Bunnies need love. But they also need:
- Loving home.
- Habitat (cage or hutch, playpen, litterbox).
- Bunny food (veggies, pellets, hay, water).
- Rabbit grooming.
- An occasional visit to the vet.
If you’re adopting a bunny, it’s essential to learn a thing or two about how to take care of a bunny.
Many people do make a mistake that rabbits are easy to take care of. Something in the range of a domestic cat. That is a bit far from the truth, however. Bunnies are loving and affectionate pets but they do take a lot of daily care.
The best anybody can do before buying a pet rabbit is to know what to expect when it comes to bunny care. Preparing in advance will keep your bunny a happy bunny.
For that reason, I’ve prepared the ‘Grand Bunny Plan’. It consists of 6 essential topics that encompass everything you should know about pet rabbit care. Each topic also expands into several more detailed articles and recommendations.
1. Rabbit-Proof Your Home
How much damage can a small bunny even do?
It’s just a little furry fluff ball, right? Well, if you intend to raise a bunny indoors, the first step is to take care of your home is adequately protected. That will save a whole lot of trouble along the way.
Rabbit-proofing your home goes both ways:
- A bunny can chew through electrical cables and damage your home.
- A bunny can also chew on a house plant that is poisonous to him. This is how your home can damage the rabbit.
This is why knowing how best to rabbit-proof your home is essential.
Cats get a scratcher because they like to scratch. Bunnies, quite similarly, like to chew and we have to take everything a bunny could chew into account when rabbit-proofing a room or the whole house.
Properly taking care of a bunny does include thinking about few things as far as rabbit-proofing your home goes. These include:
- Electrical cables. Bunny can eat through them and get’s electrocuted. Bunnies, in general, don’t like to get electrocuted. It might even put them into cardiac arrest.
- Plants. Bunnies and home plants don’t mix all that well. A lot of house plants are poisonous to rabbits. They can cause cramps, digestive problems, or even worse effects.
- Valuable items (ceramics, painting, TV). Bunnies tend to hop all over the place and chew at random things. You don’t want those random things to be paintings. Obviously, a bunny can hop into a TV or a valuable ceramic item and knock it down.
All in all, it’s best to prepare your home for your bunny in order to avoid problems along the way.
2. Provide Indoor Housing (“Bunny House”)
Before you even get a bunny, you need to rabbit-proof your house AND prepare a house for a bunny. Obviously, bunnies need a place to stay and it’s just duty to provide the habitat a bunny will feel most comfortable in.
Full “Bunny House” plan includes:
- Indoor bunny cage or hutch. This is where the bunny sleeps and feeds. A bunny should feel most secure in their indoor cage or hutch.
- Playpen. It’s the “yard” of the bunny house. It extends the area where bunny can be playful and hop a lot. Plan pens are optional but most bunny overs will tell you that keeping a bunny in the playpen means less housekeeping for them.
- Litter box. For No. 1 and No. 2, obviously. One part of how to take care of a rabbit is to litter train them. It’s actually surprisingly easy (more on that later on).
First thing to decide is this:
- Will bunny have the freedom to move to every part of your home?
- Will you confine bunny to a select room or a number of rooms?
Most bunny owners usually have a designated room for a bunny. In most cases, this is the living room where you can also spend some quality human-bunny time. It’s nice to also add access to your bedroom. There is nothing quite so wholesome as your bunny waking you up.
Regardless of how many rooms a bunny has access to, however, every bunny needs it’s own dedicated area. Yes, a bunny can jump in your bed or on your couch, but even a bunny has to have it’s own special place in your home.
That special place is an indoor rabbit hutch or rabbit cage. “What should I get for an indoor bunny, a hutch or a cage?” is one of the most common questions future pet rabbit owners have. It’s very on-point. Here’s why:
- Hutch or cage will effectively become a part of your home. You will see it every day and it makes it should look nice to you.
- It’s essentially the ‘bunny’s house’. Bunny has to find it as functional as possible and be comfortable sleeping, feeding, even defecating in it.
- Hutch or cage is, in most cases, the biggest one-time expenditure when you start to taking care of a bunny. Bunny habitat is one thing you don’t want to make the wrong choice on.
Here is a general rule:
- Rabbit cage is best for indoor bunnies. Especially if you have only one bunny, you don’t really need a hutch.
