Rabbit Care for Beginners
Adopt a Rabbit week is coming up – July 15-21. If you have wondered how to care for one, here’s how to know if a rabbit is the right pet for your family. These gentle, sociable animals make wonderful companion pets but require a little research on how to properly care for them.
Domestic rabbits are sensitive to extreme temperature changes, especially hot and humid weather, and are susceptible to predators. Even with an outdoor hutch, simply seeing or hearing a predator can result in a heart attack. The safest place for your rabbit is an indoor cage.
What size cage do you need? The cage dimensions should equal five times your rabbit’s full-grown size. However, they need time outside their cage to play in a safe area. Baby gates work well to keep them in a contained area, and cover outlets and move all electronic devices and cords out of reach. Rabbits naturally like to chew; however, using chew toys can redirect this behavior from simply destroying objects.
With training, rabbits can learn to use a litter box but purchase organic paper, wood pulp, or citrus litter. Stay away from cat litter or cedar/pine shavings as these can cause health problems. Litter boxes should have one side much lower for easy hopping in and out and be placed nearby when rabbits roam and play outside their cage.
For their diet, incorporate leafy, dark-green veggies along with some fruits and treats. Give them Timothy hay each day to keep their digestive system moving and prevent hairballs from forming since rabbits cannot vomit. Their sensitive stomachs cannot handle everything though; ask your veterinarian which foods they can and cannot have. Use a water dish or dispenser so they have access to fresh water at all times.
As with cats and dogs, rabbits benefit from yearly vet checkups. When searching for a new vet, ask about their experience in treating rabbits. While in the US, rabbits do not need vaccinations, they do benefit from spaying or neutering.
These crepuscular pets are most active at dawn and dusk, ideal times for socialization and exploration, but they startle easily to loud noises. Stay calm when interacting with them as they learn to trust you, but patience and good care will establish a lifelong bond with you.