- Caring for Your Bunny
Caring for Your Bunny
CARING FOR YOUR PET BUNNY
The popularity of rabbits, as pets, has increased immensely over the last few years. Bunnies are quiet, peaceful animals by nature. Bunnies get along with other small pets when introduced with care. They don’t bark, rarely bite and respond to attention when handled frequently with gentleness and love. Most bunnies can also be easily litter trained.
The largest rabbit is the Flemish Giant, which can grow as large as 13 kg (30 lbs). One of the smallest rabbits is the Netherland Dwarf, which averages 0.8 to 1.3 kg (2 to 3 lbs). Male rabbits are called bucks and females are does. We recommend that you keep your bunnies separately, since they may fight unless given a large amount of living area.
Handling – Like humans, every rabbit has a distinct personality. Some enjoy being handled more than others. Children need to learn how to hold a bunny, otherwise the bunny can become frightened or injured. The proper way to pick up a bunny is to hold him gently, but firmly, under the front legs with one hand and support his hindquarters with the other. Never pick up a bunny by his ears.
Our pet counsellors are small animal lovers and because they are, they hold and play with all the small animals in our store. Our guests also play a big part in our small animal’s social skills.* This is why Petland’s small animals are quick to bond with their new owner.
Bunny Birth Control – We recommend that you spay or neuter your pet bunny. Breeding your bunny will only contribute to pet overpopulation. The benefits of altering your bunny are many. Neutered rabbits are healthier, live longer, easier to house-train, less aggressive, and less destructive. Your pet counsellor can recommend a veterinarian in your community who is familiar with altering small animals.
House-Training – Rabbits return to the same spot each time nature calls, so litter training is easy. A litter box in the cage where your rabbit relieves himself will reinforce using the box. Additional boxes should be placed in his favourite spots when it is outside the cage. Ask your pet counsellor for more details.
To provide a happy, healthy atmosphere for your bunny. Petland recommends the following necessary and fun accessories. We have listed them as your new pet’s four basic needs: Nutritional, Environmental, Maintenance and Behavioural. When you meet these needs and provide a loving environment, your bunny can live a long and happy life. Typically, a healthy bunny may live eight to 10 years.
Your bunny’s new home – Your bunny will need a place of his own where it can find security and quiet time. His cage should be spacious, so it can stand up, stretch out and exercise. No matter how large the cage, this is not a substitute for running time outside the cage. Your bunny will need physical and social stimulation, which no cage can provide. Your pet counsellor can show you a selection of homes with large doors for easy access and high bottoms for less litter spills.
Litter Box – Inside your cage, your bunny will need a litter box lined with litter. Once your bunny is trained, allow him to hop around outside of the cage. Be sure to rabbit-proof the area, as rabbits love to chew cords, and other household items. They will require a litter box outside of their cage, as well for their exercise time.
Hiding Place – Every creature needs an area to call their own. A hideaway is necessary to reduce stress and help make them feel secure. A goldfish bowl is a popular hideaway for bunnies, since it is easy to clean and disinfect. Ask your pet counsellor for ideas in making your bunny’s house a home.
Hay – Your bunny is a herbivore, which means he only eats plant food. Grass hay is absolutely vital to the digestive health of your bunny, and will make up the majority of your pet’s daily diet. It helps prevent obesity, dental disease, diarrhea and boredom. Rabbits must have unlimited access to grass hay, and eat a pile of hay (the size of his body) everyday. In addition, rabbits less than eight months old must also receive alfalfa hay, as it has additional calcium and protein. After eight months, alfalfa hay should be used only as a treat. All grass hays, timothy, orchard grass, oat and botanical (timothy blended with herbs) have the same nutritional value; however, they are different in taste and texture. Resist offering the same type of hay, thus ensuring that your pet won’t refuse hay if the colour or texture changes, which may happen naturally.
Rabbit Pellets made from alfalfa hay (legume hay) are used for young rabbits because of their specific growing needs. Alfalfa pellets must be offered free choice until your rabbit is approximately eight months of age. Timothy hay pellets (grass hay), which are high in fibre and lower in protein and calcium, must be offered after eight months of age. The following approximate serving suggestions will be used for their adulthood.
Body Weight Daily Amount of Pellets
1– 2 kg (2 – 5 lbs) 1/8 cup
3 – 4 kg (5 – 8 lbs) 1/4 cup
4 – 5 kg (8 – 11 lbs) ½ cup
Provide mixes with nuts, corn, seeds and fruit as a treat only. Rabbits have a habit of selecting these tempting morsels and leaving the healthy pellets.