- Rabbit hutch can be used for outdoor rabbits and several indoor rabbits. If you want to have 3 or more rabbits inside your home, a hutch might be a better choice than a rabbit cage.
Taking care of a rabbit includes choosing the right home for them. Picking the right cage or hutch depends on rabbit breed, number of rabbits, needs of your bunny, and so on. Also, don’t forget about a playpen and litter box.
3. Bunnies Have To Eat (And They Can Be Picky Eaters)
Daily taking care of rabbits includes feeding them and feeding them well. All bunnies are herbivores. Basically, that means they are vegetarians and will never eat something that includes meat.
What do bunnies eat? Well, a food pyramid of an indoor bunny consists of 4 vital ingredients:
- Vegetables (and sometimes fruits). Every adult bunny should get more than 70% of the nutrients from fresh veggies. A rule of them is that a 2-pound adult rabbit should eat about 1 packed cup of fresh vegetables like spinach, carrots, kale, and so on.
- Pellets. There are several different varieties, rabbits pellets made out of grass hay are usually the best and have the highest fiber content.
- Fresh hay. Vital for a healthy gastrointestinal system. Hay that is fresh will include a lot of fibers. For young rabbits (7 months or less) use mainly alfalfa hay. After that, you can diversify your choice of fresh hay.
- Clean water. Give bunnies plenty of water and make sure you change the water every day. Bunnies might not (and should not) drink stale water.
One thing to remember is that bunnies usually don’t eat that much during the day. The part of the day that most bunnies like to feed are:
- Early in the morning. You might give them fresh veggies, pellets, and hay before going to work.
- Before nightfall. Sunset-time is usually the time bunnies get hungry. This is the best part of the day for you or the kids to feed them fresh vegetables.
If anybody asks, the rabbit feeding habits in the morning and before nightfall has a scientific name. We say that rabbits are crepuscular.
Special care must be taken if you adopt a baby bunny (a kit). For the first 2-3 months, a baby rabbit only food is mother’s milk. After that, you can start to introduce a small amount of fresh hay and pellets. After 3-4 months, you can also start with very small amounts of fresh veggies.
As a general rule, a bunny should always have fresh hay and fresh water. You should feed it twice a day, in the morning and before nightfall.
4. Bunny Grooming (Beautiful Bunny Is A Healthy Bunny)
Bunnies are very self-aware. If you put a bunny in front of a mirror, some bunnies might even recognize themselves. They will definitely recognize other rabbits in the pack from a reflection in the mirror.
However, unlike cats who can lick themselves everywhere, bunnies can’t clean themselves quite so elegantly. They just don’t have the anatomy to allow them to comb their hair. And here is where we as bunny owners come in as far as rabbit grooming is concerned.
There are several aspects when it comes to bunny grooming. Brushing hair might be the most important part if you own a Lionhead or English Angora (the fluffiest bunny breed on the planet). Rabbit grooming tasks include:
- Brushing hair. Obviously, we need to help a bunny to be beautiful. Removing excess hair will also make digestive hairball (that can lead to stomach blockage) less likely to occur. We need to especially take care of brushing during the shedding season (bunnies shed, on average, 4 times a year).
- Cleaning the ears. A simple cotton swab will suffice for this job. Do be careful, however. Bunnies can make sudden moves – hold your bunny’s head still will cleaning their ears.
- Cleaning the anal glands. The same goes for anal glands. In time, you can see a brown smelly fluid concentrated there. Use a cotton swab to carefully remove it. Tip: Dip cotton swab in warm water, the fluid will be cleaned away easier.
- Bunny bathing. As far as bathing is concerned, bunnies are more like cats than dogs. In essence, they don’t like bathing all that much. Rabbits don’t handle high or low temperatures well. Make sure for the water and a blow drier to be warm; never overheat your bunny.
- Clipping the nails. Rabbit’s nails are red (vascular part) and white (the part that needs to be clipped away). Be absolutely sure to ONLY clip away the white part. The red part is not to be clipped away; this will cause bleeding. You can use dog or cat clippers (it’s hard to find one specially designed for bunny nails).
- Keeping the teeth healthy. Just monitor them; rabbit teeth never stop growing and there is a danger that they become too big. Chewing toys will help prevent extreme growth. However, if that helps, take your bunny to a veterinarian; they can clip away the teeth (sounds scary but it’s a standard veterinarian procedure).
