Caring for Your Bunny
CARING FOR YOUR PET BUNNY
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. 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 he is outside the cage.
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, averaging 8 to 10 years.
Your bunny’s new home – Your bunny will need a place of his own where he can find security and quiet time. The cage should be spacious, so he can stand up, stretch out and exercise. No matter how large the cage, this is not a substitute for running time outside the cage. Be sure to rabbit-proof the area, as rabbits love to chew cords, and other household items, or consider using an exercise pen, allowing them ample room to exercise and play in a safe environment. Your bunny will need physical and social stimulation, which no cage can provide.
Litter Box and Litter – Both inside and outside of the cage, your bunny will need a litter box lined with litter and grass hay. Because rabbits tend to nibble on everything, it is important to choose a non-toxic litter for their litter box. Pelleted litters made of wheat straw or of recycled paper are good options. Consider selecting a box large enough for when he is an adult.
Hiding Place – Every creature needs an area to call their own. A bunny’s natural response to danger or an unusual situation is to flee. A hideaway is necessary to reduce stress and help make them feel secure. Petland has many different types of hiding places to choose from.
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, about 70%. It helps prevent obesity, dental disease, diarrhea and boredom. Rabbits must have unlimited access to grass hay, and eat a pile of hay (similar to the size of his body) every day. In addition, young rabbits less than one year can benefit from receiving alfalfa hay in addition to grass hay because of the higher nutritional element. After one year, alfalfa hay should be used only as a treat. All grass hays, timothy, orchard grass, oat and botanical (timothy blended with herbs) are exactly the same nutritionally; they are just different in taste and texture.
Rabbit Pellets made from alfalfa hay (legume hay) are used for young rabbits because of their specific growing needs. Alfalfa hay pellets must be offered free choice until your rabbit is approximately one year. Timothy hay pellets (grass hay), which are high in fibre and lower in protein and calcium, must be offered after one year of age, totalling about 20% of their diet. This small amount, usually between ⅛ to ¾ cup, depending on the size of your pet, is specifically formulated to contain a correct balance of all the essential micronutrients your fur baby needs each day. Follow the feeding directions on the package to ensure you are not overfeeding or under feeding your pet.
Provide mixes with nuts, seeds and fruit as a treat only. Rabbits have a habit of selecting these tempting morsels and leaving the healthy pellets.
Fresh Foods – Greens and veggies are loaded with nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, as well as water that provides essential hydration to your rabbit. Dark leafy greens such as Romaine, Butterhead, Kale, Red or Green Leaf Lettuce should make up the remaining 8-10% of their daily diet, and fruits should be offered infrequently in very small amounts. General feeding recommendations for an adult rabbit are around 1 cup of dark leafy greens per 2 pounds of a rabbit's body weight daily. You can also provide other vegetables besides leafy greens, such as bell peppers and zucchini, but these tend to be higher in simple carbohydrates and should be provided in smaller quantities. Provide 1 Tbsp of non-leafy green veggies per 2 pounds of body weight per day. Never introduce more than one new food item at a time, especially greens and veggies, to avoid overwhelming and upsetting your bunny's digestive tract. Monitor for any changes in attitude, appetite, or stool production.
Many small animals are susceptible to diarrhea, especially when new foods are introduced too quickly or they encounter a stressful situation (i.e. being adopted). By providing food that is familiar to them, their digestive systems will prevent this type of health problem.
Night Droppings – Cecotrope pellets are softer than regular bunny droppings and look like small clusters of grapes. These clusters are a daily and necessary part of your bunny’s diet! Cecotrope pellets are rich in vitamins and nutrients and are re-ingested by your bunny to maintain good health, usually as a midnight snack.
Moss Hollow Adapt – Using Moss Hollow Adapt, while minimizing stress, can help your new pet adapt to their new home by promoting relaxation from stress caused by the environment (Echinacea), offering a prebiotic for building gut flora (Burdock Root), easing diarrhea (Psyllium Husk), increasing palatability (Wheatgrass), providing a natural dewormer (Diatomaceous Earth), and nutrient rich clay (Bentonite). This veterinary health product uses natural ingredients which can aid all small animals before symptoms emerge.
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, then a vitamin supplement should be added to the water or food, according to bottle directions.
Mineral Block - A mineral block may be offered to your bunny to supplement his diet and for his chewing pleasure. Bunnies on a balanced diet of hay, pellets, and greens will already be receiving enough calcium by consuming these foods. Since too much calcium is not beneficial for your bunny's health, talk to a pet counsellor about the brands of mineral stones and blocks that are recommended for rabbits, which will be low in calcium and high in other minerals.
Treat Foods are relished, but offer only small amounts, (about the size of your bunny’s tail) or 1 Tbsp daily. When choosing treats, steer away from ones that have dextrose and sucrose (sugar). Wise treat choices will keep your bunny in prime health and avoid him gaining excess weight. Offer treats to encourage interaction between you and your pet, but only after your pet eats his basic diet.
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 and replaced daily. When your rabbit is outside his cage, give him water from a crock dish. Rabbits love to guzzle water!
Water bottles need to be kept clean of not only any bacterial growth, but also of sediment that may be caused by using nutritional supplements. Use a bottle brush set with dish soap and water to clean both the inside of the bottle and the inner surface of the stainless steel drinking tube.
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 water for when he is outside his cage.
Pine or aspen shaving or soft bedding made from natural fibers (e.g. CareFRESH®) and/or a pet mat is recommended for your bunny. Use a litter scoop to spot clean the cage regularly.
Cage Cleaner – Select a small animal cage cleaner that has a natural enzyme-based formula to permanently break down stains and odours. Once a week, you should clean his cage with a pet safe cleaner, or hot water and mild soap, rinse well and dry. Do not use bleach, or other household cleaners, which will irritate your rabbit’s respiratory system, or even cause worse problems.
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. 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.
Cleanliness and Safety
All pets can potentially carry diseases that may be contagious to people. 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 environments. Regular cleaning of your pet’s environment with a pet safe cleaner may help avoid the spread of contaminants.
Hygiene procedures such as washing your hands before and after handling your pet and/or after having any contact with their habitat, is a necessary routine. Children should be assisted with hand washing and always have adult supervision when interacting with pets.