Rabbit Care Guide by Nadine Lavi
BEING THE BEST BUNNY PARENTS YOU CAN BE AND MAKING BUNNY A GOOD FIT FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY:“
A GOOD BUNNY PARENT IS AN OBSERVANT BUNNY PARENT”By Nadine Lavi
Visit www.rabbitcare.org or www.bunnyhugga.com for top bunny care info, watch ”Nadine Lavi’s Rabbit Tips for First Time Bunny Owners” videos on YouTube, or contact NadineLavi0702@gmail.com for a FREE one-on-one session at your home on how to take care of your bunny.
Basic Rabbit Care:
A bunny should have a space that is six times his size to move around in, stretch out, hop, and run. If you have your bunny in a cage, make sure that he has playtime outside of the cage every day. A cage with a door that opens out onto the floor so your bunny can hop in and out on his or her own will give him freedom to go in and out on his own. You can add a pen around the cage to give him more space to play and to keep him safe from wires, other animals, and hazards around the house. Free-range bunnies (not in cages) are great; they can be trained to use a litter box like a cat, but it takes time and a lot of patience. (AND OFTEN ONLY HAPPENS AFTER THE BUNNY HAS BEEN SPAYED OR NEUTERED BECAUSE THE BUNNY WON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT TO DO BEFOREHAND). Since bunnies are prey animals, they are easily startled by loud noises and also by being exposed out in the open, even in their cages, so putting a small cardboard box or hay house inside the cage for the bunny to hide in and feel safe and secure is a good idea. It will also be good for bunny to chew on.
Line the whole bottom of the cage with Feline Pine, Yesterday’s News, or Carefresh (2” deep) and put Timothy Hay on top of the whole cage. (This really works if you use Feline Pine or Yesterday’s News, because they you can spot clean the corner where the bunny urinates and just change the whole bedding every two weeks. If you use Carefresh, put some hay in one section of the cage for bunny to eat.)
If you are using a cat litter box, make sure it’s low enough for the bunny to jump in and out of on his/her own, and big enough for the bunny to sit in or lie down in. Some bunnies like the corner triangle shaped litter box which you can line with hay for bunny to eat. WHEN YOU FIRST GET A BUNNY, IT IS ADVISABLE TO KEEP HIM IN THE CAGE FOR THE FIRST 23 HOURS FOR THE FIRST FEW DAYS AND JUST TAKE HIM OUT AND PUT HIM IN A LITTER BOX NEAR THE CAGE SO HE UNDERSTANDS THE CONCEPT.BUT REMEMBER, SOME BUNNIES TAKE A LONG TIME TO GET TRAINED TO USE THE LITTER BOX CONSISTENTLY. THERE ARE VIDEOS ON YOUTUBE THAT CAN HELP WITH THIS PROCESS. BE PATIENT.
Vegetables – DO NOT GIVE ANY VEGETABLES TO BABY BUNNIES WHO ARE LESS THAN 3 MONTHS OLD. IT IS BAD FOR THEIR DIGESTIVE SYSTEM AND CAN MAKE THEM VERY SICK VERY QUICKLY. For bunnies over 3 months, start with 1 sprig of parsley per day. Check the litter box for changes in droppings. If too watery or change in size, bunny may not be ready for vegetables. If everything is ok, after a few weeks, you can increase the amount of vegetables. Additional veggies that are good for bunnies are carrots (1/2 inch as it is all sugar), carrot tops, and kale. Vegetables should be washed in water and given to bunny wet so that bunny gets extra hydration from eating them.
Pellets – This is the protein source for rabbits. THEY MUST HAVE FRESH PELLETS EVERY DAY. Pellets build brains, bones, and organs. For babies, it is good to try a mix of Alfalfa pellets. Pellets with a Timothy hay base are often popular with bunnies.
Timothy Hay – Make sure you give bunny a good size quantity of timothy hay to eat every day. Hay is very important for good digestion, mental stimulation from chewing, and helps prevent gastrointestinal problems.
Fresh Water – Baby bunnies may not be used to a water bottle so try a crock or a bowl and fill it with fresh, cold water. You can switch to a large water bottle when bunny is ready, after 3 months or so. Fill the water bottle to the top with fresh, cold water every day.
