Bunny rabbits are sociable, inquisitive, and very lovable. They make great Christmas and Easter gifts for children who need to learn responsibility, but can’t have a dog or cat. Bunnies only need a small space and can be either a house pet or can have an outside hutch and enclosure to keep it safe from predators. A home for your furry friend can be as simple as an old fish tank with litter in the bottom, or an elaborate hutch and cage. Rabbits love company and enjoy living in pairs or small groups, so you may want to choose two or more. A bonded pair will keep each other company when you’re away for a few hours.
Some basic supplies you will need for your new bunny are a small hutch for it to sleep in, an enclosure for it to play in, bedding and food. Most can be found at your local department or pet store. If your bunny will live outdoors, make sure the hutch is rain proof, with a wire enclosure to protect it from weather and predators. An inside hutch only needs a nest box that your bunny can hide in when it wants to. Rabbits are fairly easy to house-train with a litter box. To litter box train, show your pet rabbit where the box is and give it a treat whenever it is used. Be sure to keep the litter changed regularly. Waste can be recycled in the garden or flower beds.
Pet rabbits reach maturity at about six months of age and can live to ten years or more if properly cared for. They can weigh from 2lbs to 15lbs and will range in length from 12” to 24”. Healthy rabbits will have bright eyes, a clean nose and mouth, clean ears, and bottom. The coat will be soft and smooth. They should like to be petted and picked up, though very young rabbits may not yet be socialized to humans and may be a little nervous and shy.
Be patient with your new friend and let it come to meet you on its own terms. You can tempt it out of hiding with a fresh carrot or other treat if it is very shy. If you sit or lay still for a while it will hop over and investigate you. Let it sniff you and then you can pet it gently between the ears until it feels safe enough. After a while you may try to pick it up carefully. Pick it up by placing one hand under its bottom and the other under its chest. Hold it firmly and gently, close to the body so it doesn’t struggle. If it resists, give it a little more time to get to know you. Be aware that rabbits have sharp claws and can scratch you if you’re not careful. You can train your rabbit to come when you call it if you give it a treat each time you call its name.
Your bunny’s diet should be as close to a wild rabbit’s diet as possible. Hay and grass should be the bulk of the diet, along with supplementary feed pellets, fresh vegetables, and treats on occasion. Hay is good for your rabbit’s digestion and teeth. Rabbits are nibblers and will graze their food all day long, so keep some fresh food and water available for your pet. Your rabbit will eat some of its own droppings to aid its digestion. A drip water bottle is best to keep a clean water supply. Some treats your bunny might enjoy are raisins, apple slices, blackberry stalks, dandelion leaves, young fruit tree branches, and clovers.
Rabbits are very clean and spend a lot of time grooming themselves, but they may get dirty if their hutch is not cleaned on a regular basis. Change any wet or dirty bedding daily and empty its litter tray regularly. An occasional grooming from you may be necessary when it is molting, as loose hair can cause blockage in the stomach. Long haired rabbits will need more regular grooming than short haired ones. An occasional bath may be in order as well if your bunny gets very soiled or if its bottom is dirty. Grooming is also a great way to bond with your new pet.
Rabbits should go outside on occasion to exercise and graze, while being supervised in a safe place. You should spend time with your bunny every day in order to get to know it better and to know when something is wrong. You can watch its body language to know how its feeling. A happy rabbit will be playful and inquisitive, often standing up on its hind legs and sniffing the air when it’s curious. When a rabbit is tired it will lay down with its legs lazily stretched out. Rabbits will sometimes thump their hind feet to warn others of danger. If your rabbit is sick or frightened, it will sit quietly hunched up in a corner.
Your rabbit’s health will determine its longevity. Some signs of illness are a lack of appetite, loss of weight, runny nose, sneezing, runny eyes, scratching, head shaking, diarrhea, lack of droppings, lack of interest in activities, a hunched up position, scaly patches or sores. If you notice any of these signs, a vet check is probably needed. Rabbits can get sick very quickly so don’t wait too long. Keep your pet warm, clean, and calm if it becomes ill. Depending on exposure levels, you may want to get your rabbit vaccinated for certain diseases. Your vet will advise you on vaccinations and possible neutering, which may help it live longer. The vet can also determine if your bunny is male or female, if you’d like to know, and can answer any other questions you may have about your new pet.
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