Rabbits are always a popular choice as companions, but they are also one of the most common animals to be found in rescue centres. We think this is because people don't understand the needs of this intelligent, affectionate pet. We hope here to shed a little light on just what to expect from your rabbit, and how to make living with a bunny or three really
Rabbits Eat Grass
Rabbits are grazers. They are designed to eat grass, wild plants, herbs and vegetables. They also enjoy stripping the bark off trees. This is not very practical for most owners, but we can go a long way to help them meet this fundamental need.
Daily access to a lawn will help, but for rabbits who live permanently indoors, it is vital that you know how to feed them properly.
Hay and Greens
Unlimited, good quality hay along with a selection of fresh greens and vegetables with just a handful of commercial food will give your rabbit the most natural diet possible, whilst keeping costs down and ensuring the delicate digestive system keeps working correctly.
If your rabbit doesn't like fresh veggies, try grating carrot or apple on top of the commercial food.
Healthy treats such as broccoli or turnip, or perhaps a little banana, will be better for your bunny than the sugary treats available in pet shops. Also remember to provide your rabbit a salt lick and something to chew on such as nibble-safe wooden toys or cuttlefish bone.
Water - either in a bottle or a tip-proof dish - must be available at all times for your rabbit. If water is only provided in a bottle, remember to check it every now and then to see that it still works! If you use a dish, check it daily to make sure it doesn't get filled with sawdust or other bedding. In warm weather, or indoors in winter, when the heating may be high, we find it safer to provide both a bottle and a dish.
Sudden changes in your rabbit's diet can cause fatal digestive problems, especially if your rabbit is stressed (such as changing homes or an additional rabbit coming on the scene). Baby rabbits newly weaned from their mothers are also at risk, and need gentle changes. We recommend that you take 2-3 weeks to gradually change your rabbit over to a new feed. This is why, whenever we are asked to take in rabbits at Farplace Animal Rescue, we ask people to bring some of the food the rabbits are used to eating with them.
Rabbits and Children
Rabbits do not make good pets for very young children. They do not enjoy being restrained, which can be frustrating for children who will want to cuddle their rabbits. They also will scratch or bite if teased.
At Farplace, we have no rules regarding children and pets, providing the adults in the family are the primary carers, and take the time to train their children in the basics of animal care.
Litter Training Your Rabbit
Rabbits are fairly easy to litter train, and are a joy to keep in the house. Baby rabbits take a little longer to get the message that neutered adults, but the basics are as follows:
First you need to bunny-proof a room of your house - make sure there are no exposed wires which may be chewed, move ornaments above bunny level, and cover expensive carpets with cheaper rugs.
Large cat litter trays are suitable for rabbits, and it is best to use at least one per rabbit. To train your rabbits to use the litter trays, first confine your rabbits to their hutch for a few days, putting the litter trays in the hutch with wood pellet cat litter or similar, topped with a handful of hay. Put any loose pellets into the trays along with any urine-soaked newspaper. Once your rabbits are used to going in the litter trays, open the hutch and put the litter trays just outside the hutch.
Your rabbits should soon learn to "go" in the litter trays, but to start with be patient with them.
Initially allow your rabbits out for exercise when you are able to supervise. If your room is bunny-proofed enough, you can allow them out all the time. ... but they WILL chew furniture, carpets and wiring if these are not protected.