Bringing a rabbit home is exciting, but it can easily become overwhelming if you aren't prepared. A high-quality cage is just one of the essential supplies you'll need to take care of a pet rabbit. By providing them with the ideal habitat and a few other items, your beloved pet can enjoy a longer, happier, and healthier life.
Choosing a Cage
Some rabbit owners allow their pet to run around the house freely. If you don't plan to do this, choose an exercise pen, bunny condo, or some other type of housing before you bring them home. The cage should have solid flooring, or at least an area with a solid floor, and be easy to clean.
If you're getting a baby rabbit, consider how large they will be when full-grown. The rabbit should be able to stand upright without banging their head in the cage. A minimum of 4 square feet is recommended so they are able to run around freely and get exercise. Depending on the size of your rabbit, they may require less space, but this is a general guideline. Provide enough space in the cage for the rabbit to be able to play without spilling their food or water. They should also have enough room for their toys and litterbox if you choose to have one.
Whether you keep your rabbit in an indoor rabbit cage or an outdoor hutch, one of the most important things you can have inside the habitat is a hiding space for them to go when they want to. You can buy hiding locations at pet supply stores or create your own out of a large cardboard box.
Regardless of the type of cage you choose, rabbits will still need at least an hour or two outside of their cage each day for mental and physical well-being. You can choose to monitor them outside for their play time or let them roam around the house.
Providing an Appropriate Diet
Feeding a rabbit is simple once you get to know rabbit nutrition, but it's important to feed your rabbit the right diet to avoid nutrient deficiency. Those who do not know rabbit care will often focus highly on feeding vegetables. That's what the cartoons have advertised as a normal rabbit diet. Hay should make up the bulk of an adult rabbit's diet with pellets and vegetables filling in the gaps.
Rabbit pellets should consist of at least 18 percent fiber. To ensure pellets remain fresh, don't purchase more than one month of food at a time. When they're young, you will likely notice pellets make up the bulk of their diet, but as they get older, they will rely more on hay. Timothy pellets are preferred over other types of pellets after your rabbit reaches adulthood to ensure they get enough nutrition.
Fresh Hay and a Hayrack
Hay is a critical part of a rabbit's diet and must be fresh for optimal nutritional value. Your rabbit should have free access to hay preferably through a hayrack to avoid spoilage. The most common hay types for adult rabbits are Orchard and Timothy, but if you have a rabbit under 6 months old, provide Alfalfa hay.
Although vegetables should only comprise a small portion of your rabbit's adult diet, they are still necessary to keep them healthy. As a general guideline, rabbits should have 1 cup of vegetables per 2 pounds of body weight each day. Leafy vegetables, such as romaine lettuce, should be provided the majority of the time. You can offer additional vegetable types on occasion, including arugula, bok choy, carrots, and bok choy.
Purchase a Litterbox
Believe it or not, rabbits can be litter trained just like cats, and placing a litter box in the spot where your rabbit tends to go will help keep their cage or hutch cleaner, healthier, and ultimately safer for them. A medium-sized cat litter box is often necessary unless you have a small breed rabbit. Some bunnies enjoy lounging in the litterbox so ensuring it's large enough for your rabbit to move around is important.
If you're going to have your rabbit outside of their cage, you may want to purchase two litterboxes. One can remain inside the cage and the other can be placed in the area of the home your rabbit is most likely to stay in. They should be well-maintained so your rabbit continues to use them.
Choose a rabbit-safe litter rather than a litter that's designed for your cat. Clay litters are not recommended. There are different types available at pet shops, but choosing the one with the most absorption potential will help keep their litterbox clean.
All rabbits should be brushed regularly to prevent hairballs from developing and to maintain coat and skin health. To groom your rabbit properly, you will need nail clippers, styptic powder in case you cut too closely, a brush or comb, and some type of flea medication as recommended by your veterinarian, especially if your rabbit will be going outside.
Begin brushing your rabbit, or getting your rabbit accustomed to being brushed, once they arrive home. Brushing your rabbit on a regular basis is important to remove any excess fur. They shed three to four times per year, and brushing during shed times is extremely important for their health and well-being.
Rabbits do self-clean, similar to how your cat does. Unlike cats, rabbits are not able to cough up their hairballs. As such, excess fur can become a dangerous digestive problem quickly if their fur is not maintained.
A bored rabbit will quickly become a stressed and sick rabbit, so always have toys on hand to spark the bunny's interest. Toys will help them exercise their body as well as their mind. Another benefit of having toys available for the bunny to play with is they will usually choose to play with the toys over chewing their cage, your furniture, or wires out of boredom.
A rabbit's teeth grow continuously. If that growth is left unchecked, it can lead to a host of health problems. Wood chew toys should be provided in addition to recreational toys. Chew toys provide a dual benefit; they keep the rabbit occupied and also keep the teeth strong and worn down to a healthy level.
Food Dish and Water Bottle
You should have a food dish for the rabbit inside their cage, along with either a water dish or a water bottle. Most of the time, water bottles work best because rabbits have a tendency to spill their water dishes. However, not all rabbits will take to the bottle, so you may find it necessary to use a heavy ceramic dish in those cases. Water bowls, like ceramic dishes, also provide a more natural experience to the rabbit if they are accepting of them.
Check their food and water dishes several times each day to ensure cleanliness. They should be cleaned at least once per day. If they are dirty, they should be cleaned more frequently. As you get to know your rabbit, you will get into a more regular schedule, understanding how long it takes for the items in their cage to become soiled.
Choosing a Pet Carrier
The last thing you want to deal with is trying to transport a sick rabbit to a veterinary clinic without a carrier. While it may not be the first thing on your mind, a carrier is necessary for transporting your pet safely. The carrier should have sturdy sides and be able to be opened from the top or front. The carrier should not be collapsible to avoid injury. For added comfort, place a soft blanket inside or purchase a carrier insert. In the event of an emergency, this should be maintained in a safe, well-known location.
Small Animal Veterinarian
Most veterinarians who handle cats and dogs will also take a look at your rabbit, but it's crucial to make sure they do before bringing your rabbit home in case of an emergency. If your family veterinarian does not treat rabbits, the House Rabbit Society has developed a tool to help you search for veterinarians who specialize in rabbit care.
Where to Buy Rabbit Supplies and Cages
You can purchase rabbit supplies and cages at your local pet supply store like Petco or PetSmart, or online through a wide variety of pet specialty stores. Checking prices online and reading the weekly shopping ads will help you find the best deal on your everyday rabbit essentials. Here are a few trusted websites to help you get started:
- BinkyBunny.com has a "House Rabbit Store" that sells all sorts of supplies for your rabbit, including hay and feed, treats, toys, playhouses, cage accessories, and books.
- Greg Robert Pet Supply, formerly RabbitMart.com, has a large variety of items for your pet bunny, including cages, carriers, hutches, toys, food, and grooming supplies.
- BassEquipment.com specializes in equipment for the small animal breeder. They sell heavy-duty rabbit cages, carriers, and feeders as well as galvanized steel nesting boxes.
- Chewy.com has an extensive selection of supplies to cover all your rabbit needs, including food, treats, hay, cages, toys, feeders, and cleaning solutions.
Care for Your Rabbit and Reap the Rewards
Rabbits are relatively easy to care for. All they need is a proper diet, a great cage and accessories, and a good dose of love. Give your little bunny these main essentials, and they will reciprocate with many years of cuddly fun. Grab these items prior to bringing your furry friend home and feel calm and prepared once they arrive.