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Rabbit Care FAQ

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What should I feed my Rabbit?
Your rabbit's diet should be primarily composed of rabbit pellets*. The pellets should be purchased ideally from a feed store to ensure they are fresh. They should be a quality pellet, go for brands breeders use, for example Heinold, Purina, Manna Pro, & Blue Seal. Pellets can be stored for up to 3 months, if you only have a small number of rabbits try for 10 lb or 25 lb bags.

Rabbits also need access to clean water. Hay can be given daily in unlimited quantities because it just aids the digestive system. If you are feeding a good quality pellet you don't need to give them unlimited access to hay, or even feed it daily. A good pellet will have the correct fiber amount in it already. Treats can also be given but wait until the rabbit is an adult. Complete diet information is available at Diet article

*Make sure to feed alfalfa based pellets, NOT timothy hay based which is just a new fad promoted by people against breeders who have no studies to back up their claims.

How much should I feed my rabbit?
Pellets should be given in limited quantities to adult rabbits. Babies can be "free fed" pellets, meaning the food bowl usually has pellets in it. They need more pellets than an adult rabbits. Netherland Dwarfs are fed 1/3C-1/2C of pellets daily for an adult, babies start with 1/2C and give more when they finish the pellets up.

What supplies do I need?

You need to get a cage, for Netherland Dwarfs the recommended size is 18"x24" 12-14" high. For other breeds the rule of thumb is 3/4 square feet per pound of adult body weight. The cage should have a drop pan to catch waste. You should also get a cage that has a wire floor to maximize cleanliness. Wire floors are perfectly fine for rabbits-they do not automatically cause sore hocks. Sore hocks are caused by keeping cages dirty and wet, or a rabbit may have a genetic disposition to it. Rex furred breeds have more of a problem. But rabbit feet have thick pads and are well furred and wire floors allow waste to fall through-a much better system. You can put a "resting board" in the cage so the rabbit can get off the wire if they want. You can buy plastic slotted floor mats or use an untreated piece of wood.

You also will need a bowl for feed, try to find one that can be tied against the cage so the rabbit cannot tip them over. A water bowl or bottle is necessary as well, find out from the breeder or pet store whether the rabbit has been raised on a bottle or bowl. If a rabbit has not used a bottle before they may not know how to use it and take awhile to learn, but they still need to be able to get water. You will also need shavings to go in the drop pan, many types are available and pine and cedar shavings are safe. Negative information you may find online is incorrect. For a detailed explanation as to why they are safe please read Shavings article

You will also want to provide toys for the rabbit, anything that is safe to chew works. You of course need good alfalfa based rabbit pellets, hay, & treats (oats, vegetables, fruit, etc for adults, babies wait until they are 6 mos old for treats other than oats). You also need a rabbit carrier-available at supply stores or use a cat carrier with a towel on the floor to prevent slipping.

What you do not need are things pet stores market to make more money such as shampoo-rabbits do not need baths and some get so scared they die when being bathed, they do not need vitamins when you use a good quality feed, salt licks likewise aren't necessary. Some people buy a leash and harness to walk rabbit outside however I don't recommend it because if a rabbit got spooked outside, it could take off.

Where should I buy a rabbit?

The best place to buy a rabbit is from a show breeder. Non-show breeders may also be a good source but a smaller percentage of them are up on rabbit care information. Pet stores are also good but please, use your consumer power and make sure the rabbits they sell are weaned, correctly sexed-note if it's hard to determine sex it likely means the rabbit is too young, listed as the correct breed, and of course healthy. If not don't buy them! As far as so called 'rescue" groups I'm not a fan, I've had too many people tell me bad things about "rescue" groups. Plus it has been documented that these groups will lie to people looking for a rabbit about breeders. Most just rabidly hate breeders and have been a constant source of aggravation for us breeders. They also often have so many requirements and rules people aren't interested, as well as often selling rabbits in pairs-bonding a small desirable breed with a large less desirable breed. They also don't guarantee the health of the rabbit so you may end up with long term chronic problems which are less likely to happen if you buy from a show breeder. And another problem with "rescue" is that they give out incorrect and inaccurate information about rabbit care. "rescue" and shelters are rarely regulated and often they are not treating the animals as well as a breeder or even a pet store. Remember these are the people who draft all the restrictive legislation aimed at breeders-and they make very sure all rescues and shelters are exempted. It is also documented that many animal hoarders start out as 'rescuers".

You can find breeders at rabbit shows, through ads, or through local clubs. It takes a little effort to find a show breeder but well worth it.

How do I handle a rabbit?

When picking up your bunny he must feel secure and supported or he thinks he will fall and will kick and struggle. A rabbit has a very fragile bone structure and kicking can cause a broken back. Never let a bunny struggle, put him down immediately if he begins kicking or struggling and try again when he is calm. When you pick him up never hold him by the ears this will hurt your bunny and he won't like you! Place your hand under their body (rib cage shoulder area) and "scoop" him up. Be sure to place your hand under his hind end as soon as possible to provide support so he knows he won't fall. Then hold him against your body, keeping one hand under the hind end, the other ready to stop him if he tries to hop off.

How To Litterbox Train

Rabbits usually pick one corner of their cage to urinate and defecate. Place the litterbox in this spot. After bunny begins using the box allow out of cage time, start with short-10-15 minute periods and build from there slowly. It would also be helpful to place a box in the corresponding corner of the room for bunny to use, place some used litter in it. If bunny has an accident clean up immediately. Some shout “No” and clap their hands when they catch bunny missing the litterbox, some recommend only reward good behavior.

How do rabbits communicate?

Rabbits have a variety of body language and even some vocalizations to communicate with you. Each rabbit is a bit unique so watch your pet and spend time with them to learn how they are communicating to you. Some common rabbit language includes:
Chinning- bunny has scent glands under his chin and will rub items and people to mark them as "his".
Periscoping- bunny sits up on his back legs to get a better look at something
Circling- Bunny hops around you in a circle to show he accepts you. It may mean he is upset at something you are doing, or just wants some affection & attention.
Licking- Not all bunnies are "lickers" but if yours is you are very lucky, he will do this to show he loves you!
Nipping, growling- bunny "anger", usually means he wants you "back-off"
High Jumps- a sign of joy and happiness
Nosing- bunny pushes you or an object away with his nose
Thumping-Rabbits often thump their back feet to signal danger or fear.
Soft teeth grinding or purring- indicates contentment
Honking- soft noise made when bunny is happy or excited