Make sure that no wires are accessible to bunny’s teeth. They like to chew and eating wires is not safe. Elevate wires or put them inside plastic tubing for their safety. RABBITS SHOULD NEVER BE LEFT UNSUPERVISED. Make sure a responsible adult is watching or observing the rabbit so he/she stays safe. Rabbits are naturally curious and like to explore. Get to know your bunny and its behaviors so you can try to anticipate what your bunny will do and prevent accidents, so that bunny is happy and healthy at home.Interaction:A good bunny parent is an observant bunny parent. Bunnies are interactive animals. They need companionship. They need daily touch and petting and to be shown affection in a quiet and gentle manner by their bunny parent. They are prey animals and easily scared. Bunny will demonstrate his appreciation by “purring” (grinding teeth), going into a trance like state, licking your hand, “chinning” – marking you with his scent by brushing you with his chin, leaning into your hand that is petting him, and/or stretching out in a relaxed position (“Superman” position with front and/or back paws extended).Talk to your bunny in a soft, pleasant voice and teach him commands like “Come here,” and “No.” Rabbits like routine. Normal routine should be maintained. Sudden changes in routine or sudden movements can startle and upset them. Always look into a bunny’s eyes. They think it is a threat if you avoid their eyes. Any predatory behavior scares them.
Bunnies need to play, chew (hay, cardboard or toys), and to explore to keep from being bored. Let your bunny out of the cage daily for a good amount of time to play with you when you are around.
It should be 65 – 75 degrees where bunny lives. Get a cheap room thermometer and attach it to bunny’s cage or play area and check it daily so you always know the temperature for bunny. Always feel the bunny’s ears daily as well, as a bunny’s ears must be very warm-hot every day. This is because cold ears are a sign that the bunny’s system is shutting down and that is an emergency. If the bunny eats while his ears are cold, then the food will just sit in his stomach and not get digested which could cause gas and GI stasis problems soon after, which are fatal for a bunny (lead to death). If bunny’s ears are cold, you must rub his body and ears vigorously to warm him up. Heating small towels in a microwave for 40 seconds and then putting over the bunny and rubbing him so he warms up is also a good idea (MAKE SURE THE TOWELS ARE NOT HOT, JUST VERY WARM SO YOU DON’T BURN BUNNY). Normal temperature for a bunny (Normal human body temperature is 98.6, for example)is between 101 and 103 degrees. This is maintained by keeping bunny in a 65-75 degree environment. In the summer, have either a marble slab for bunny to lie down on or an air conditioned room so bunny does not overheat and act listless and stop eating. If you are hot, then bunny is hot, so adjust the temperature accordingly. If you are cold in the winter, then bunny is cold, so make sure to have some kind of heating system so bunny is warm.To check his temperature, go to a rabbit savvy vet. A list of rabbit savvy vets can be found at www.rabbit.org, or contact me, Nadine Lavi 347-675-5976 or NadineLavi0702@gmail.com for a recommendation for a good bunny vet.
