling Your Rabbit

Rabbits are social pets that like to play around with other rabbits and their caregiver, so here’s what you need to know about this aspect.

How to Pick up a Rabbit Without Scaring It

While rabbits aren’t as fragile as they seem, you still need to be extra careful while handling them. Here are some essential pointers to help you hold a rabbit the right way:

  • Cue your rabbit that you’re going to handle it by petting its back gently.
  • Always keep your moves slow and predictable to avoid startling your rabbit.
  • Don’t make sudden noises while approaching your rabbit.
  • Never hold your rabbit from delicate parts like its ears, neck, legs, or tail.
  • Place your palm comfortably under the rabbit’s chest and cup the rabbit’s tail to lift them up.
  • Avoid holding your rabbit if it shows signs of discomfort, such as thumbing, hiding away, or baring its teeth.

How Much Activity Do Rabbits Need Per Day?

Playing around and staying active are both critical for the physical and mental well-being of your rabbit.

In fact, the lack of exercise could severely impact your rabbit’s mental health and cause anxiety, depression, and noticeable irritability.

As a general rule, you should allow your rabbit to play outside its cage for around 4 to 5 hours every day.

If you’re not using a spacious playpen for that purpose, you must keep your rabbit supervised within a confined room at all times.

You’ll need to provide your rabbit with fun toys to play around with. This includes chew toys to prevent their teeth from overgrowing, balls to push around, wicker mats, shredded newspaper to dig through, etc.

You can also find a wide range of highly interactive rabbit play kits in pet stores. These kits contain a variety of rabbit-safe toys for a relatively affordable price.

How to Play With Your Rabbit

Besides exercise, you’ll also need to play with your rabbit, especially if it doesn’t have a companion to play with. Here are some essential tips and ideas for playing with your rabbit:

  • Every rabbit has its own personality. Accordingly, some rabbits may need extra attention while others prefer to play on their own most of the time.
  • Rabbits enjoy pushing things around, so you can provide them with balls, cardboard rolls, etc.
  • Rabbits also like digging soft substrates. For that, you’ll need a box filled with cardboard, hay, or rabbit-safe sawdust.
  • Remember that rabbits can be timid, so don’t rush them and allow them to get used to you at their own pace.
  • Use treats to lure your rabbit to play with you, but don’t use them excessively.
  • Rabbits often nibble and bite while playing as a sign of affection, so avoid scolding your rabbit for doing so.

How to Care for a Rabbit Outdoors

Keeping your rabbit outdoors gives them more freedom to play around but it can be a little too lonely for a single rabbit. In other words, keeping a rabbit outdoors is only an option if you have multiple rabbits.

Luckily, caring for rabbits outdoors is somewhat similar to keeping them indoors when it comes to feeding, handling, playing, and medical care.

Additionally, you’ll need to set up a safe enclosure for your rabbit to protect it from predators. This enclosure will also contain its food, litter box, and hiding hutch.

Are Rabbits Good Beginner Pets?

Although rabbits have some special requirements, they’re technically low-maintenance pets that don’t cost much to care for.

Additionally, rabbits are fairly easy to understand and are typically non-aggressive toward their caregivers.

For those reasons, a beginner with enough spare time and a soft spot for fuzzy creatures could really enjoy the experience of having a pet rabbit.

With that being said, rabbits are simply not for everyone. For instance, heavy handling could severely harm a rabbit, which is why they’re not suitable pets for children.

Final Thoughts

Taking care of your rabbits is essential to help them live long, happy lives. While they’re not the easiest pets to care for, they make up for it by being incredibly adorable and loving!

If you’re planning to adopt multiple rabbits, make sure that you go for a male-female pair because it’s typically the easiest combination to care for and show the least aggression towards each other.

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