Taking care of your pet rabbit

It’s easy to see why rabbits are becoming increasingly popular among people as pets, because they can be just as individual as dogs or cats. So if you’re thinking of bringing a pet bunny into your home, here is some advice to follow.

Taking care of your pet rabbit, Rabbit care tips, helpBackground

Did you know that rabbits are smart animals? They can be taught to be litter trained and do tricks. They are also practical pets for those that work a 9-5 job, as they tend to sleep for much of the day.

Nonetheless, you should consider the fact that rabbits are a long term commitment because they can live between 8-10 years. The best time to bring a rabbit into your home is when they have been weaned from their mother. This is when they are about six to eight weeks old. As well as pet shops, rescue centres usually have rabbits of all ages ready to be placed into a loving home.

Rabbits are social animals so it is recommended to bring more than one into your home. However, never place a rabbit with a guinea pig as this will often result in conflict between the two animals. Finally, you should also learn about their behaviour and how to bond with them.

Find out how to bond with your bunny in more features.

Providing a home

Taking care of your pet rabbit, Rabbit care tips, helpWhen deciding whether to put your rabbit outdoors or indoors, you should account for whether your rabbit is wild or domestic. The reason this is important is because homing a domesticated rabbit outdoors can cause it a great deal of stress and anxiety. Because this means they will not be able to tolerate warm temperatures, and the stress caused by even the sight or sound of a wild animal can cause a heart attack.

However, your rabbit will still require a comfortable cage whether outdoors or indoors. The cage should be 183cm x 90cm floor space, by 90cm tall for a medium sized rabbit. This will provide space for it to move around freely and stand up on their hind legs, and also allow them to lie fully outstretched in any direction. This space should also be well ventilated, dry and draught free.

The reason this is important is because it gives your rabbit a space for mental stimulation and exercise. By giving your rabbit this you are giving them an environment where they can behave normally, and the space for them to make a hiding place to go, if they become stressed or threatened. Additionally, you should also ensure your rabbit’s space is free from hazards such as electrical wires or poisonous plants, as rabbits love to chew on these. If you cannot avoid your rabbit’s space being relatively close to wires, this hazard can be overcome by purchasing a cord protector. Finally, if you have other pets in your house such as a dog or a cat, it is advised you prevent access to the rabbit’s space with a baby gate.

Rabbit bedding

You should always provide enough bedding to allow your rabbit to keep itself warm and comfortable. Importantly, it should be safe for them to eat. The materials that can provide this are hay (dust free), straw, hardwood shavings (maple oak, apple) or bits of cloth and shredded paper.

Additionally, once you are aware which corner they prefer to use as a toilet, place a litter tray there that is big enough for your rabbit to use comfortably. You should use absorbent material such as shredded paper or newspaper, and / or natural wood, paper based non-clumping, or non-expanding litter. This will make it much easier to clean.

The bedding needs to be checked on a daily basis and cleaned at least once a month, or two if the rabbit urinates outside the box. The litter box should also be cleaned once a week with non-toxic materials such as warm soapy water. This will not only keep the cage fresh, but it will also help your rabbit to feel more comfortable. It is also important to bear in mind that cleaning can be stressful for rabbits. A small amount of bedding should be put back as this will smell familiar.

Feeding your rabbit

Taking care of your pet rabbit, Rabbit care tips, helpThe staple diet should be hay or grass. Each rabbit needs at least a ‘rabbit-sized’ bundle of hay that will consist of timothy and will preferably also be sweet smelling and dust free. It is recommended that you provide this for your rabbit in a hay rack or hanging basket, as this will keep it clean and above floor level. Placing it above your rabbit’s litter tray may encourage them to eat more hay. However, while hay should make up three quarters of your rabbit’s diet, they also need a daily variety of fresh vegetables and fruit. You should introduce fruit and vegetables to your rabbit’s diet gradually over 10-14 days, as a sudden change in diet can be fatal. It should also generally be done in small amounts as they are high in sugar. Examples of these fruit and vegetables are; carrots, spinach, broccoli, celery, apples and dandelion leaves.

Other foods such as rabbit based pellets can provide additional fibre. However, it is worth bearing in mind that your rabbit’s diet should not rely on these pellets, especially alfalfa-based ones as they can cause urinary crystals, due to the high calcium content. Foods that should be completely avoided for your rabbit include; frozen produce, grass cuttings and lawnmower clippings, as these can cause serious health problems.

Health and welfare

Taking care of your pet rabbit, Rabbit care tips, helpRabbits are naturally clean as they wash themselves frequently. Nonetheless, it is still important that you regularly clean and groom your rabbit. You should brush your rabbit regularly as it will go through fur cycles. The reason this is so crucial is because they can ingest their own fur which causes digestive problems. Similarly, nail clippings are also an important part of caring for your rabbit. Long nails can get snagged on things or curl into your rabbit’s paw.

Rabbits also require the necessary medical persuasions in order to improve their long term health. Examples of this include spaying and neutering, which aside from preventing unwanted kits, also has significant health benefits. Neutering males can effectively eliminate the risk of testicular cancer, and can reduce aggression and territory-marking behaviours. Spaying female rabbits can eliminate the potential for any reproductive cancers to arise, which is very common as they get older. Additionally, it is also essential that you have a veterinarian who knows how to treat rabbits. Many veterinarians who treat rabbits will be called exotic veterinarians. You can consult your local chapter of the House Rabbit society, local Rabbit society, or a local rabbit rescue centre, if you are struggling to find one in your area. Likewise, you should check with your vet in order to decide what vaccinations will be necessary.

(Article source: Jordan Creed)

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