Grooming tasks are essential for bunny’s good health. They also present some nice moments where you can take care of your bunny. I’ve always find brushing bunny’s hair a very calming moment for myself.
For full tips, you can check my article about bunny grooming here.
5. You Have To Litter Train Your Bunny
One part of taking care of your bunny is litter training it. Don’t be worried, however. Litter training a bunny is suprisingly easy.
Obviously, bunnies do have to urine and excrete feces somewhere. You will do well to clean the feces after a bunny every day to get rid of the smell. Rabbit urine can have a strong and piercing smell.
There are two approached of how to train litter train a bunny:
- Older rabbits already have their own litter area. Just put a litter box where your bunny ordinarily urinates and defecates. Place the bunny there several times; it needs to get comfortable before doing the deed. This is the easy way.
- Younger rabbits can have several ‘random’ litter area. You have to designate a specific litter area (with a litter box) for them. Usually, the corners are best. Pick a corner, place a litter box there, and put a bunny in there several times. If you catch a young bunny urinating or defecating, just hold it up and place it down in the litter box. After some time, the bunny will start connecting the litter box with urination and defecation and will just go do the deed there. That’s how you know you’ve successfully litter trained your bunny.
Corners are the best place to install the litter box. Bunnies are always trying to protect themselves from predators, especially when they are in an uncomfortable position such as urinating. A corner covers their back sufficiently. In turn, they feel more comfortable and secure and can urinate and defecate in peace.
Here are some general rules about picking a litter box:
- Bigger is better. Bunnies prefer to have a wider litter box. Of course, you have to compromise between the size of the litter box and how much space you intended to give away to your bunny.
- Make sure you buy ‘bunny safe litter‘. Bunnies will nib the plastic litter boxes and that might not end well. Organic litter boxes from natural materials are better.
- Avoid clay litters. Especially if your bunny likes to dig, the dust from a clay litter could be too much for the bunny’s little lungs to handle.
- You can cover the floor with newspaper. That’s what most of the bunny owners do and it’s completely fine. A newspaper absorbs urine well and you can change it quickly.
When cleaning a rabbit litter box, it’s important to be mindful of using household cleaning products. The chemicals in these products might be harmful to rabbits. There are several dedicated cleaning products for removing stains and odors that are harmless to bunnies.
6. Find A Veterinarian (Before You Actually Need Him Or Her)
There are 100s of known diseases your bunny can come down with. Hoping your bunny will stay healthy is a good thing, being prepared in the case that something happens is better.
One of the most common mistakes future rabbit owners make is not finding a veterinarian prior to adopting a bunny. The important thing is to be ready when your bunny starts showing symptoms of a disease.
Now, when rabbit owners start to see something is wrong with a bunny, we usually respond in two ways:
- ‘Google’ symptoms. Trying to find out to help ourselves.
- Drive a bunny to a veterinarian.
Both are correct responses in a certain way. Google won’t solve all problems and not every bunny problem is serious enough to merit a visit to a veterinarian.
Checking out symptoms on the internet is useful (in a limited way). You can try to figure out if a vet is needed.
In essence, every rabbit owner has three duties when it comes to bunny health:
- Take care of the bunny’s health. That includes healthy food, regular grooming, clean water, and so on.
- Learn how to observe your bunny. This is your most important job. You have to know how a bunny behaves. If you notice a change in behavior that might be symptomatic of a disease, you know you have to take your bunny to a vet.
- Get a vet. A veterinarian is a professional when it comes to rabbit health. You need to find it prior to adopting a bunny in order to avoid a whole lot of problems down the road.
A piece of really bad advice is to take care of the bunny’s health problems on your own. The health issues of rabbits can be quite complex. Most of us are not trained to spot, diagnose, and treat health issues a bunny might have. Veterinarians, on the contrary, do this for a living. Trust in them.
Having a good vet can be a big factor in how long will your bunny live.
Make Your Bunny Happy And You Will Be Happy As Well (I’ll Guarantee It)
For every bunny owner, there is nothing more beautiful than a bunny carelessly hopping around your home. It can be a profound and calming experience.
Nonetheless, keeping bunny happy, healthy, and well feed is your responsibility. The task is not an easy one at all. However, it’s one well worth doing to make bunnies happy.