If bunny stops eating, it may be gastrointestinal distress which is fatal. Check the ears and if they are cold, warm him up. DO NOT WAIT TO SEE IF BUNNY STARTS EATING. BUNNIES ARE NOT LIKE CATS OR DOGS WHO WILL JUST EAT WHEN THEY ARE HUNGRY. WHEN BUNNIES STOP EATING – AND THEY EAT THROUGHOUT THE DAY – IT IS A SIGN OF GASTROINTESTINAL DISTRESS AND IS AN EMERGENCY. HAVE SIMETHICONE IN THE HOUSE (INFANT GAS FORMULA LIKE GAS-X) TO GIVE TO BUNNY VIA SYRINGE. OR TAKE THE BUNNY TO RABBIT VET IMMEDIATELY. Try feeding hay or parsley to get bunny to eat or bunny’s favorite treats (like banana or an apple) and if bunny does not eat, call the vet immediately. Listlessness: This could be a medical emergency, most likely gastrointestinal distress. You must TAKE BUNNY TO A RABBIT VET IMMEDIATELY. Changes in Poops: Make sure that bunny is eating and drinking. IT COULD BE DIAHRREA WHICH IS AN EMERGENCY. FEED BUNNY LOTS OF HAY AS AN ANTIDOTE AND CALL A RABBIT VET IMMEDIATELY. Any Change In Regular Behavior or sitting hunched over as if in pain: Call a rabbit savvy vet. It may be Gastrointestinal distress. Try to understand your bunny from his/her eyes/point of view as a prey animals that needs to feel safe, loved, and protected from external threats (any loud noises, other animals, hostile behavior, stress). What bunny needs from you is to feel safe, calm, loved, protected, cared for, entertained, stimulated with toys and playtime and lots of petting on a daily basis, and bunny-human interaction. IF YOU NO LONGER WANT TO KEEP YOUR BUNNY: NEVER ABANDON YOUR BUNNY IN A LOCAL PARK OR OUTDOORS. THE BUNNY WILL NOT SURVIVE PAST 24 HOURS. IT WILL EITHER STARVE OR BE EATEN BY PREDATORS. DOMESTIC BUNNIES ARE NOT LIKE WILD BUNNIES; THEY CANNOT FIND FOOD ON THEIR OWN, THEY LACK THOSE SURVIVAL SKILLS. IF YOU MUST GIVE UP YOUR BUNNY, CONTACT ME Nadine Lavi 347-675-5976, or firstname.lastname@example.org which does rabbit rescue, or bring your bunny to the Animal Care & Control Shelter on 110th Street and 1st Avenues (which is a no-kill shelter for bunnies unlike the other shelter locations.) REMEMBER THAT BUNNIES CAN LIVE FOR 10-12 years if cared for properly. Certain breeds, like Holland Lops, can get to be as big as cats. BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF ABOUT THE TIME AND EFFORT AND COMMITMENT INVOLVED BEFORE BRINGING A BUNNY HOME.
Spay/Neuter Your Bunny:
A male bunny should be neutered after he is 3 months old. A female bunny should be spayed after she is 6 months old. Those are the minimum ages. Spaying and neutering reduces the bunny’s chances of getting cancer by 80%. It also makes it possible to litter box train them. It also reduces any aggressive behaviors like biting, scratching and spraying. In addition, it is the responsible thing to do because a spayed/neutered bunny is a happy bunny and can interact better with a mate (if you have a bonded pair which usually takes at least 2 months to bond to each other). Also, as there are at least 33,000 abandoned and unwanted rabbits in the Greater New York area alone, do not add to the unwanted rabbit population by irresponsibly breeding them. Also any allergic reactions you may have to the bunny’s fur may disappear once the bunny has been spayed/neutered, as the bunny’s fur does not smell as strong. NEVER PUT A MALE AND FEMALE BUNNY TOGETHER IF THEY HAVE NOT BEEN SPAYED. THE FEMALE WILL GET PREGNANT IN FIVE SECONDS. NEVER PUT TWO BUNNIES THAT ARE THE SAME SEX TOGETHER FOR ANY REASON. THEY CAN BITE OFF EACH OTHERS’ NOSES AND THERE IS NO SURGERY THAT CAN REPAIR THAT. THEY CAN OTHERWISE BITE OR SCRATCH EACH OTHER AND HURT EACH OTHER VERY BADLY WHILE FIGHITNG OVER TERRITORY AND FOOD AND THE OPPOSITE SEX. IF YOU HAVE TWO BUNNIES OF THE OPPOSITE SEX, PUT THEM IN SEPARATE CAGES SIDE BY SIDE OR NEARBY SO THEY CAN SMELL EACH OTHER. A male bunny can impregnate a female bunny for up to 40 days after he has been neutered, and it only takes 5 seconds to do so with 100% accuracy. You also might not know the sex accurately and mistakenly put two bunnies of the same sex together and then they will hurt each other which is irresponsible parenting and dangerous for both bunnies. But letting them interact through cages or a fence until they can share the same space is a good way to “bond” a pair over a two month period until they get used to each other.
CHECK RABBIT.ORG FOR ANY OTHER QUESTIONS.
Copyright by Nadine Lavi © April 2014