Night Droppings – Cecotrope pellets, which are softer than regular bunny droppings, are a daily and necessary part of your bunny’s diet. Cecum is rich in vitamins and nutrients and is re-ingested by your bunny to maintain good health.
Fresh Foods – All bunnies should be introduced to new foods gradually; however, once your pet is eating these foods, try giving three types daily. The total amount of fresh foods is about 1 cup (or the size of your rabbit’s head) daily. Carrot and beet tops, dandelion greens and flowers (that have not been subjected to spraying), kale, collard greens, romaine and leaf lettuce (not head lettuce), parsley, carrots and pea pods are some good choices.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplement – If a bunny’s diet is made up of pellets, fresh foods, and an unlimited supply of fresh grass hay, then a vitamin supplement is not necessary. If your rabbit’s diet is not ideal, than a vitamin supplement should be added to the water or food, according to bottle directions.
Mineral and Salt Stone – Your bunny needs to have a salt and mineral stone available at all times. Salt will encourage him to drink enough water to properly digest his food.
Treat Foods are relished, but offer only small amounts, (about the size of your bunny’s tail) or 1 Tbsp daily. Offer treats to encourage interaction between you and your pet, but only after your pet eats his basic diet. Boxed crunchies, mixed seeds (without shells), treat sticks and fresh fruits, such as strawberries, pineapple and apple are all treats, and should be offered as such.
Water Bottle – When your rabbit is in his cage, use a large water bottle to keep his water clean and to conserve the liquid vitamins. Fresh de-chlorinated water must be available at all times. When your rabbit is outside his cage, give him water from a crock dish. Rabbits love to guzzle water!
Crock Dishes, Hoppers/Mangers – Crock dishes are easy to clean, cannot be chewed and are difficult to tip over. Food hoppers allow your bunny easy access to his food and prevent him from dumping dishes or soiling his food. Either way, pick up three feeding stations, one for food, one for hay and one for vegetables. Don’t forget an extra dish for when he is outside his cage.
Pine shavings or corn cob litter is recommended for your bunny. Use a litter scoop to spot clean corners. Once a week, you should wash his cage with hot water and mild soap, rinse well and dry completely. Do not use bleach or other household cleaners, which will irritate your rabbit’s respiratory system.
Cage Deodorizer – A few sprays after you have finished the weekly cleaning of your rabbit’s home will make it smell fresh and clean.
Brush and Comb – Rabbits are very meticulous animals, they spend endless hours grooming themselves. They moult or shed their coat about twice a year. All rabbits, short or long-haired, should be brushed every day. A small slicker brush will remove excess fur and prevent your rabbit from ingesting fur, which could develop into intestinal hairballs. You also need a comb for rabbits with longer hair. Remember, after the grooming session, to offer him a treat!
Nail Clippers and Coagulant – Your rabbit’s nails should be trimmed with a small animal nail clipper. Take care not to trim too short or cut into the blood vessels running through each nail. Should this happen, have a blood coagulant waiting and ready to use.
Chew Blocks – Your rabbit’s teeth will grow throughout his life. Give him a variety of safe chewing aids to keep his teeth trimmed. Ask your pet counsellor for recommended products for rabbits to chew. Check your rabbit’s teeth regularly for a condition called malocclusion (improper bite), which prevents him from eating normally. If a rabbit is suffering from malocclusion (or under bite), the lower teeth slide over the top teeth. If you suspect your rabbit has this problem, please see your veterinarian.
Harness and Leash – Your rabbit is a fast runner, so letting him roam around in the yard, on his own, is not safe. A rabbit harness should fit snug and be comfortable. This will allow him to hop and jump around while keeping him out of harms way. Never leave your bunny unattended outdoors.
A Book About Rabbits – Petland has many excellent books on rabbits. Your pet counsellor can help you select a book that will best suit your needs.
Please ask your pet counsellor what other items pertain to your particular pet’s needs.
*Ask about the volunteer programs at your nearest Petland location.
Cleanliness and Safety
All pets must be kept in a clean environment to avoid the spread of dirt and contaminants to yourself and others. Always keep your pet’s home clean, and wash your hands before and after handling your pet or cleaning his home.
Please remember that all pets may bite or scratch, and may transmit diseases to humans. Young children, infants, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems and the elderly are at greater risk of infections and should use caution when in contact with pets or their homes.