Small, fluffy with long ears. The rabbit is one irresistible animal! They also make great pets, but it is important to note that they require special care. Simply keeping your rabbit alone in a cage outside is not sufficient at all.
Before you get your bunny, make sure to prepare a perfect home for him. It is advisable that your rabbit’s hutch is inside your home, but if you do keep him outside, make sure that he is safe from the elements – a rabbit needs to have access to shade on warm, sunny days and needs shelter from rain. Your bunny’s cage needs to be as big as possible so that he can comfortably move around. He needs bedding, for which you can use straw, and fresh water should be available at all times. You will need to commit to keeping your rabbit’s cage clean – clean it once or twice a week and replace his bedding, as living in unhygienic circumstances is very unhealthy for your rabbit.
Talking about health, a good idea is to identify a veterinarian in your area who works with small animals like rabbits before you acquire your rabbit. Take your pet to the vet if you suspect that anything could be wrong with him. You can do the following checks at home to get an idea of your bunny’s health:
- Check that his eyes are clear and without discharge.
- Check his ears for anything that looks out of order.
- The paws and toenails need to be free from sores.
- Stroke his body with your hands to determine if he has any lumps or bumps that need to be checked out.
- Observe your rabbit so that you will be aware of any changes in his behaviour.
Take your rabbit to the vet once a year for a general check-up.
Your rabbit needs stimulation and exercise, therefore he has to be allowed time out of his cage for several hours every day. Before letting out your rabbit, make sure the room you are going to let him explore is bunny-proof, as those long front teeth can easily nibble through cables and other items you might have lying around. To provide your rabbit with even more stimulation, you can make his cage a bit more exciting by providing items that he can jump off, play with and bury. Many bunnies enjoy digging, so if it appears to be something yours is keen on, a sandbox can go a long way in keeping him entertained.
Your rabbit might not initially be keen on being handled, but playing with him is necessary to ensure that you develop a bond and that your rabbit feels he can trust you. Always be gentle when handling a rabbit, and start slowly by simply scratching his head. You can use treats to lure him towards you. When you do pick up your rabbit, use one hand to offer support underneath his chest and the other to support his hindquarters. Hold him close to your body to make him feel secure. When you put him down, only release him close to the ground to ensure he doesn’t fall from a height should he start to struggle to get away.
Your rabbit needs to be fed a healthy, balanced diet to keep him in good shape. The majority of his diet should consist of grass hay which is great for his digestive system. Pellets and treats should only be fed in small amounts. Your rabbit will enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables, but do proper research to make sure everything you feed him is safe. The following guideline can assist you:
√ Beetroot tops
√ Commercially available treats
X Cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli as they can cause gas and bloating
X Raw potatoes and raw beans
X Green tomatoes
A healthy bunny diet consists of:
- 5% pellets
- 5% healthy treats
- 10% safe fruit and vegetables
- 80% grass hay
Are you considering a rabbit as a pet? These are a few things that make them great additions to your family:
- If you live close to your neighbours or in a security complex, barking dogs can lead to unhappiness. Rabbits have the benefit of not making any noise.
- They make good friends. Just like dogs and cats, bunnies get to know their owners and will even show affection.
- Rabbits don’t take up much space and even though they do need exercise, they don’t need to be taken for walks.
- Rabbits can be trained! Training methods that use positive reinforcement can teach your bunny to do tricks, or even have him run through an obstacle course, similar to agility in dogs.
Do you have what it takes to properly care for a rabbit? Turn to the next page to learn more.